Hunting is Low-Impact Tourism
For thousands of years, rural Africans have relied on plentiful supplies of impala and other game animals for meat, clothing and income. Ironically, rural Zimbabweans have recently begun laying down their spears and bows, whilst at the same time encouraging foreign hunters to hunt elephants, buffaloes, lions or other wild animals on their lands. The reason is a simple matter of economics - foreign sport hunters will pay large sums to hunt Africa's trophy animals, far more than other tourists will pay to view them. A single hunter can spend more than US $40,000 on a trophy hunting trip. Under the CAMPFIRE programme, at least half of that revenue goes to the local communities for rural development and environmental conservation.
At the moment, CAMPFIRE depends on hunting revenues which contribute over 90% of total income to the districts and communities participating in the programme. In 1993, twelve districts participating in CAMPFIRE, with a human population of nearly 400,000 people, earned US $1,516,693 from trophy fees. This is a small sum per individual on average, but some resource rich areas earn disproportionate amounts and even small sums of cash can create meaningful infrastructure when well invested.
Many communal lands in Zimbabwe lack tourist infrastructure and are unsuitable for photographic tourism. A combination of low game population density and thick bush often means that it is hard to get good sightings of wildlife. However, wealthy people (predominantly from the USA, Germany and Spain) are keen to hunt there to help communities.
Trophy hunters have a much lower impact on the environment than other tourists. They consume a much smaller proportion of resources (such as water), are happy with the most basic infrastructure, and tend to travel in small numbers. All foreign sportsmen have to be accompanied by a licensed professional hunter, who acts as a guide and is trained in wildlife management and skilled at tracking and hunting with minimum disturbance to the wildlife and its habitat. A national parks game scout accompanies hunters to ensure that quotas are observed, and hunting is banned between dusk and dawn.
Every year local communities - with the technical assistance of the Department of National Parks, the WWF and other organisations - conduct a census of wildlife and determine a sustainable quota of animals that can be hunted on their lands that season. The quotas also allow for Problem Animal Control - the culling of individual animals which are persistent pests to people, their livestock or crops. Quotas ensure that wildlife populations are maintained at a level suitable for the local environment. (For more details on setting these quotas, see the appropriate fact sheet in this series).
'Our people have stopped poaching. They understand that a buffalo is worth much more if it is killed by a foreign hunter.'
Champion Machaya, Dete wildlife committee
Hunting & Conservation
Changing Attitudes & Contributing to Wildlife Conservation
For most rural Africans wildlife is a nuisance, posing a serious threat to their livelihoods and sometimes their lives. Lions and leopards prey on their livestock, and elephants and buffalo trample their crops, often destroying the people's only source of subsistence and income in the process. Until now, the only solution has been to illegally 'poach' animals for their meat, or to call for the Department of National Parks to cull individual problem animals. However, given a steady income from trophy hunting, rural people are now motivated to conserve and manage their wildlife, and have the funds to protect their villages and crops.
Through CAMPFIRE, hunting contributes to environmental conservation in Zimbabwe's communal areas. For example:
Young people from each CAMPFIRE area are trained to be game scouts to prevent poaching and assist in local wildlife management.
Revenues from hunting are used by CAMPFIRE communities to undertake animal censuses, provide environmental education and prevent poaching.
Hwange Rural District Council has imported wildlife onto communal lands, where the wildlife population had been decimated.
During drought years, Beitbridge residents have drilled wells to provide water for elephants, and supplied emergency food for wildlife.
Land is being zoned and set aside for wildlife. For example, the Mahenye community abandoned its villages on Ngwachumeni Island to turn it into a wildlife management area. They have stopped cutting down trees so as to improve wildlife habitat and have also banned grazing of cattle outside their community boundaries, with the objective of increasing the amount of habitat available for wildlife.
'Most of our hunters are keen conservationists, so their aim is not to shoot as many as possible, but to bag a prime specimen. They come to us because they know we can provide the goods, but also because their money is going into supporting conservation.'
Bill Bedford, Ingwe Safaris
Setting Sustainable Quotas
Once populations have been estimated, sustainable harvesting quotas can be set. Quotas are determined for local conditions, bearing in mind the carrying capacity of the local environment, and making allowances for the different uses of wildlife. At present quotas are issued by the Department of National Parks, although local communities are being trained and empowered to develop the capacity and experience to set their own quotas in the future.
In order for hunting to be sustainable, the quota for each species must be based on offtake rates that take into account the population dynamics and use of the species in question. For example, a hunting quota of ten mature buffalo bulls is based on the assumption that every year ten young bulls will become mature enough to be categorised as trophy males.
Counting Wildlife on Communal Lands
There are several ways of estimating wildlife populations on communal lands in Zimbabwe. Results from all of them are considered when making the final population estimates for each area.
Aerial surveys - The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been undertaking regular aerial surveys in biologically-rich communal lands since CAMPFIRE started in 1989. These surveys concentrate on elephants, which are more visible from the air than smaller species. Elephants are a useful indicator species, as they have a relatively low reproduction rate. They also bring in more CAMPFIRE revenues than any other species at present (through trophy hunting), so monitoring them is vital.
Apart from the inevitable inaccuracies that plague any form of estimation, the main disadvantages of aerial surveys are that they are technically and logistically complex and extremely expensive. WWF estimates that the bill for a survey conducted in five CAMPFIRE areas during 1994 was US $17,000, excluding labour charges and the costs of getting to survey sites. WWF conducts these surveys every two years for areas where elephant populations are relatively high (in Nyaminyami, Binga, Guruve, and Hurungwe) and once every five years for other districts, namely Beitbridge and Chiredzi.
Information from hunters and safari operators - Professional hunters and safari operators spend a lot of time in the field observing wildlife, even getting to know particular herds and individuals. Their experience and information is invaluable for estimating wildlife populations, and especially important for species that occur in moderate numbers, such as wildebeest, sable, waterbuck, lion, and leopard, for which aerial surveys are of limited use.
Community-based wildlife counts - Under CAMPFIRE rural communities are encouraged to undertake their own wildlife population censuses. Two low-cost methods are being established by the CAMPFIRE Collaborative Group:
Village mapping - Each village development committee produces a sketchmap of its area, marking landmarks such as rivers, hills, and roads. Every month, villagers mark wildlife sightings on a map, making sure they record:
How many animals were seen;
Any features that identify that particular animal or herd (to assist in avoiding counting animals more than once); and the sexes of individual animals (as accurately as possible).
Village development committees from neighbouring villages check that the same animal groups are not counted twice. Then the numbers of each species are added up to give an indication of how many animals are normally resident in the village environs.
Pooling information from different experts - Annual workshops are held in communities each year for experts from within and outside the area to share information on wildlife sightings and surveys and derive an estimated wildlife population for each CAMPFIRE district. Information ranges from simple sightings to formal game counts and surveys. The invited experts include representatives from:
The Department of National Parks; WWF; Rural District Councils; village wildlife committees; village wildlife monitors; safari operators; and other local residents.
Monitoring Wildlife Offtake
Trophy Records - By law, records of trophy quality must be kept by safari operators. In addition to numbers these records provide additional data on the lengths of horns for trophy ungulates, body length for carnivore species, and tusk weight for elephants.
If too many animals are hunted as trophies, it selectively removes larger animals from the population, forcing hunters to harvest younger animals, with smaller horns, tusks or body lengths. Trophy quality records are therefore a sensitive measure of the hunting pressure on animals in a population and are used to adjust quotas. Quotas are not issued for the next hunting season until hunting records from the last season are turned in for analysis by the Department of National Parks.
Other Offtake Records - Similarly, detailed records are kept of game animals used for cropping, problem animal control, live sales or any other use. These records are maintained by the Department of National Parks.
Game counts, aerial surveys and wildlife sightings also provide direct information on animal populations, essential to monitoring the impact of hunting on animal populations. Sustainable offtake rates for popular species as recommended by the Department of National Parks:
Buffaloes and large antelopes (such as kudu, waterbuck and sable) reach trophy size in 7-8 years; offtake rates are about 2%
Smaller antelopes (impala and duiker) mature quicker: offtake is about 3%
Elephants reach trophy size at about 50 years; offtake is 1%
Zebras: are hunted for their skins so any adult will do; their offtake is higher: 6%
Lions and leopards: hunters want a large animal. As these species have litters of several young, the offtake rate is about 5%
How to Get in Touch with a Zimbabwe Hunting Safari Operator
Zimbabwe has a diverse hunting industry with many different participants. Once quotas have been set, safari operators will usually negotiate a price to hunt a particular animal on community-owned land. They will then market that hunt to their client and act as their guide in the area, organising the logistics of the hunting party.
The Zimbabwe Hunters Association is the main coordinating body for professional guides and hunting operators. They can be contacted at this number +263-4-707306.
The African Hunter Magazine is a Zimbabwe-produced magazine catering to the African safari-hunting community and is a valuable resource to anyone contemplating a hunting safari.
The African Fisherman Magazine is a Zimbabwe-produced magazine catering to the African angling community and is a valuable resource to anyone contemplating a fishing safari.