International wildlife charity, Born Free, has however warned that 1,250 of Africa’s increasingly rare hippopotamus, living in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, face terror and death following the government’s decision to approve a controversial ‘cull’, due to begin in a few weeks’ time.
Rev Sikwela met representatives of various Community Resource Boards in Lusaka today to discuss concerns on the culling exercise.
National CRBs Association coordinator Isaac Banda, during the meeting, wondered if the hunting story was a rumour or a confirmed position of the Ministry of Tourism.
He raised concern that local communities in areas where the culling activity will take place have not been fully engaged to appreciate the benefits of such an undertaking.
Banda said communities were equal partners in the conservation process and therefore needed to constantly be briefed on what was happening in their areas.
Rev Sikwela, in response, said the ministry would conduct sensitization of communities in Luangwa Valley and stakeholders in the tourism sector for them to appreciate the benefits of the exercise.
“Everyone, especially those in Eastern Province where the activity will be undertaken, shall be given an opportunity to have a say, and ask questions where they are not sure concerning the culling activity. I am happy that many have an appreciation of the background and benefits of the culling activity,” said Rev Sikwela.
However, Born Free has told the government to halt the culling exercise.
Born Free presidenc and co-founder, Will Travers OBE, stated that justifications for the culling exercise being openly marketed to paying trophy hunters were like “a sea of shifting sand”.
“Originally, it was to prevent an outbreak of anthrax. Then it was because the water levels in the Luangwa River were precariously low. Now it is because there is a perceived hippo over-population. Yet none of these ‘justifications’ stand up to scrutiny. The Zambian government’s own research shows that previous culls have served only to increase the population growth rate, not reduce it. However, the killing of 1,250 hippos over five years could generate upwards of £2.6m for trophy hunting outfitters and the Zambian government. Hippo lives are on the line in order to line the pockets of a few hunting operators and government officials,” he has stated.
“Hippos are under increasing threat from poaching, wildlife trade and sport hunting. There are only approximately 130,000 wild hippos remaining; Over 7,300kgs of hippo tusks and teeth were internationally traded in 2018 alone – a 64-fold increase since 2007. Between 2004 and 2014, Hong Kong (SAR) reported imports of 60 tonnes of hippo teeth. Opposition to the cull includes Chiefs and people from the local community where the cull is due to take place, as well as local and international conservationists and safari operators who fear a tourism backlash against the impending mass slaughter.”
It stated that the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) was now poised to push ahead with the cull using paying trophy hunters to carry out the killing.
“The awarding of the culling contract is shrouded in secrecy and did not follow an open tendering process as is required in Zambia…Along with many others, Born Free is deeply concerned that the real reason behind the cull is financial gain. South African hunting outfit, Siluwe Hunting, is offering Luangwa hippo/trophy cull packages that involve killing two Luangwa hippo for £4,350, three for £7,850 and 5 for £11,360,” stated Travers.
“The UK is a significant donor to Zambia through the Department for International Development (DfID). UK taxpayers sent £45m to Zambia last year to assist with poverty relief, education, school meals and more. Born Free is writing to Penny Mordaunt MP, the DfID Secretary, asking her to use her influence to seek a commitment from Zambia not to proceed with the cull, a move that is likely to be welcomed by the 158 MPs who have signed Early Day Motion 1829 (https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52304 ) calling on the UK government to end the import of hunting trophies. Born Free will be writing to every signatory asking them to intervene in this matter of life and death.”
He added that “there is a still hope and we must persuade the Zambian government and President Lungu himself to intervene to stop this carnage once and for all. Given the highly contentious nature of the cull; the unsubstantiated claims about anthrax, water levels and population control; the plight of hippo in the wild and the increasing impact of trade, Born Free is calling for the planned cull to be abandoned. This matter needs to be resolved quickly and permanently, and the threat of a cull taken off the table. If not, then Zambia – one of Africa’s great wildlife strongholds – is likely to suffer lasting reputational and economic damage as international tourists seek other, more benign safari destinations.”