Animal rights groups fail to hijack Africa Wildlife Economy Summit

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By Emmanuel Koro in Johannesburg

Consumptive tourism which includes wildlife trophy hunting and hunting for meat contributes 90 percent of the tourism revenue that Southern Africa generates annually.

According to Oxford University trained Associate Professor of ecology and economics, Dr Brian Child, non-consumptive tourism that includes travel tourism and photographic safaris only contributes a distant 10 percent of Southern Africa’s annual tourism revenue.

“If Africa is serious about growing the wildlife economy, it needs to grow both its non-consumptive and consumptive use tourism enterprises, particularly consumptive tourism,” said Dr Morrison Mtsambiwa, one of Africa’s top ecologists and former CEO of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (which comprises Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zambia) and former director-general of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Beyond tourism enterprises, the growth of Africa’s wildlife economy can be further boosted by trade in Africa’s abundant wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn.

Sadly, both the text and the agenda of the UNEP convened and Space for Giants (an anti-hunting and ivory trade western animal rights group) sponsored Africa Wildlife Economy Summit held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from 24-25 June 2019 was disturbingly silent on consumptive use economic activities such as hunting.

Then the next inevitable question was who would put consumptive use issues such hunting, ivory and rhino horn trade on the western animal rights groups influenced summit agenda?

To the relief of the pro-consumptive tourism delegates at the summit, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa authoritatively and refreshingly brought the consumptive use of wildlife on the summit agenda while delivering his keynote address to the summit. To the shock and of course disappointment of animal rights groups, Mnangagwa touched on hunting, a topic that was suspiciously excluded from the summit agenda.

 “Safari hunting is a vital cog in wildlife economy,” said Mnangagwa. “Profits from hunting are used to provide water and fencing to reduce human wildlife conflict and law enforcement against poachers. We continue to call for free trade in hunting products as these have positive impact on the economies of our countries.”

If this was a boxing match against animal rights groups, then Mnangagwa must have landed the knockout punch on animal rights groups when he went further to explain that animal rights groups are a threat to wildlife conservation because they put wildlife above the people. Yet God teaches that human beings are the custodians of wildlife and should benefit from it.

 “Currently, Zimbabwe has about US$600 million worth of ivory and rhino horns stocks, most of which came from natural attrition of those animals,” he said in a pointed call for Zimbabwe to be allowed to sell its stockpiled ivory and rhino horns.

“If we are allowed to dispose the same under agreed parameters, the revenue derived therefrom would suffice to finance our operational conservation efforts for the next two decades.”

Mnangagwa said that it was high time that the UN Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) was made aware that the one-shoe-size fits all approach that is creeping in its decision-making process to ban ivory trade was an unfair and intolerable method of determining who should trade or should not trade in wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn.

The CITES Secretary General Yvonne Higuero, whose organisation presides over the CITES voting system, got the message loud and clear as she was seated in the front row as Mnangagwa delivered his keynote address.

Mnangagwa said that it was crucial that Africa consolidates its position in support of sustainable development as countries head to CITES COP18 scheduled for Colombo, Sri Lanka, later this year.

All the other Southern African countries presidents also similarly spoke in support of ivory trade and consumptive use and the need for rural communities living side by side with wildlife to also benefit from it.

It was impressive that the southern African countries presidents were not divided over wildlife hunting, rhino horn and ivory trade. The united Southern African presidents included Edgar Lungu of Zambia, Hage Geingob of Namibia, who is also SADC Chairperson, and Mokweetsi Masisi of Botswana as well as Angolan President Joao Lourenco who was represented by his Minister of Environment.

Fourteen African Ministers of Environment from all regions of Africa attended the Summit.

Rwanda President Kagame, while African Union Chair, was persuaded to support this initiative to hold the first ever Africa Wildlife Economy Summit in Victoria Falls Zimbabwe.

Over 40 community representatives from 12 African countries attended the African Wildlife Economy Summit and called for the need to reduce poverty at household level through turning wildlife into a rural economic engine.

 

The declaration is about sustainable use which includes hunting and need for the communities living next to protected areas to benefit from wildlife and natural resources,” Dr Lamson Maluleke, a representative of South Africa’s Limpopo Province-based Makuleke Community.

 

Charles Jonga, the executive director of Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources (Campfire) Association said that he was not aware that the Space for Giants “is an animal rights organisation”.

He said that he was concerned that there had been an attempt to have the African Wildlife Economy Summit exclusively focus on non-consumptive tourism.

One of Southern Africa’s businesspeople who is supporting the Africa Wildlife Economy initiative, Derek Joubert, publicly announced his anti-hunting position while taking part in a tourism investment challenges panel discussion.

“I am not a hunter,” he said. “And so I was a bit worried coming up here (on the stage) and be sustainably harvested myself. Wildlife is what we have to protect, I don’t even like the word conservation I think we have got to evolve this to a new conversation – a new ethic, a new earth ethic.”

He said that one of the initiatives that they were working on was to raise US$200 million to acquire tourism properties and operate them working with communities and completely hand them over to the communities after three to four years.

 “I know that the Space for Giants is an animal rights groups and that they are coming in the name of ecotourism which is an easy product to sell to communities and internationally,” said a Namibian representative for the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO), Max Louis.

“Therefore, they are using ecotourism to derail the sustainable use agenda in Southern Africa. We will not allow animal rights groups to come and change our sustainable use agenda in Southern Africa. We were aware that the animal rights agenda was being forced on us at this summit.”

However, while Southern Africans might not fully welcome the Space for Giants and Derek Joubert sponsored non-consumptive tourism drive in the region, well-placed sources said that they had already started meeting Southern African governments, in order to introduce this initiative.

“At the moment the consumptive tourism such as hunting is bringing much more money to the majority of Africans,” said Jerry Gotora, the chairman of painted dog project and founding director of Gonarezhou Conservation Trust.

“The capitalists don’t want to see more money going to the majority of Africans. They think that blacks from this region shouldn’t be privileged to enjoy money from hunting. They want to keep money to themselves through an exclusive focus on non-consumptive tourism. That is why they excluded consumptive use from the agenda of the Africa Wildlife Economy Summit,” he said.

About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.

 

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