Harare Bureau
WILDLIFE farmers in Gwayi, Matabeleland North province, have been hit hard by the American ban on the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania.America banned its citizens from importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe early 2013 for alleged mismanagement of wildlife.

This has seen the country losing out millions of dollars. Gwayi Intensive Conservation Area chairman Mark Russell said the farmers realised little revenue in 2014 as they used to depend on the American market.

“We practice consumptive tourism and we rely on hunting. This year has been the worst hunting season as there was a decline in activities as a result of the ban. About 60 to 70 percent of the trophy hunters used to come from America.

“We’ve tried establishing other markets but this hasn’t been easy as the profits are low,” he said.

Russell said farmers were now considering exporting live animals but this was a long and complicated process.

“Zimbabwe is top in wildlife management and we don’t shoot elephants indiscriminately. We know the value of our elephants and it’s unfair that America wants to determine the value of our natural resources,” he said.

Russell said it could have been better for the Americans to come and inspect the game reserves and have an appreciation of how authorities in wildlife management were performing rather than giving blanket bans without considering the situation on the ground.

“We use proceeds from hunting to develop our communities and we’ve managed to provide safe water to the Gwayi communities. At the moment we’re relying on proceeds from previous seasons and this is going to impact negatively on our conservation practices,” he said.

Gwayi Intensive Conservation Area has more than 450 farmers who rely on wildlife farming.

The farmers share six percent of the proceeds with the community and the funds are used for infrastructure rehabilitation and development.

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority acting director Geoffrey Matipano said Zimbabwe has more than 54,000 elephants and was having challenges conserving the animals due to limited funding.

“We’ll forward proposals to the international community so that we can be allowed to trade our ivory. We’ve also established partnerships to conserve wildlife and if we could be allowed to trade, the money could be used to conserve the remaining animals,” he said.

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