Africa asks, “Is hunting really ecotourism?”

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:

PRETORIA, South Africa––WildNet Africa,
described by publisher Raymond Campling as “the InterNet’s
largest publisher on African wildlife matters, is polling web
site visitors on whether they think hunting is legitimately promoted
as eco-tourism.
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press, the tally was
1,901 ayes (47%), against 2,150 nays (53%).
The voting, at >><<, may
be influential as African nations heavily dependent on tourism
strive to recover from a collapse of traffic coinciding with civil
strife in Rwanda, the Congo, the Sudan, Uganda and Kenya.
Even relatively stable South Africa is reviewing traditional
approaches to tourism and wildlife management, as transition
to majority African rule coincides with the dampening
effect on tourism of fires that ravaged Kruger National Park in
1996, together with poaching and canned hunting scandals in
and around Kruger that emerged in mid-1997. Subsistence
communities on the Kruger fringes are being integrated into the
protected area in exchange for pledges that the villagers will get
a bigger piece of the related economic action. Corporate landholders
are encouraged to enroll their ecologically sensitive
holdings in the South African Natural Heritage Programme,
instead of fencing them off and turning them into private game
preserves, a growing trend in the former apartheid nations.

Kruger anchors an $8.1 million World Bank plan to
link conservation areas in South Africa, Zimbabwe,
Mozambique, KwaZululand, and Natal––and to hype tourism,
is celebrating a centennial on March 26, 1998 even though it
was only founded in 1926. The centennial actually marks the
founding of the Sabie Game Reserve, which was incorporated
into Kruger.
The South African national park system is also combining
fragments of land under separate public administration
into a major new attraction, Cape Peninsula National Park,
which may be brought into being on paper, at least, by April 1.
Heavy World Wildlife Fund investment virtually
insures that as around Kruger, trophy hunting will continue to
have a central part in the development plans.
Summer political violence and winter flooding reportedly
cut visits to Kenyan wildlife sanctuaries by 23% over the
whole of 1997––and 60% over the second half. Kenya Wildlife
Service director David Western in January accepted the early
retirement of 567 employees. Senior managers took pay cuts
of up to 30% in order to stay on the job. The savings moves
came even as Kenya was forced to step up anti-poaching activity
due to rising pressure on elephants after the June 1997 opening
of a exemption to the global ivory trade ban. The exemption
allows Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to sell stockpiled
ivory from elephants allegedly culled for population control.
It has also encouraged ivory poachers to seek ways of
marketing poached ivory as ivory sold in legal commerce.
In addition, the ivory trade exemption spotlights contrasting
wildlife-related development strategies. South Africa,
Zimbabwe, and allies favor the hunting-centered “sustainable
use” doctrine advanced by the World Wildlife Fund and the
U.S.-funded CAMPFIRE program. Kenya has historically
banned hunting and stressed wildlife photography. Both
approaches can be lucrative––but the Kenyan style requires
high-volume visiting, while the “sustainable use” model
requires only a few bwanas willing to pay any price for an animal’s
head. The visitor slump has increased agitation within
Kenya to open big game hunting, coming both from would-be
hunt promoters and from farmers who blame wildlife for crop
losses. The latter pressure coincides with encroachment and
even outright squatting on Kenyan nature reserves, including
Amboseli National Park, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“Disney World in the bush”
Mozambique is attempting to take both paths, with a
CAMPFIRE program modeled after the one in Zimbabe as well
as an $800 million “Disney World in the bush” under development
by Louisiana direct mail mutual fund sales baron James
Ulysses Blanchard III. The Blanchard facility will reportedly
emphasize nonconsumptive wildlife-related activity.
In Namibia, the issue is seen as less a matter of
which model to follow than of who makes a killing.
“I am an aspiring hunter. I am surprised that you
have so far not recruited me,” Namibian prime minister Hage
Geingop reportedly told the Namibia Professional Hunting
Association annual general meeting on March 5, decrying the
NaPHA reputation as a lingering vestige of apartheid. “Who
do you recruit if you don’t recruit us? After eight years of independence,
I would have expected at least a 50/50 balance.”
Geingop also said he was “deeply concerned” that
many large farms owned by Dutch-descended Afrikaners were
being converted into game ranches and canned hunts, while
most Namibians are landless. The Namibian government
recently forbade the sale of fertile commercial farmland for
incorporation into game farms, and moved to enable entrepreneurs
of African ancestry to get into the trophy hunting business
by setting up huntable game conservancies under direction
of the Environment and Tourism Ministry.
Uganda closed Ruwenzori National Park and the
Semeliki National Forest, known for 40 unique indigenous bird
species, in November 1997, after rebel activity in the reserves
cut the visitor traffic to just 12,600, of 95,000 expected.
Eight months of civil war brought Laurent Kabila to
power in the Congo, which was called Zaire during the regime
of the longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu, ousted in
1993, was both a member of the World Wildlife Fund’s 1001
Club, for billionaire patrons, and reputedly the chief beneficiary
of organized poaching. Kabila in mid-February told WWF
that he wishes “to adopt a clearly defined environmental agenda
to ensure the nation’s unique natural wealth survives,” according
to WWF Garamba National Park project manager Kes
The Sudan boasts two of the three largest wildlife
reserves in Africa, Dinder and Radoum, and has reportedly
had little poaching, but access is so difficult after years of warfare
in surrounding areas that neither reserve has had many visitors
in several decades.
Ecotourism to Rwanda was an early casualty of the
ethnic massacres erupting in May 1994, still breaking out at
frequent intervals and spilling over into Zaire. Akagera
National Park, the onetime jewel of the Rwandan nature
reserve system, has been overrun since 1995 by as many as
two million refugees and their cattle.
The Ghana Wildlife Society in January began building
four bird observation posts at attractive sites in an attempt
to pick up some of the visitors who are no longer patronizing
other African destinations. Ghana has not traditionally attracted
ecotourists, being situated far from the major tourist draws,
but is actually closer to Europe and the U.S., has most of the
species that African visitors most want to see, and enjoys relative
political stability.

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