Zimbabwe is recruiting trophy hunters from China and Russia to keep an important revenue source flowing following U.S. restrictions and bans on lion and elephant trophies, SouthernAfrican.News reports.
Zimbabwe earned $45 million from hunting in 2014 and U.S. hunters are its No. 1 market, according to BlastingNews. Canada is No. 2. Zimbabwe plans to continue harvesting animals from hunts in a sustainable manner.
American dentist Walter Palmer caused global uproar when he killing Cecil, an iconic Zimbabwean lion whose death focused the world’s attention on the sport of trophy hunting, TheMirror reported.
But despite the outrage, nothing has changed because big game hunts are still permitted in parts of Africa.
Hunting revenue goes mainly to conservation and developing communities where the hunted species are located. Money has been spent on construction and maintenance of schools, clinics and hospitals.
The U.S. imposed new restrictions on African lions harvested after Jan. 22, 2016 particularly lions from Southern and Eastern Africa, a move viewed by many as a ban meant to cripple the local hunting industry. It will be difficult to import lions and lion trophies into the U.S.
Zimbabwe is one of the top 10 countries offering big game hunts. The U.S. also said elephant trophies will not be allowed into the country from Zimbabwe until better community conservation management is in place. Zimbabwe’s answer: bring in hunters from China and Russia.
The U.S. has already stopped all imports of elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe — second- and third-largest exporters of lion trophies to the U.S. because of what it believes are organisational problems in the wildlife management programs, SouthernAfrican.News reported.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states are lobbying the U.S. to reverse its decision.
Safari operators will be hard hit. Lion hunting is the biggest contributor to the hunting industry. If hunting products are banned, other countries are expected to follow suit.
“We now have hunters from Russia and China coming to Zimbabwe and efforts are underway to ensure that more will come from these countries and others to hunt in Zimbabwe to ensure that the sector will continue running,” said Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Water, Environment and Climate.
This will not be the first time an African country has turned to the east for political or monetary gain, BlastingNews reported. “Zimbabwe will turn to those it perceives as friends and those friends often have a poor record when it comes to wildlife conservation.”