US trophy ban blamed for Zimbabwe elephant poaching

United States policies aimed at banning trophy hunting in Zimbabwe as a conservation initiative are backfiring and actually fuelling poaching in that country. That is the claim made by the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Oppah Muchinguri in the wake of rangers in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park finding the dismembered bodies of 26 elephants on October 13. This gory discovery has raised the tally of elephants poached in the African nation to at least 40 during the past month.

According to The Washington Post, as with 14 elephants unearthed dead and stripped of their tusks in early October, the animals had been poisoned with cyanide. “All this poaching is because of American policies,” said Ms Muchinguri, seemingly in reference to a 2014 US Fish & Wildlife Service ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. After the recent death of Cecil the lion, America’s three largest airlines also banned the transport of lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos or buffaloes taken by trophy hunters.

This is simply depriving the country of the revenue to fight poaching. As Ms Muchinguri was quoted as saying in The Guardian, “They are banning sport hunting...An elephant would cost $120,000 in sport hunting but a tourist pays only $10 to view the same elephant.”

In this latest outrage, the poachers used industrial-grade cyanide to poison watering holes. “Any person with wildlife at heart would be worried about the method with which these poachers are killing wildlife,” Caroline Washaya-Moyo, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, told The Washington Post. “Aside from the elephants they are targeting, there other species that they have no interest in that are also dying.”

As yet, no-one has been arrested in connection to the 40 elephant killings.

Washaya-Moyo called for international assistance in stemming the sudden surge in elephant slaughter. She felt Zimbabwe had been harshly judged for recent incidents of poaching. “If we are criticised, let me now appeal to the international community,” she said. “Zimbabwe is prepared to take care of its wildlife for its own people; that is, for domestic tourists. We are now taking care of wildlife for the region and for the international community. So that responsibility should expand to the international community that is criticising us when we are operating under very difficult circumstances. They should come on board and help us with the resources.”

Washaya-Moyo conceded that part of Zimbabwe’s poaching problem is the effort to persuade citizens to accept wild animals as a precious resource, rather than pests. “Communities have to realise the benefits of wildlife,” she said. “The minute that they do that, they are going to act as security around this wildlife. But if they complain that their fields are being disturbed by elephants, their livestock is attacked by lions, they will see no reason why they should protect these animals.”

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