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



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



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)



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



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



Sinikiwe Nyathi

Sidinda Ward Councilor


Jabulani Ndubiwa


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



Chief Matupula



Chief Siphoso




Dr Rodgers Lubilo

Chairman, Zambia National CBNRM Forum