Zimbabwe will allow trophy hunters who are willing to pay up to $70,000 per elephant to shoot up to 500 of the beasts in national parks, in a bid intended to help raise money to sustain the conservatories which the cash-strapped government cannot maintain.
The intention was actually put on paper last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic destabilized plans for tourists to travel to the southern African country. However, this year’s southern hemisphere winter – beginning in June – will see trophy hunters from countries such as the United States going to Zimbabwe.
Officials in Zimbabwe are well aware of the backlash this will generate among conservationists and ecotourists. But a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), Tinashe Farawo, was quoted by Bloomberg saying: “How do we fund our operations, how do we pay our men and women who spend 20 days in the bush looking after these animals?”
Zimbabwe’s elephant population is more than 100,000. Trophy hunters will be charged between $10,000 and $70,000 depending on the size of an elephant they would like to shoot. This program is also seen as a way of controlling the elephant population that has disturbed towns and farms surrounding national parks. The Bloomberg report says the ZPWMA has registered about 1000 complaints so far this year about elephant destruction to crops. This is compared to about 1,500 in the entirety of 2020.
The country’s plans of utilizing the elephant population to make money are not limited to trophy hunting. in 2019, Zimbabwe was believed to have sold at least 30 young elephants to China as drought hit the country. Park officials were reported to have said proceeds will be used to dig more wells to save other wildlife.
That same year, more than 90 elephants were exported from Zimbabwe to China and Dubai, earning the southern African country $2.7 million.
Apart from Botswana, Zimbabwe holds the largest quantity of elephants in Africa. However, the former has also not been spared criticisms by conservationists who have questioned why Gaborone is allowing trophy hunting again after a five-year ban.