Hunting major source of revenue for ZANU-PF elite


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Hunting had long been a source of ill-gotten revenue for members of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front elite and they were developing new hunting schemes to earn more foreign currency.

This was said by the United States embassy after the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe claimed that the government was indiscriminately issuing hunting licences including in the country’s national parks.

Sally Bown, administrative officer for SOAZ, said that numerous photographic safari operators in Hwange National Park were sending emails reporting commercial elephant hunting incidents within the park.

Bown and Save Valley Conservancy director Clive Stockil believed that this frantic last grab at hunting revenue was one more aspect of ZANU-PF insiders’ efforts to strip assets and fill their pockets before losing power to the Movement for Democratic Change

She said that the same small group of hunters involved in this operation had been consistently involved in unethical and marginally legal hunting.

Bown named some of the professional hunters involved as Guy Whitall, Tim Schultz of African Dream Safaris, Headman Sibanda and Wayne Grant of Nyala Safaris, Evans Makanza, Alan Shearing, Buzz Charlton and James Macullam of Charlton Macullum Safaris, A.J. Van Heerden of Shashe Safaris, Barry Van Heerden of Big Game Safaris, and Lawrence Boha.

According to the US embassy numerous conservationists had suggested that the Van Heerden brothers were involved in suspicious hunting and land deals with the Director of the Central Intelligence Organization, Happyton Bonyongwe.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08HARARE956, QUIET DIPLOMACY” SUSPENDS ELEPHANT HUNTING IN

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

08HARARE956

2008-10-23 10:25

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO2250

OO RUEHDU RUEHHM RUEHMR RUEHPB RUEHRN RUEHTM

DE RUEHSB #0956/01 2971025

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 231025Z OCT 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3599

INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2543

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000956

 

SIPDIS

 

OES FOR A/S CLAUDIA MCMURRAY

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

CA FOR ELIZABETH GRACON

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

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2018

TAGS: SENV PREL ASEC PHUM KDEM ZI

SUBJECT: “QUIET DIPLOMACY” SUSPENDS ELEPHANT HUNTING IN

NATIONAL PARKS – FOR NOW

 

REF: HARARE 863

 

Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4(d).

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) After issuing commercial hunters hundreds of

questionable permits for elephant hunting in national parks,

the Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife Authority (Parks) has

agreed, under pressure from photographic tour operators, to

suspend the hunting. The operation, which only lasted a few

weeks, appears to have failed as hunters and Parks staff

killed animals larger than allowed and outside the parameters

Parks set. Photographic safari operators and

conservationists agree that Zimbabwe’s burgeoning elephant

population should be managed, but Parks’ get-rich, quick-fix

strategy was poorly implemented, involved professional

hunting guides of questionable ethics and connections, and

was ecologically unsound. While photographic safari

operators believe the hunts will likely resume in some form,

they hope their “quiet diplomacy” efforts will keep the issue

out of the media and encourage Parks and the Zimbabwean

Government (GOZ) to seek fully legal and ecologically-sound

means to increase revenue and maintain Zimbabwe’s wildlife.

END SUMMARY.

 

——————————————— —

Overpopulation of Elephants Needs to be Managed

——————————————— —

 

2. (C) In an August meeting with Dr. Morris Mtsambiwa, the

Director of Parks, poloff asked about rumors of questionable

hunting involving foreign tourists within national parks.

Dr. Mstambiwa unequivocally refuted the hunting rumors. He

said that hunting within national parks is only allowed under

limited circumstances: management quotas (to reduce or

maintain animal populations), ration quotas (to provide

Parks’ staff with meat), or to kill rogue animals. In each

of these cases, animals should be killed by professional

hunters on Parks’ staff. He told poloff that Parks did have

a plan to kill about 1000 elephants in 2008 in four

administrative areas: Hwange, Chizarira, Gonarezhou, and the

Zambezi valley. He termed the program an “elephant

management strategy” that had been approved by the Minister

of Environment, Frances Nhema. Dr. Mtsambiwa said there were

five ecologically responsible means to reduce elephant

populations: translocation of animals, contraception, sale

within the region to conservancies or other interested

parties, chasing, and culling. Zimbabwean Parks’ staff

conducted many successful culls in the 1980s and 1990s. Dr.

Mtsambiwa said the last cull in Zimbabwe was in 1992, and

that current Parks staff did not know how to do it. He told

us that the 1000 elephants, including 400 in Hwange, would be

killed as a training exercise for Parks staff and for

population reduction.

 

3. (SBU) Conservationists, Parks, hunting and photographic

safari operators all agree that Zimbabwe has a serious

overpopulation of elephants. Parks estimates the current

population is about 100,000 elephants, well above Zimbabwe’s

capacity of 40-50,000. This significant overpopulation has a

detrimental impact on levels at watering holes and

biodiversity, as elephants can cause significant damage and

stress to ecosystems. Poloff spoke with numerous

conservationists and former Parks officials who participated

in elephant culls in the 1980s and 1990s. They described a

cull as a highly resource-intensive, dangerous, and gruesome

operation that is also very effective in controlling elephant

populations if done properly. In a cull, an entire family

unit of 10-20 elephants is surrounded on three sides by a

group of armed, trained professional hunters who kill the

entire group in unison. (NOTE: In Zimbabwe all professional

guides and hunters must be certified after having passed

 

HARARE 00000956 002 OF 004

 

 

rigorous written and field tests. END NOTE.) The entire

operation happens very quickly, to prevent traumatized and

scared elephants from stampeding. Professional hunters

stressed the importance of having trained staff present, as

each hunter must select the animal he will shoot and must

kill it with one or two shots. Because the staff surrounds

the elephants, there is a reasonably high risk of shooting

another hunter, in addition to the risks posed by frightened

elephants. Dr. Mtsambiwa repeated this description of a

proper culling operation, and said that very few of his

current Parks staff had this experience. He added that the

current population reduction operation would provide them

with that experience and training. All agreed that an

important component of culling was selecting the correct

animals and family units. Culling should not target large

bulls, groups of adolescent males, or individuals within a

family unit.

 

——————————-

AmCit Questions Hunting Package

——————————-

 

4. (C) Despite Mtsambiwa’s assurances at our August meeting

that Parks was only planning a management/training exercise

for Parks staff, in early September poloff received an email

from an American citizen in California, asking about an

advertisement for an elephant hunt in Zimbabwe to hunt five

elephants over ten days for USD 6,000 as part of a culling

exercise. The meat from the animals would go to local

villagers and hunters were expected to help with on-site

butchering of the animals. This price is significantly less

than most elephant hunting packages. Normally, elephant

hunting excursions in Zimbabwe cost about USD 1,000 per day,

plus a fee for each animal killed. The hunting operation was

to be led by Zimbabwean Headman Sibanda and was arranged by

Thomas Powers Internationale, based in Colorado.

 

—————————

Elephants and Ivory Pile Up

—————————

 

5. (C) In mid-September, Sally Bown, Administrative Officer

for the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ),

informed poloff that numerous photographic safari operators

in Hwange National Park were sending emails reporting

commercial elephant hunting incidents within the park to

SOAZ, Parks, and Minister Nhema. Specifically, elephants

were killed in Hwange National Park in areas frequented by

tourists and near main roads within the park. (NOTE: Hwange,

along the Botswana border, is Zimbabwe’s largest national

park and is one of the best areas in the world for elephant

viewing. END NOTE.) The emails contained photos showing

elephant carcasses in various states of decay, large tusks,

and Parks staff vehicles escorting hunters near recently

killed elephants as proof of the questionable hunting. The

photographic safari operators named the professional hunters

who served as commercial guides and indicated that foreign

hunters, including Americans and South Africans, were killing

the elephants with Parks staff assistance.

 

6. (C) Refuting Mtsambiwa’s claims, the safari operators also

reported that some of the hunting guides had been issued

hundreds of hunting permits for elephants in Hwange and other

national parks in mid-to-late August. Normally, hunting

permits are offered in an auction to all professional hunting

guides. In contrast, Bown said these recent permits were

issued through a non-transparent process to professional

hunters of ill-repute, including some South African

operators. (NOTE: Under Zimbabwean regulations, all tenders

should be offered to local companies first. END NOTE.) This

action particularly alarmed photographic safari operators,

whose businesses depend on calm animals in the national parks

who are used to humans and vehicles.

 

7. (C) Meeting with poloff and conoff on October 10, Bown

 

HARARE 00000956 003 OF 004

 

 

said that it was unclear “how legal” these hunting operations

were, since it appeared the hunters had permits issued by

Parks to kill the animals, despite the provision in the

National Parks Act that prohibits commercial hunting. The

photographic safari operators indicated Parks had given

several local and South African hunting companies concessions

to kill elephants in Hwange if they met specific criteria:

(1) total ivory weight less than 30 pounds, (2)

young/adolescent males, (3) isolated areas (i.e. away from

watering holes and main roads), and (4) controlled by Parks

staff. Parks has never publicly stated these criteria or

explained the operation. Frustrated photographic safari

operators weighed and photographed many of the tusks at the

Park’s ivory store in Hwange and found that many were over 30

pounds each. In one case, an operator claimed an American

hunter killed an elephant with tusks weighing over 120

pounds. Photos also show some elephants were killed very

near main roads and close to watering holes. In at least one

reported case, a vehicle drove around the animal before the

hunter killed it at close range. In emails to Mtsambiwa and

Nhema, safari operators decried the unethical hunting both in

terms of the detrimental ecological impact and the negative

impact it would have on their own businesses.

 

————————————

Unscrupulous Hunting Guides Involved

————————————

 

8. (C) Bown, Save Valley Conservancy Director Clive Stockil

and other conservationists opined in conversations with us

that hunting permits were issued by Parks under intense

pressure from its politicized board and ZANU-PF. Bown

believed this frantic last grab at hunting revenue was one

more aspect of ZANU-PF insiders’ efforts to strip assets and

fill their pockets before losing power to the MDC. She said

that the same small group of hunters involved in this

operation had been consistently involved in unethical and

marginally legal hunting. Bown had no evidence that they

were involved specifically with sanctioned individuals within

the Mugabe regime, but believed such connections were likely.

According to Bown, the Zimbabwean professional hunters

involved include Guy Whitall, Tim Schultz of African Dream

Safaris, Headman Sibanda and Wayne Grant of Nyala Safaris,

Evans Makanza, Alan Shearing, Buzz Charlton and James

Macullam of Charlton Macullum Safaris, A.J. Van Heerden of

Shashe Safaris, Barry Van Heerden of Big Game Safaris, and

Lawrence Boha. (COMMENT: Numerous conservationists have

suggested the Van Heerden brothers are involved in suspicious

hunting and land deals with the Director of the Central

Intelligence Organization, Happyton Bonyongwe, although none

have provided proof of the relationship. END COMMENT.)

Additionally, one safari operator accused an American, by

name, of killing a lion illegally and then smuggling its hide

out through South Africa. Given the rampant smuggling of

other animal products across Zimbabwe’s southern border

(reftel), this is not unlikely. As reported in reftel,

American hunting dollars are vital to Zimbabwe’s conservation

efforts, but there are also serious risks that Americans

could be implicated in smuggling and poaching operations.

 

——————————————— ——–

Parks Suspends, But Doesn’t Explain Hunting in Hwange

——————————————— ——–

 

9. (SBU) On October 9, Dr. Mtsambiwa issued a statement to

SOAZ and conservationists, without admitting that illegal

commercial hunting had taken place, announcing that Parks was

suspending the management hunting he had told poloff in

August would be the only authorized operation. The statement

reiterated trophy hunting is not allowed in national parks.

However, it conceded the management exercise involved both

trophy and non-trophy animals, as the elephants were not

selected based on size or tusks. It also stated that the

tusks and hides in the current operation were not to be used

for export and that the management offtake was for “training,

 

HARARE 00000956 004 OF 004

 

 

staff rations, support for state and other functions, sale to

crocodile farmers… Meat is also sold cheaply or given

freely to communities to supplement their protein

requirements.” The Parks statement claims Parks had

“embarked on a training exercise for its staff through

engaging some experienced hunters using part of this

management quota.” (COMMENT: Post has neither seen nor heard

of game meat distributions to communities near national

parks. Further, based on the photographic evidence from

Hwange, the most recent operation violates every tenet of a

“proper cull” and instead bears the characteristics of

commercial hunting. END COMMENT.)

 

————————-

“Quiet Diplomacy” Success

————————-

 

10. (C) In our October 10 meeting, Bown demurred when asked

if SOAZ would consider making the hunting disputes or

unscrupulous hunting more public through local or

international media. She said private land conservancies and

photographic safaris — sectors that remain primarily

white-owned — had been allowed to continue because they had

consistently and quietly proven their economic benefit to the

GOZ. She contrasted SOAZ with the Commercial Farmers Union

that represents white farmers who routinely bring their

grievances to the international media, bringing shame and

rebuke on Zimbabwe and the government. Bown believed that

exposing these internal conflicts over elephant hunting would

only serve to further reduce all tourism and increase

animosity between safari operators and the GOZ, putting the

businesses and wildlife at even greater risk.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) Hunting has long been a source of ill-gotten revenue

for members of the ZANU-PF elite, and given the ongoing

resource grab, it is not surprising that new hunting schemes

have developed to supply the elites with forex. SOAZ’s quiet

efforts succeeded in changing Parks’ policy on hunting within

national parks — for now — and SOAZ is gathering proposals

to present to Parks for means to increase revenue and manage

the elephant population through ecologically and

tourist-friendly means. This ongoing struggle over greed,

ill-gotten forex, and natural resource management is just one

more result of the continued political impasse in Zimbabwe.

END COMMENT.

 

MCGEE

 

(47 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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