Zimbabwe will allow hunters to shoot 500 critically endangered elephants

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Zimbabwe will allow trophy hunters who are willing to pay up to $70,000 per elephant to shoot as many as 500 this year. The move comes in a bid to raise money after Covid caused tourism revenue to plummet.

Tinashe Farawo, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, told CNN: “We eat what we kill. We have a budget of about $25 million for our operations which is raised, partly, through sports hunting, but you know tourism is as good as dead at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Zimbabwe’s elephant population is more than 100,000 and hunters will be charged between $10,000 and $70,000 depending on the size of the elephant.

Authorities say that the intention is to raise money to sustain the national parks which the government currently cannot afford.

The program is also seen as a way of controlling the elephant population that has disturbed towns and farms surrounding national parks. Damage has included crop destruction and occasional fatalities when the elephants encounter people.

Mr Farawo continued: “The distress calls from the communities have been increasing due to human-wildlife conflict. So far 21 people have lost their lives and last year 60 people.”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) say African elephants have less room to roam as expanding human populations convert land for their own use.

A WWF spokesperson said: “As habitats contract and human populations expand, people and elephants are increasingly coming into contact with each other. This often leads to conflicts that elephants invariably lose.”

The program will see trophy hunters travel from the EU, US, Russia, and Mexico. Hunters will have to pay for the licence to kill an elephant and pay professional hunters to guide them. They will then have the animals treated by taxidermists and exported back to their home country.

Simiso Mlevu, a spokeswoman the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, a Zimbabwe environmental and human rights advocacy group, said: “We strongly condemn trophy hunting, a practice that agitates wild animals and escalates human-wild life conflicts.

“Contrary to government arguments that trophy hunting is meant to assist with conservation, the practice is motivated by greed and often the money is not even accounted for. There is a need for more innovative and eco-friendly measures to improve revenue generation from photo safaris and tourism in general.”

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The announcement comes just weeks after the African forest elephant was declared critically endangered and the African savanna elephant was declared endangered.

WWF say that Forest elephants are essential for the germination of many rainforest trees. The seeds of these trees only germinate after passing through the elephant’s digestive tract.

Savanna elephants contribute to the maintenance of the savannas and open woodlands by reducing tree densities. Without them, many other plants and animals would not survive in the woodland areas.

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