American hunters constituted 90 percent of Save Valley clients


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More than 90 percent of the clients of one of the owners of a conservancy farms in the Save Valley were American hunters.

Clive Stockil, the general manager of the Save Valley Conservancy, one of the largest private conservancies in Africa, told this to a United States embassy official.

He also pointed out that wildlife safaris and ecotourism represented the easiest and fastest means to rejuvenate Zimbabwe’s economy, particularly at the local level.

He had, however, at another occasion gone to great pains to dissuade investors led by Chief Fortune Charumbira telling them that making money from wildlife was not as easy as the government thought.

The director of National Parks Morris Mutsambiwa told the same US official that up to 92 percent of the Parks and Wildlife budget came from hunting-related revenue and that about 60 percent of hunters in Zimbabwe are Americans.

 

Full cable:

Viewing cable 08HARARE863, ENVIRONMENT SUFFERING AS POACHING INCREASES

 

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE863

2008-09-22 10:42

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO8204

OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0863/01 2661042

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 221042Z SEP 08 ZDK

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3471

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2313

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2432

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0947

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1710

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2065

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2486

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4918

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1581

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000863

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR G. GARLAND

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

STATE PASS TO FWS FOR MICHELLE GADD

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/22/2018

TAGS: SENV EAGR ECON KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENT SUFFERING AS POACHING INCREASES

 

REF: 07 HARARE 1130

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Katherine Dhanani for reasons 1.4(b) a

nd (d).

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Increasing pressures from poaching, deforestation,

and Zimbabwe’s economic free-fall pose serious threats to

Zimbabwe’s wildlife. Poaching is on the rise, with at least

38 rhinos killed so far in 2008. While much of this poaching

has come from organized groups trafficking ivory, skins, and

tusks to Europe and Asia, some has also been by villagers

attempting to protect their crops or grazing areas. The

decline in tourism dollars, which private conservancies and

Zimbabwe’s parastatal Parks and Wildlife Management Authority

(Parks) use to maintain their activities, has hurt

conservation efforts. Parks has suffered increasing

political pressure and budget constraints in recent years,

which has had a further negative impact on conservation

efforts. Revenue from American hunters is a significant

source of funding for Parks; in a reformed Zimbabwe, many

safari operators believe tourism will be one of the fastest

sectors to recover, provided the environmental decline is

halted soon. END SUMMARY.

 

———————-

Poaching with Impunity

———————-

 

2. (SBU) Raoul du Toit, director of the World Wide Fund’s

(WWF) Rhino Conservancy Projects, told poloff that, although

the black rhino population in Zimbabwe has experienced net

growth this year, poaching has increased dramatically in

2008. Of the 144 rhinos poached since 2000, 38 were killed

thus far in 2008. Rhino populations have dropped steadily

over the last 15 years on state-owned and other lands while

Zimbabwe’s private conservancies have – despite poaching –

experienced the highest rhino growth rates in Africa. The

southeast lowveld area of Zimbabwe is home to three large

private conservancies – including the nearly one-million acre

Save Valley Conservancy (SVC), founded in 1992 – which are

home to about 400 of Zimbabwe’s 525 rhinos. Before 2000, no

rhinos were poached in these conservancies, but poaching

increased dramatically with the initiation of the fast-track

land resettlement program in 2000. Since then, over 59

rhinos have been poached in the lowveld conservancies. In

the last three years, the proportion of rhino shootings

(versus snarings) has increased dramatically, indicating a

more concerted effort to kill specific animals with

“desirable” horns.

 

3. (C) Du Toit told poloff that in the last five years, only

two poachers in Zimbabwe had been convicted. However, they

were released on just US$5 bail. In every other case,

despite convincing evidence and – in one case – a confession,

the poachers went free or the charges were dropped. Du Toit

and other conservationists believe that the poachers are

well-connected to government insiders who have influenced

their cases. Du Toit said that in addition to rhino

poaching, there is massive poaching of zebras, which do not

require special export tags, for the German furniture market.

He said that much of the contraband is smuggled across the

porous border with South Africa by well-organized networks

that traffic the goods to Asia (ivory, tusks, and hides) and

Europe (mostly zebra hides).

 

4. (C) Clive Stockil, founder of the SVC and one of

 

HARARE 00000863 002 OF 004

 

 

Zimbabwe’s most highly regarded conservationists, told poloff

that there have been no convictions of poachers in the SVC

even though anti-poaching personnel employed by the

conservancies have turned over ballistics evidence and names

of poachers to authorities. He is deeply concerned about the

growing threats to wildlife in the lowveld and throughout

Zimbabwe. He cited reinstated law and order, an impartial

judiciary, and a prioritization of humanitarian response –

especially food – as the most important steps a new

Zimbabwean government could take towards improving the

environment. If the MDC is granted control of the Ministries

of Home Affairs and Justice, he believes this could be

possible, citing corruption in the police and judiciary as

key stumbling blocks to prosecutions of poachers.

 

—————————–

Power Cuts Fuel Deforestation

—————————–

 

5. (C) Dr. David Cumming, professor at the University of

Zimbabwe and former Deputy Director of Parks, told poloff

that in addition to poaching, deforestation has increased

dramatically, further fueling environmental decline across

the country. Consistent, ongoing power cuts throughout

Zimbabwe have led many families to rely on burning wood for

heat and cooking. Dr. Cumming said this deforestation is

notable in satellite images of Zimbabwe and increases

vulnerability to erosion and flooding.

 

——————————————— —————

Parks and Wildlife: Limited Budget, Increasingly Politicized

——————————————— —————

 

6. (C) Director of Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management

Authority, Dr. Morris Mtsambiwa, told poloff that poaching is

a serious issue and that about 100 elephants had been poached

thus far in 2008. He said elephant poaching is particularly

problematic in and near Chizarira and Hwange National Parks

(in the west) and to a lesser extent in the Zambezi and

Limpopo River valleys. He cited food, ivory, and horns as

the main motives for poaching. He also conceded that some of

his staff had been implicated in elephant poaching, but said

the Authority had dealt with those individuals.

 

7. (C) Parks and Wildlife – a parastatal since 2002 – is

allowed to take in forex and has been financially independent

of the state budget since 2000. Regardless, declining

tourism revenues have depleted Parks’ funds (reftel). Dr.

Cumming told poloff that in the 1980s, Parks had operated on

a budget of about US$250/square kilometer. He said he would

be surprised if Parks was currently operating on US$10/sq km.

Parks has increased other money-making endeavors such as

crocodile farming to boost its meager budget. Dr. Cumming

believes Parks is in serious financial trouble. He also

believes that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) does

not understand environmental issues or the potential

contribution of parks and tourism in rejuvenating Zimbabwe’s

economy.

 

8. (C) Dr. Cumming, Stockil, and du Toit all praised Dr.

Mtsambiwa, who has a PhD in ecology from the University of

British Columbia and has worked for Parks since 1985, as

competent and doing “the best he can” under significant

pressure. (COMMENT: Dr. Mtsambiwa extolled the virtues of the

American National Parks system at length to poloff and spoke

fondly of his visits to the U.S. END COMMENT.) However, he

has come under growing pressure in the last couple of years

from the increasingly politicized oversight board, which

includes members appointed by Environment Minister Francis

Nhema. According to du Toit and Dr. Cumming, the board has

 

HARARE 00000863 003 OF 004

 

 

become increasingly involved in internal management of Parks.

Du Toit cited two members of the board, Vitalis Chidenga and

Jerry Gatora, as forming an “unholy alliance” for their

reported involvement in corruption deals and close ties to

ZANU-PF hardliners. Chidenga, in particular, is reportedly

very close to Minister Nhema, and is the point man for land

reform as it relates to wildlife management.

 

——————————————-

Land Reform Beneficiaries Threaten Wildlife

——————————————-

 

9. (SBU) With the land reform program in 2000, ZANU-PF

supporters were settled in the area between SVC and

Gonarezhou National Park (GNP), which is part of the

Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) with national parks in

Mozambique and South Africa. These settlements not only

block potential migration patterns between the SVC and TFCA,

but also pose significant poaching threats to wildlife.

According to WWF, all cases of armed rhino poaching have

occurred in areas where subsistence farms surround parks or

conservancies. Recent settlers may be attempting to

eradicate the rhinos not for their horns, but to consolidate

their farming areas. Small-scale farmers have attempted to

use pesticide-laced melons to kill rhinos that were

destroying their crops. Plans are underway among the private

conservancies and National Parks to create corridors for

wildlife. However, this will require relocating several

villages. (COMMENT: Driving through the area on September 17

and 18, poloff observed very little agricultural activity in

these villages, aside from limited livestock grazing. END

COMMENT.)

 

——————————————— ———-

American Hunters Contribute to Conservation… and SDNs

——————————————— ———-

 

10. (C) Stockil believes that wildlife safaris and

ecotourism represent the easiest and fastest means to

rejuvenate Zimbabwe’s economy, particularly at the local

level. When Stockil started the SVC in 1992, he and other

landowners in the SVC planned to focus on photographic

tourism. However, since the land reforms of 2000 started,

photographic tourism in the lowveld has suffered, and now he

and others like him are almost entirely dependent on hunters.

Stockil estimates that over 90 percent of his clientele are

American hunters. Dr. Mtsambiwa told poloff that up to 92

percent of the Parks and Wildlife budget comes from

hunting-related revenue and that about 60 percent of hunters

in Zimbabwe are Americans.

 

11. (C) Don Heath, a professional hunter and former Parks

official, told poloff that some American hunters

inadvertently contribute funds to properties owned by

Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). Numerous safari areas

are owned by individuals on the Department of Treasury’s

Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of SDNs

(reftel). However, many of these safari areas and SDNs do

not organize hunting safaris on their own. Rather, they

sublease hunting rights to other safari operators who bring

in clients – including unsuspecting Americans – who are

unaware that they are hunting on land owned by an SDN.

(NOTE: Post is exploring means to help Americans better

identify these areas. END NOTE.)

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

12. (C) As reported reftel, hunting remains a vital source

 

HARARE 00000863 004 OF 004

 

 

of revenue to both Parks and private conservancies and

cutting off American hunters from Zimbabwe would have a

devastating effect on efforts to maintain Zimbabwe’s

conservation efforts. The politics that influence Parks

indicate that, in addition to the importance of balancing

ministries, the MDC should push for appointments on the

boards of parastatals and in administrative positions in the

ministries in order to promote a reform agenda. Continued

and increased poaching – without prosecution – reflects the

ongoing and widespread impact of Zimbabwe’s economic and

judicial crisis. In addition, it reflects the probable

collusion of the current regime with traffickers and corrupt

schemes. Despite these pressures, Zimbabwe’s parks and

private conservancies pose significant potential for rapid

recovery if tourists regain confidence and return to

Zimbabwe. END COMMENT.

 

DHANANI

 

(4 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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