I am reminded that on 10 January 2006, the Natural Resources Consultative Forum of Zambia (NRCF) met to discuss the question of Elephant Sport Hunting (ESH) and to prepare an urgent Advisory Note for the Permanent Secretary and the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources for their visit to the meeting of the Safari Club Convention in Reno, Nevada, USA starting on 18 January 2006, a convention where the elephant quota for 2006 would be sold by Zambian Safari Operators and their agents. Regrettably the Acting DG of ZAWA had declined to attend in person or to send a competent officer in his place.
The meeting overwhelmingly agreed that given the absence of the necessary scientific base-line data on which clear advice might be tendered to the Permanent Secretary, that the precautionary principle should be invoked and elephant hunting banned for 2006 and until such time as ZAWA provided the essential data. ZAWA took no notice of this and went ahead with an elephant license auction. In January, 2007, at a meeting with the DG, he assured me and another steering committee member of the NRCF that no decision on elephant hunting would be made until he returned from attending the SCI Convention. The next day the ZAWA licensing officer phoned me with an invitation to attend an auction of elephant licenses a few days later.
The background to this sorry affair is that in 2005 ZAWA issued a quota of 20 elephant for sport hunting by foreign clients in the Chiawa, Rufunsa and Lower Lupande hunting concessions; 10 to be utilized by the concessionaires of those areas, the remaining 10 to be auctioned to other safari operators – the proceeds to be deposited in an elephant conservation fund and shared with affected communities. The quota was issued by ZAWA in response to complaints by local communities of elephant damage to crops, and of loss of life. The DG ZAWA stated that 20 problem bull elephant had been identified (sic) by his officers and that these would be shot, and that measures would be taken to assist communities to improve their capacity to defend themselves against raiders. The Tourism Council of Zambia (TCZ), the Safari Hunting Operators of Zambia (SHOAZ), the South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) – which produced an analysis of the issue, and Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) opposed the hunting of elephant on the grounds that elephant were being poached, that populations had not yet recovered from the hunting ban of 1982, and that the few bull elephant in these areas were of considerable value to the non-consumptive tourism industry. Numerous international elephant conservation organizations also opposed the move. In 2004, ZAWA had applied to the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) for the ivory taken from the 20 elephant to be exported to CITES signatory countries. This application was unfortunately granted. But ZAWA’s application for elephant to be downlisted to Appendix 2, enabling it to sell its stockpile of 17 tons of ivory, was refused. At least one international organization supported the introduction of elephant hunting and had negotiated with the US Fish & Wildlife Service for ivory from the 20 hunted elephant to be imported into the USA. This was, however, refused. ZAWA, through the NRCF, held a consultative meeting on the elephant hunting proposal, but had already announced an elephant hunting quota.
Since this time, as the NRCF refuses to press government on the issue, the issue has been swept under the carpet. I am no longer a steering committee member as a result.