Zimbabwe’s economic future was tied to a large extent to wildlife preservation in national parks and conservancies so as settlers moved onto national park and conservancy lands, the space for wildlife decreased and the flora and fauna required for their survival disappeared.
This was the view former United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan who was fighting to make sure that the Save Conservancy, where at least one of the owners was an American citizen, was not parcelled out to local farmers.
Sullivan said Zimbabwe still retained some of its previously exemplary wildlife management structures but this knowledge base was disappearing rapidly through infrastructure degradation, emigration, and continued haphazard land acquisition and usage policies.
Indeed there was money to be made through wildlife as one of the employees of the Department, Thomas Chimedza was reportedly being investigated following reports that he had made a $55 million deal with a well-known safari operator and certain South African safari companies, including Out of Africa, for illegal hunting in Matetsi.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1210, WORKING WITH WILDLIFE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001210
STATE FOR AF/S
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
STATE PASS USDOI/FWS FOR KARL STROMEYER
¶E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: WORKING WITH WILDLIFE
¶1. (SBU) Summary: As expected, perspectives of the World
Wildlife Fund differ from GOZ’s National Parks and
Wildlife Authority on the state of wildlife,
conservancies, land nationalization, and the proposed
Trans-Frontier Park. Despite National Parks’ positive
picture, the once exemplary wildlife management regime is
rapidly degrading due to mismanagement and emigration of
experienced persons. End summary.
¶2. (SBU) EconOff spoke with Raoul DuToit of the World
Wildlife Fund and Dr. M.Z. Mtsambiwa, Director General of
the National Parks and Wildlife Authority, about the
environmental situation in Zimbabwe. DuToit was generally
pessimistic and Mtsambiwa optimistic about his agency and
GOZ’s ability to manage wildlife and reluctant to engage
frankly with the Embassy.
¶3. (SBU) Settlers have encroached upon large sections of
Save Valley Conservancy’s southern portion while the
northern section has been spared thus far. Poaching,
while continuing, is not a big issue as settlers who have
moved cattle onto the land are no longer putting up
snares. In addition, wildlife in the settled areas have
either already been killed or moved. DuToit, who visited
conservancy areas in May and June 2004, believes Save
Valley’s natural animal replacement levels make up for
the poaching and settlement losses.
¶4. (SBU) Chiredzi River Conservancy has poaching camps
in the north and individuals cutting down trees to sell
as firewood in the south. Poaching of animals in this
area is exceeding natural replacement levels. There are
also settlements scattered throughout.
¶5. (SBU) Settlers have taken over virtually the entire
northern section of Bubiana Conservancy. Within the last
month, a group of settlers invaded the Ripple Creek area.
Fortunately, authorities removed them. However, the
settlers appeared very well organized, wearing identical
T-shirts with Third Chimurenga (a ZANU-PF war veteran
motto) on them.
¶6. (SBU) According to the July 16, 2004 Zimbabwe
Independent, The National Parks and Wildlife Authority’s
Matetsi area Warden, Thomas Chimedza, apparently made a
$55 million deal with a well-known safari operator and
certain South African safari companies, including Out of
Africa, for illegal hunting in Matetsi.
¶7. (SBU) National Parks Director of Operations Vitalis
Chadenga is also reportedly under investigation regarding
various deals for moving and hunting sable.
¶8. (SBU) Dr. Mtsambiwa would not comment about on-going
investigations, except to say that all who violate their
duties will be prosecuted vigorously. He also mentioned
that at least one case has been forwarded on to the
police (although he would not specify which case).
¶9. (SBU) Kenya wants to upgrade all lions to Appendix I
of the CITES regime based upon a research study done in
Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Lions were shown to be
over-hunted. DuToit mentioned the ramifications regarding
hunting trophies should lions receive the extra
protection and GOZ fail to meet its obligations. Chadenga
was infuriated and proceeded to rant about how this was a
plot by the West to get back at Zimbabwe for land reform.
¶10. (SBU) Mtsambiwa contradicted DuToit on the Kenya
request, stating that lions in southern Africa are faring
very well and should not be listed on Appendix I. If
Kenya feels that lions are not doing well in East Africa,
then only those lions should be added to Appendix I. He
mentioned nothing about the study in Hwange.
¶11. (SBU) Mtsambiwa also suggested that international
hunters from the West and South Africa colluded with
former farmers to destroy wildlife. This, he argued, was
a means to get back at Zimbabwe for land reform. He also
expressed concern about subsistence killing of wildlife.
¶12. (SBU) NGOs who were involved in the pre-policy
discussions over land nationalization are looking to
publicly protest GOZ’s announced position of 99-year and
25-year leases. DuToit said GOZ is using the NGOs as
window dressing to support a policy that veers away from
the principles initially agreed upon.
¶13. (SBU) Mtsambiwa expressed optimism that the 25-year
lease scheme could work very well. He pointed out that
hunting safari operators currently operate under
renewable 5-year concessions and turn profits. He saw no
problem with using the 25-year leases as collateral for
capital investments. However, he did acknowledge that the
National Parks would have to increase patrols and
watchdog operations to ensure individual lessees do not
take what they can from the land and leave nothing for
the next tenants. Mtsambiwa suggested that 10 years was
enough time to profit from a wildlife safari business.
¶14. (SBU) The June 25 Zimbabwe Independent reported on
the postponement of a national coordinator for the
Transfrontier National Park. Then, on July 4, 2004, the
Sunday Mail reported on National Parks’ moving ahead with
infrastructure improvements in Gonarezhou National Park.
¶15. (SBU) Mtsambiwa explained the apparent reversal of
policy as an administrative matter. He explained that
the initial job offer for the coordinator position was
only advertised within the National Parks offices and
there were not any qualified applicants. The delay in
appointment was to allow a wider circulation of the job
announcement. He assured EconOff that the position has
now been filled and three deputy regional coordinators
would seek other trans-frontier parks along the border.
¶16. (SBU) The National Parks have Z$1.2 billion (approx.
US$226,415) for renovations and improvements at
Gonarezhou National Park. This money will be evenly
divided between electrification, road improvements, and
building of staff houses and tourist camps. Mtsambiwa
stated the National Parks needed about Z$6 billion
(approx. US$1,132,075) to complete the renovations.
¶17. (SBU) DuToit raised concerns about GOZ’s ability
to participate equally with South Africa and Mozambique
to create the large wildlife area. He also mentioned
issues regarding each country’s desire to keep out
wildlife diseases of the other countries. Mtsambiwa only
said that a special veterinary committee is looking into
the problems of cross-spreading diseases.
¶18. (SBU) COMMENT: Zimbabwe’s economic future is tied to
a large extent to wildlife preservation in national parks
and conservancies. Despite Mtsambiwa’s upbeat assessment,
chaotic land reform and GOZ underfunding have caused a
significant decline in wildlife. As settlers move onto
national park and conservancy lands, the space for
wildlife decreases and the flora and fauna required for
their survival disappears. Zimbabwe still retains some of
its previously exemplary wildlife management structures.
However, this knowledge base is disappearing rapidly
through infrastructure degradation, emigration, and
continued haphazard GOZ land acquisition and usage