CAMPFIRE ASSOCIATION PRESS STATEMENT ON LIFTING OF THE SUSPENSION OF ELEPHANT TROPHY IMPORTS INTO AMERICA
Zimbabwe’s Community Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) hails the recent decision by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to lift the suspension of elephant trophy imports into the United States of America. We encourage the USFWS and the President of the United States to stand by the decision to issue import permits for sport-hunted elephant trophies.
Trophy fees and meat from elephant incentivize CAMPFIRE communities to dedicate land as habitat for elephant and other wildlife. U.S. citizens represent the largest share of CAMPFIRE hunting clients. CAMPFIRE communities have been negatively impacted by the suspension of trophy imports, and we look forward to increased benefits, and therefore additional conservation incentives, with the lifting of the suspension.
CAMPFIRE enables local communities, especially those residing in areas where the level of human and elephant conflict is high, to benefit from wildlife through sport hunting. Since the suspension of elephant trophy imports in 2014, CAMPFIRE Association has cooperated fully and worked closely with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to provide the necessary information required by USFWS, and also participated in the development of a national Elephant Management Plan. Hunting generates about 90% of CAMPFIRE income, with elephant hunting contributing up to 70% of annual income. American hunters make up 60% of the clients in CAMPFIRE areas.
CAMPFIRE has a combined 2.4 million beneficiaries, made up of 200,000 households that are directly involved in the program. Another 600,000 households benefit indirectly from social services and infrastructure supported by wildlife related income. The size of wards that make up CAMPFIRE is approximately 50,000km2 or 12.7% of the country, which is roughly equivalent to the size of the National Parks estate. Under CAMPFIRE, based on voluntary interest in participation by local communities, wildlife is found on land outside national parks. By choice, these communities and their Rural District Councils (RDCs) maintain varying sizes of land free from subsistence and commercial agriculture, or other economic activities such as gold panning and mining that negatively impact on wildlife management and the conservation of natural resources. CAMPFIRE is therefore making significant contributions to the protection of between 2 and 3 million hectares of land in Zimbabwe. Reports by Safari Operators under CAMPFIRE show that the suspension of elephant trophy imports in 2014 resulted in the cancellation of 108 out of 189 (57%) elephant hunts booked by US citizens. This translated to a sharp decline in income to the CAMPFIRE programme from US$2.2m in 2013 to an average US$1.7m in 2014 through to 2016, putting the conservation of elephant in these areas at huge risk.
As recognized in the recent USFWS enhancement finding, the sharing of CAMPFIRE income has been satisfactory. An audit of CAMPFIRE income at community level for the period 2010-2015 was submitted in 2016 to USFWS to support the positive finding. At district level, wildlife income is used for administration, field patrols, monitoring of hunts, problem animal control, water provision, and fire management. Communities have drilled boreholes, constructed seasonal roads, erecting of fencing to keep out wildlife, purchase of tractors, and direct purchase of drought relief food. Children benefit from reduced walking distances through the construction of schools, procurement of learning materials, and payment of school fees from CAMPFIRE proceeds. Communities also benefit from meat in excess of the requirements of safari hunting operations, and from problem animal control.
Annual hunting quotas are granted based on the relative density of elephants in the neighbouring protected areas and those residing in the CAMPFIRE areas. The national trophy hunting quota is set at 0.3 – 0.5% of the overall population to maintain trophy quality at approximately 35kg (77lbs). The quality of hunting in CAMPFIRE areas remains good, and this is confirmed by repeated hunter arrivals each year, among other indicators. Zimbabwe’s population of the African elephant, Loxodonta africana, is healthy and remains on Appendix II under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The IUCN Species Survival Commission’s African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG)’s 2016 estimate of Zimbabwe’s elephant population is around 83,000.
CAMPFIRE Association objects to the ill informed press reports and releases against the lifting of the suspension, including appeals to US authorities for its reinstatement. CAMPFIRE Association supports the lifting of the suspension, which will benefit our participating districts and wards. The sharing of hunting income creates a real incentive to protect elephant and other game species, even when these species negatively impact people living in CAMPFIRE areas. 139 people in CAMPFIRE areas have lost their lives from wildlife attacks, including elephant, since 2010. Over 7,000ha of crops were destroyed by elephant between 2010 and 2015 in 10 CAMPFIRE districts. With the minimum cash value of maize at US$180/ton, the approximate loss to communities is between US$500,000 – US$1.0 million. These losses are endured by communities living in areas highly prone to drought and low rainfall, making the impact even more acute. Despite these losses, the poaching of elephant in CAMPFIRE areas is relatively low, with only 38 elephants poached since 2016 to the present. Effective local level anti-poaching operations through CAMPFIRE have resulted in the decline in elephant poaching in Mbire district from a peak of 40 cases in 2010 to only 5 so far in 2017.
The sustainability of hunting as a conservation tool, and its contribution to rural livelihoods is a reality in Zimbabwe. CAMPFIRE Association urges all conservationists, animal lovers and all institutions interested in the protection of wildlife to respect the livelihood choices of African communities, and to acknowledge that the protection of wildlife from poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking is more effective when rural people are allowed to exercise multiple options for the sustainable use of wildlife that they live with.
For more information, please contact:
Director of CAMPFIRE Association,
Mukuvisi Woodlands, Harare, Zimbabwe.