21 January 2020

Dear Sir/Madam

 

A recent letter in Science by Dickman et al about trophy hunting unleashed passionate debate in the Western media.  These discussions have involved over 400 conservationists, academics and animal rights advocates from the US, Europe and Australia, voicing strong, if divergent, opinions on effective conservation strategies.

 

Much of the discussion focuses on Africa, but with the notable exception of Dickman et al’s letter, key voices missing from the debate are those of rural people and governments who live with and manage African wildlife, and who will ultimately determine its future. As legitimate representatives of many thousands of people from key wildlife range states (Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia), we would like to correct this and have our perspective and voices heard.

 

Sustainably managing megafauna is complex, and successful conservation must start with we who live directly with wildlife. Whilst many in the West view elephants, lions and other wildlife through a romantic, idealized lens, our daily reality of living with these magnificent and valued, yet often dangerous, animals requires more pragmatism.

 

We, who live surrounded by this wildlife, worry daily that our children may be killed on their way to school, or that our livelihoods will be destroyed. In Botswana, 36 people were killed by elephants in 2018. In Zimbabwe, at least 30 people were trampled by elephants in 2019.  Every death is a tragedy, and often involves family breadwinners. Recently, two Zimbabwean siblings disappeared from their home. Only the dismembered head of the two year old was recovered from the suspected hyena attack, and the four year old has never been found. The harsh reality is that if wildlife is just a threat to us, and our incentives to conserve it are removed, its future will be as bleak as that of the wolves, bears and other carnivores of Europe and the US.

 

For centuries our people have lived with wildlife, and its value is deeply ingrained in our cultures. During colonial times our rights to manage and benefit from these resources were removed. This led to dramatic loss of wildlife and its habitat – a disaster for conservation, our traditions and our livelihoods. Following independence, our governments restored our rights and integrated wildlife into rural economies.  This enabled the development of socio-economic incentives to live with and sustainably manage our wildlife. Whilst it varies nationally, up to 90% of these economic incentives are provided through sustainable, regulated hunting. This has led, in Southern African countries such as ours, to increasing wildlife populations and habitat, often even beyond formally protected areas, in stark contrast to most Western countries.

 

We acknowledge that banning wildlife trophy imports into foreign countries is within the right of those governments. We further recognize that regulated hunting may appear a counter-intuitive conservation strategy to many. Yet if your objective is conservation –  not solely the recognition of individual animal rights – import bans are misguided and have important implications for our human rights. We are concerned that hundreds of millions of dollars have been gobbled up in misleading animal rights campaigns without any benefit for the custodians of African wildlife – African people. Banning trophy imports risks significantly reducing the value of our wildlife, reducing incentives to tolerate and manage wildlife as an integral component of our livelihoods. Imposing such disastrous policies on us negates our sound conservation record. Once again, wildlife numbers will plummet and our rights to sustainably manage our natural resources will again be undermined.

 

We recognize and respect the rights of Western conservation scientists and animal rights advocates to discuss how best to manage African wildlife. However, we request that your discussions are informed by our voices as custodians of this wildlife. Discussions should acknowledge both our conservation successes and our communities’ right to earn a livelihood through the culturally appropriate, sustainable management of our resources for the benefit of our people. Any less is to deny our human rights.  

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Ishmael Chaukura

CAMPFIRE Inter-ward Chairperson

Mbire District, Zimbabwe

 

Botswana:

Gakemotho Satau

The Trust for Okavango Cultural and Development Initiatives (TOCaDI) 

 

Kutlwano Russel

Mababe Zokotsama Community Development Trust

 

Tumeleng Mogodu

Mababe Zokotsama Community Development Trust

 

S.K. Moepedi

Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust

 

Kerapetse Bantu Peter

Tcheku Community Trust

 

Amos Ben Mabuku

Chobe Enclave Community Trust – Former Chairperson

 

Namibia

Hilda N. Nathinge

Vice Chairperson of the North Central Conservancy

(Representing 9 conservancies)

 

Max Mayemburuko

Chaiperson of the Kavango East and West Conservancy Community Forest Associations (Representing 6 conservancies)

 

Theo Naruseb

Chairperson of the Erongo Conservancy Association

(Representing 4 conservancies)

 

Brisetha Hendricks

Chairperson of the Southern Conservancy Association

 

Stein Katupa

Kunene Conservancy Regional Association

Secretary to the Conservancy Association

(Representing 40 Conservancies)

 

Zaack Dirkse

(Representing 6 Southern Conservancies)

 

Geoffrey Tukuhuphwele

Zambezi Conservancy Chairperson

(Representing 15 Conservancies, and one CBO)

 

Zimbabwe

Bulilima District

Never Ncube

CAMPFIRE Inter-ward Chairperson

 

Delani Mabhena

Councillor Malanswazi Ward  

 

Phillip Mpofu

CAMPFIRE Chairperson

Khame Ward

 

Zoolakes Nyathi

Council Chairperson  

Morning Manguba

Headman

 

Isaac Msebele

CAMPFIRE Chairperson

Ndolwane Ward

 

Land Ndebele

Finance Committee Chairperson

 

Innocent Mavunela

Conservation Committee Chairperson

 

Chipinge District, Zimbabwe

Patson Simango

CAMPFIRE Chairperson

Mahenye Ward

 

Kumbula Jimmy

CAMPFIRE Chairperson

Mtandahwe Ward

 

Naison Ndhlovu

Mahenye Ward Councillor

 

K. Njanjeni  

Mtandahwe Ward Councillor  

 

Hwange District, Zimbabwe

Nyalani Mgaduwi

CAMPFIRE Chairperson

Sidinda Ward

 

Chief Shana

Hwange

 

Sinikiwe Nyathi

Sidinda Ward Councilor

 

Jabulani Ndubiwa

CAMPFIRE Elder

Jambezi Ward

 

Mbire District, Zimbabwe

Promotion Dzomba  

Village Head

Masoka Ward

 

Sarudzai Goredema  

CAMPFIRE Chairperson

Masoka Ward

 

Osca Marowa

Committee Member

Masoka Ward

 

Public Museruka

Committee member

Angwa Ward

 

Ishmael Jack

CAMPFIRE Vice Chairperson

Angwa Ward

 

Julius Chokubooka

CAMPFIRE Treasurer

Angwa Ward

 

Justin Mawachi

CAMPFIRE Secretary

Angwa Ward

 

Cossam Chikondoma

CAMPFIRE Vice Secretary

Angwa Ward

 

Tsholotsho District, Zimbabwe

Godfrey Ndlovu

CAMPFIRE Inter-ward Chairperson

 

Chief Tategulu

Tsholotsho

 

Chief Matupula

Tsholotsho

 

Chief Siphoso

Tsholotsho

 

Zambia

Dr Rodgers Lubilo

Chairman, Zambia National CBNRM Forum