Wednesday, January 31, 2007


The newspapers here in Zambia are full of the horrors of corruption - the cancer which renders development impossible and which has reduced this country – now in the top-ten hit parade of world corruption, to a pale shadow of what it once was. They also, in a marvelous example of their editorial capacity to hold two contradictory views simultaneously, blame the West (the imperialists) for our poverty, despite a recent report from Transparency International Zambia revealing that since independence only 16% of national government expenditure went on health, education, agriculture and local government – surely a heinous and deeply shameful shortfall of funds needed to alleviate the woeful plight of the poor; and, to add salt to the wounds, over the last 20 years almost a years’ worth of that expenditure was stolen or unaccounted for.

And there is a continuing 33 year long tide of corruption in our magnificent wilderness, our native black rhino killed, our wildlife slaughtered daily for the bushmeat trade, including, our elephant. Once it was for their tusks only, many thousands killed since1973, and now DNA analysis revealing that between 1994 - 2002, 123.5 tons of ivory - the equivalent of 14,500 elephant, were taken from the Luangwa Valley of Zambia and shipped by a single syndicate through Malawi and on to the Far East. Not surprisingly, with such a lamentable conservation record since then, Zambia is not allowed by CITES to sell its ivory stockpile (if still there), though since 2005, CITES, apparently persuaded by a Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources’ ludicrous assertion that they had identified 20 crop raiding elephant and that these should be killed on sport hunting permits, allowed it to issue 20 permits annually for elephant sport hunting, though the US Fish & Wildlife Service bars them from entry into the USA, the source of most hunting clients. Zambia of course needs money to run its statutory body responsible for wildlife; hence, you might conclude, it needs to sell some elephant permits – though the $100,000 share to the Government hardly pays for two vehicles. But the sad fact is that the Minister, advised by his head of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), has ignored the advice of the Zambia Natural Resources Consultative Forum – a cross-sectoral body drawn from Government departments, civil society and the donors (suppliers of 50% of Zambia’s financial needs) - which includes hunting organizations in its membership, to ban elephant hunting until such time as elephant populations and their management allow for it.

And undertakings given on 3 January at a meeting convened by the Minister with the private sector and rural community representatives - supposedly to rectify past mistakes and to consult widely with them on all issues, have fallen asunder; this followed by the lie that elephant hunting permits would not be issued unless all the people and organizations involved were consulted, and certainly not, said Dr Saiwana of ZAWA, before a ministerial visit to the Safari Club International hunting convention in Reno at the end of January.

But there was more to come on that trip to America, the Minister visiting the US Fish & Wildlife Service and lobbying not only for the ivory of the 20 elephant to be allowed in, but for increased numbers as well, he looking enviously at Zimbabwe and the 500 or so elephant it is culling (so he says), saying that Zambia’s paltry quota of eight elephant are far too few, neglecting to mention that elephant on the Zambia side are not part of the Hwange/Chobe population, and that those that are there form the basis of a thriving tourism business on the Zambezi, some of them already shot not far from the lodges.

The present Minister of Tourism etc, Kabinga Pande - guided by the dictates of politics and economics rather than wildlife management, is hard on the spoor of the previous Minister who stated that only the 20 identified crop-raiding bulls would be hunted, although the Statutory Instrument No 40 of 2005 made clear that the ‘hunting of elephants for sport (a) shall not include the hunting of elephant for purposes of controlling problem elephants’. And this SI states that nothing less than an elephant carrying 33 pounds of ivory side may be taken, thus opening the door for the killing of young breeding bulls. And what of the communities this is supposed to benefit. Evidence is to hand that communities within hunting concessions are owed a fortune by ZAWA, many of them unable to pay village scouts, encouraging them to poach the very animals they are charged to guard. One community with whom I work, with the help of the ZAWA crimes investigation unit - once it became clear we would brook no alternative, is playing a large part in bringing to book a poaching syndicate run by wildlife police officers. They shot two matriarchal herds of elephant and took the meat to the nearest roadhead where it was collected by their senior officer and transported into town in the Government pick-up.

The Minister of Tourism etc, Pande, in pursuit of economic justification, states that the 115 elephant shot as a result of village garden raiding in 2006 would have brought in $10,000 each ($1,115 000). But he clearly is unaware that a large percentage of these animals were females carrying small ivory. Not much of a trophy there. Well if we take the 14,500 elephant which were removed without let or hindrance from those charged to protect them, following the Pande formula they would have brought in $145, 000,000. And a thorough investigation of the disribution of the meat from garden raiders and elephant shot by safari hunters will surely reveal that little of it went to the villagers on whose lands the animals fell.

But it is the continuing slur on foreign investors in the safari industry, repeating in the press non-proven charges of the electronic calling of lion to the hunter’s rifle, which flies in the face of undertakings given at the truce meeting that the dirty linen would not be washed in public. And the Minister's charge that some of us send e-mails to America saying that safari hunting in Zambia is corruptly handled, is true. It would be silly to do so were it not true, and were one not able to prove it.

And today comes news of the issuing of a deportation notice by the Minister of Home Affairs against the safari operator, Ross Michelson - like me, one of those accused of calling lion with ‘louder speakers‘ but not yet found guilty in the courts (difficult when two of the three of us so charged had not been in the area where the crime was supposed to have been committed), something in defiance of habeus corpus, whose origins lie in our Magna Carta of 1215. His ‘sin’, and mine, is that he fell foul of a syndicate of anti-western imperialists; and mighty powerful they are here. And in my case, according to the present Director of Research of ZAWA, I am also inciting the local community against ZAWA. Well, as an old Game Department man here, I am merely carrying on a tradition of local villagers empowerment, kicked off by the doyen of conservationists, Norman Carr, and my friend and former colleague, Barry Shenton, in 1949/50. It is a fine and worthy tradition to follow.

Conservationists are dumbfounded by all this, donors alarmed and bunching like buffalo when a lion is about - for they know they control the purse strings, and the soldiers of civil society are both contemptuous and ashamed of what is happening. And the latter are a growing force, buoyed by their victory in defeating ZAWA and the Ministry in their proposed sale of Mosi oa Tunya National Park land and the building there of an 18 hole golf estate.

And what be the life of a paleface conservationist investor here: phone tapped, threats of deportation, ‘action targeted’, defamed, sullied and abused. Well, it be ‘faga moto’ and tilting at the windmill.

As a woman once said to me in Ireland, “It’s hard to know where you’r goin’ when you’r lost!”

Lusaka, Zambia.
31 January 2007
Chartered Wildlife Biologist
Steering Committee Member: The Natural Resources Consultative Forum of Zambia
Corporate Member: Business Action for Africa.
Foreign Investor and MD: Mbeza Safaris Ltd
Member: Professional Hunters’ Association of Zambia

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