Drought tests Kenyan and Zimbabwean hunting policies
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2006:
NAIROBI, HARARE–The vultures inspecting drought-parched
Kenya and Zimbabwe have counterparts in the corridors of national
capitols, watching to see whose wildlife management mode will fail
Kenya, since banning sport hunting in 1977, has made
non-consumptive wildlife watching the nation’s second largest and
best known industry.
Much of the faltering Zimbabwean economy is based on trophy hunting.
The Kenyan model requires attracting large numbers of
tourists, who in good times employ thousands of hotel staff,
drivers, guides, and souvenir vendors.
The Zimbabwean model draws far fewer people, who seek much
less by way of accommodation, minimizing the need for up-front
investment in infrastructure. Yet trophy hunters spend considerably
more per person than wildlife-watchers.
The prospect of high return from low investment has tended to
encourage other African nations to emulate Zimbabwe rather than Kenya.
“Theoretically, hunting is a fantastic way to preserve very
large eco-systems,” Laikipia Predator Project director Lawrence Frank
told a conference of the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature and World Conservation Union in Johannesburg in January 2006,
“but the practicalities of getting that money to the little guys who
are paying the costs is a huge issue.”
The conference was called to address the loss of African
lions from more than 80% of their former range. Attendees were
critical of Kenya–whose lion population has been poached to the
verse of extirpation from many regions–for prohibiting lion hunting.
The conference closed by issuing a joint statement favoring
trophy hunting “as a way to help alleviate human-lion conflict and
generate economic benefits for poor people to build their support for
This was an endorsement of the Zimbabwean economic model.
But economic good times ended in Zimbabwe more than five years ago.
The Kenyan economy, despite a crippling drought in 2000, as
well as the current drought, continued to improve. Relative
prosperity helped opponents of trophy hunting to persuade Kenyan
President Mwai Kibaki to veto a hunting authorization bill that
cleared the national legislature in December 2004, pushed by wealthy
landowners seeking to capitalize on Zimbabwean instability.
But hard times in much of Kenya, despite 5% economic growth
in 2005, may have increased the inclination of politicians to try to
cash in on wildlife before losing it, after already losing visitors
who prefer not to see animals dying from thirst and starvation.
The political tendency to think short-term is why Youth for
Conservation founder Josphat Ngonyo sees as a priority an ongoing
campaign against exporting 175 Kenyan animals to the newly opened
Chiang Mai Night Safari Zoo in Thailand–a deal concluded by
President Kibaki himself.
The animals are to include endangered and threatened species
including servals, crowned cranes, lesser flamingoes, and
hippopotamuses. While the Kenyan animals sold to Thailand are not to
be hunted, Ngonyo sees the transaction as a precedent for
consumptive use of wildlife, rather than hands-off observation.
Many Kenyans are also concerned that if foreigners can see Kenyan
species in their own nations, fewer will come to visit.
The Kenya Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife reportedly ordered
the Kenya Wildlife Service to begin capturing the 175 animals for
export on February 16, 2006, after a 60-day injunction against the
The Kenya SPCA and Community Based Organizations network
applied to extend the injunction, but were given a March 8 court
date, leaving a three-week window of opportunity for the animals to
be caught and flown out.
Ngonyo hoped that protests scheduled for February 25 in
Nairobi would deter the exports, but ongoing regional demonstrations
have so far attracted more media attention than tangible results.
As many as 3.5 million Kenyans, 1.8 million Ethiopians, 1.4
million Somalis, and 60,000 Djiboutians are at risk of famine due to
drought–and many are already desperate. On January 13, 2006,
Dongiro warriors from the Naita region of Ethiopia crossed into Kenya
to try to steal about 300 cattle and goats from members of the
Turkana tribe. Thirty Dongiro and eight Turkana women and children
were killed in the ensuing firefight at Lokamarinyang village, Obare
Osinde of Associated Press reported.
Thirteen salty wells are responsible for the existence of
Goraye, a watering hole community at the edge of an extinct volcano
in southern Ethiopia.
“The picturesque scene is littered with the corpses of
thousands of goats and cattle,” reported Meskel Square web log
writer Andrew Heavens in mid-February 2006.
“Pastoralists from as far as Kenya have come here in search
of water,” described Heavens. “A constant stream of goats, camels,
and cattle slowly make their way down to the bottom of the crater for
their small allotment of water. For many of the weaker animals, the
walk back up is too much.”
Herder Yatari Ali, 42, told Heavens that 200 to 300 animals
per day die along the crater rim. Yatari said he had lost 100 goats,
five cows and four camels, and had begun to worry about the survival
of his two children, ages four years and three months.
“Development experts say the sheep and goats generally go
first in a major drought,” said Heavens. “Then the cattle, the
camels, and the people. Estimates of the number of human deaths
during the region’s last major drought in 2000 range from 56,000 to
more than 90,000.”
Oxfam spokesperson Brendan Cox warned on February 8 that 70%
of the cattle in the Wajir district of northern Kenya had already
died. Rain last fell there in December 2004. Oxfam and the United
Nations World Food Program called the crisis the worst to hit Kenya
since the nation won independence from Britain in 1963.
Hippos & elephants
Though the dry northeast is most imperiled, drought most
threatens wildlife in the south, where the major national parks are.
An estimated 60 to 80 starving hippos died in waterways and ponds in
the Maasai Mara reserve during December 2005 and January 2006. As
their habitat shrank, the hippos fought for what remained. Dead
hippos reportedly contaminated many of the waterholes that had not
The Kenya Wildlife Service in January warned residents of communities
surrounding wildlife areas to be especially careful of animals
leaving the parks in search of better habitat, after buffalo killed
one person and injured four near Maasai Mara, and elephants killed
two near Tsavo National Park.
While wildlife ventured outside the reserves in search of
food and water, herders engaged in the same quest took their animals
into the reserves, resulting in further conflict.
Reported Rodrigue Ngowi of Associ-ated Press on February 12
from Amboseli National Park, close to Tanzania, “Elephants,
buffaloes, and other wild animals drink water on one side of a
swamp. On the other, Maasai warriors watch hundreds of cattle
graze. Kenyan officials recently bent stringent conservation
regulations to allow cattle into Amboseli–the only permanent source
of water in the region.
“Conservation workers warn that Amboseli’s delicate swamps
and streams are threatened by a government plan to hand over
management of the park to the local county council,” Ngowi
continued. “Conservation groups have sued the government seeking to
stop Amboseli’s handover to Olkejuado County Council, whose
predecessor ran the sanctuary from 1961 until environmental
degradation prompted the central government to take over in 1974.”
Meanwhile, Ngowi noted, “Drought has begun to kill animals
in Amboseli, and has started to drive elephants to leave national
parks and game reserves–triggering conflicts between pachyderms and
Kenya Wildlife Services elephant project manager Patrick
Omondi told Gakuu Mathenege of the Nairobi East African in January
that since Kenya currently has only 30,000 wild elephants, with an
estimated carrying capacity of 50,000, it will not consider culling
Instead, Kenya tries to relocate elephants from areas where
they may be overpopulating to areas where they have yet to recover
from intensive poaching during the 1980s.
That, however, tends to relieve one problem at cost of
Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary director Mohamed Mwarachuma and
project manager Paul Musila told Mazera Ndurya of the Nairobi Nation
in December 2005 that heli copter flights associated with relocating
about 150 elephants from the Shimba Hills National Reserve, near the
Indian Ocean, to Tsavo East National Park, well inland, had driven
the entire local elephant population into hiding. In consequence,
they claimed, tourist revenue at the sanctuary had dropped by 60%.
Ultimately, 400 elephants are to be moved from the Shimba
Hills, but the relocation was suspended in January 2006, said Kenya
Wildlife Service spokesperson Connie Maina, because “There is more
vegetation in Shimba Hills than there is in Tsavo. We shall resume,”
said Maina, “only after the rains resume and enough vegetation
The African Wildlife Foundation, Safari Club International,
and other international pro-hunting organizations have meanwhile
helped aspiring hunting concessionaires to rally support from farmers
who are frustrated by elephants’ crop raids, creating a potent
political force in some districts–including around Tsavo.
Elephants are not helping their own cause by becoming
“Across Africa, elephants seem to be turning on their human
neighbors in ever increasing numbers,” wrote Caroline Williams in
the February 18, 2006 edition of New Scientist. “Although such
attacks are nothing new,” Williams continued, summarizing research
by Gay Bradshaw of Oregon State University, “they have always been
seen as a side effect of elephants competing for food and land. But
that may not be the whole story. It may sound far-fetched,”
Williams admitted, “but a growing number of scientists are lending
their support to the theory that elephants are taking revenge on
Agreed Joyce Poole, research director at the Amboseli
Elephant Research Project in Kenya, “They are certainly intelligent
enough and have good enough memories.”
Observed elephant attack researcher Eve Abe, “Elephant
numbers have never been lower in Uganda. Food has never been so
abundant. There is no reason for this to happen. In the 1960s
elephant densities were very high and there were few reports of
aggression. Now the elephants are just so wild.”
Poaching has reduced the elephant population in Queen
Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, to barely 10% of the size it was
30 years ago. But about a third of the survivors are orphans.
“Across the continent,” Williams continued, “many herds
have lost their matriarch and have had to make do with a succession
of inexperienced ‘teen mothers’ who have raised a generation of
juvenile delinquents. Meanwhile a lack of older bulls has led to
gangs of hyper-aggressive young males with a penchant for violence.
In Pilanesburg National Park, South Africa, for example, young
bulls have been attacking rhinos since 1992,” a behavior previously
seldom seen, “and in Addo National Park, also in South Africa, 90%
of male elephants are killed by another male–15 times the ‘normal’
The South African National Park Service has proposed culling
half the elephant population of Kruger National Park, claiming that
post-traumatic stress disorder among the survivors will be minimized
if whole families are culled together.
Bradshaw is skeptical. “That would be like taking out a
district of London and thinking the rest of the city will be fine,”
she told Williams. “Do you think they’re not going to know and be
affected by what has happened to the herd next door?”
KwaZulu-Natal reintroduced elephants to the Greater St. Lucia
Wetland Park in 2001. Already elephants have twice killed people
there. The most recent incident, on November 3, 2005, looked
suspiciously like an ambush, as a breeding herd of elephants blocked
a truck whose occupants had been burning firebreaks. A cow elephant
then pushed the truck off the road, smashed the windshield, tore
off the roof, and fatally gored park worker Zelani Ntuli, 50.
African lion behavior is also believed to have become more
aggressive in recent years, as lions have come under increasing
pressure from hunting, anti-predation activity, and habitat loss.
Drought provided the failing Robert Mugabe regime with an
excuse for economic collapse–along with a pretext for more
aggressive exploitation of wildlife.
Hwange National Park public relations manager Edward Mbewe on
November 15, 2005 told the Harare Herald that more than 40
elephants, 53 buffalo, a giraffe, three zebras and two impalas had
died from thirst and black leg, described as “a disease that affects
animals when the ground is too dry.”
Mbewe disclosed the situation while seeking permission to
cull elephants, and did not explain why the elephant toll had
allegedly increased by 22 in three days since the Zimbabwe National
Park & Wildlife Authority gave the Herald otherwise identical
“Zimbabwe’s tourism industry faces collapse after reports of
extensive wildlife deaths due to poaching and lack of water in
national parks, with Gonarezhou and Hwange particularly badly hit,”
assessed Itai Mushekwe of the Zimbabwe Independent, often closed by
the Mugabwe regime for contradicting official statements.
In this instance, however, the Independent echoed the party
line that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
should allow Zimbabwe to cull elephants and sell their ivory.
“Hwange National Park has a population of 50,000 elephants,
36,000 more than the carrying capacity,” Mushekwe claimed.
SW Radio Africa reporter Warren Moroka reported on November 18, 2005
that Zimbabwean deputy environment minister Andrew Langa had asked
Namibia to take some of the starving Hwange elephants.
Namibian parks and wildlife department director Ben Beytell
responded that the 16,000 Namibian elephants are also at risk from
drought, and that the northern Caprivi region is already overrun
with elephants escap ing from Chobe National Park in Botswana.
“What has not been reported,” added Tererai Karimakwenda of
SW Radio Africa, “is that outbreaks of foot and mouth and anthrax
have been common in Zimbabwe, and Namibia did not want to take any
chances. Zimbabwe’s neighbors are also experiencing water
shortages,” Karimakwenda continued, “but they are better prepared
and well staffed. They have spare parts for pumps and other
irrigation equipment. In comparison, the Zimbabwe government is
literally broke, and animals are the least of its concerns.”
But drought was an issue in Namibia too. “Since October,
more than 20 elephants have died in the Caprivi as the region’s main
rivers dry up,” Absalom Shigwedha of The Namibian reported from
Windhoek on November 23, 2005.
The Hwange crisis was eventually relieved somewhat when
Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force chair Johnny Rodrigues raised funds
from private donors, with the help of the SAVE Foundation of
Australia, to buy two new pump engines with which to resurrect the
Hwange wells, “plus enough spare parts,” Rodrigues e-mailed, “to
repair another 20 engines.”
“Our industry depends on wildlife and the parks. The state
of their health is what drives the tourism industry,” Zimbabwe
Council of Tourism chair Tom Chuma told Mushekwe of the Independent.
“We expect all responsible authorities to do what they’re supposed to
do, and that is ensuring the wildlife and parks are in a functional
What the so-called responsible authorities were actually
doing was finalizing a “Wildlife Based Land Reform Policy” that
amounts to legalizing the takeover of the Zimbabwean trophy hunting
industry by Mugabe government insiders.
“Animals belong to the state. The policy has been approved
and we are now waiting to identify people with the ability to run
conservancies,” environment and tourism minister Francis Nhema told
the Zimbabwe Standard on January 6.
Nhema claimed that white game ranchers would be compensated
for 25-year leases to be issued by his ministry.
The U.S. Treasury Department is among the skeptics.
Summarized Joshua Hammer in the January 13, 2006 edition of
Newsweek, “Jocelyn Chiwenga, wife of General Constantine Chiwenga,
commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe’s army, has earned a reputation in her
own right as a vicious enforcer for President Robert Mugabe. About
three years ago, Chiwenga won an auction for a coveted lease on a
220-square-mile tract of bush, owned by Zimbabwe’s Parks and
Wildlife Authority, located just outside Hwange National Park.
Chiwenga’s property has since become a choice destination for
professional hunters, particularly well-heeled Americans.”
However, in November 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department
“added Chiwenga, 50, to a list of 128 Mugabe relatives and cronies
who are ‘undermining democratic processes or institutions in
Zimbabwe,'” Hammer wrote. “The Treasury Department has blocked the
assets of those on the list and established penalties of up to
$250,000 and 10 years’ imprisonment for anyone who does business with
them. That executive order has put Americans who hunt on her land in
The episode, wrote Hammer, “has drawn new attention to the
unsavory links between American sportsmen and the Mugabe
dictatorship,” repeatedly exposed by ANIMAL PEOPLE since 1994.
“One of Chiwenga’s neighbors in the Victoria Falls area is
Webster Shamu, Mugabe’s minister of policy implementation, and a
key architect of the brutal slum clearance program that has left some
700,000 poor black Zimbabweans homeless,” Hammer noted. “Another is
Jacob Mudenda, the former governor of Matabele-land North. All of
them do a brisk business catering to professional American hunters.”
Njabulo Ncube, chief political reporter for the Harare
Financial Gazette, estimated that U.S. citizens “comprise 80-90%
percent of the people who visit Zimbabwe for trophy hunting.”
Mudenda is among the owners of Inyathi Hunting Ltd., which
markets hunting expeditions on Woodland Estates, near Victoria Falls.
Hammer also named as key marketers for the Mugabe in-crowd,
“Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris, founded by four former South
African policemen and based in both South Africa and Overland Park,
Kansas,” which was eventually banished from Zimbabwe for alleged
violations of hunting laws, and “Rob and Barry Style, owners of
Buffalo Range Safaris, based in Harare.
“Rob Style denied in an e-mail to Newsweek that he had a
business relationship with Chiwenga,” Hammer said, but “several
professional hunters in Zimbabwe insist that the brothers have
frequently taken clients to shoot animals on her property. The
Hunting Guide, an industry newsletter published in the United States,
also names Buffalo Range Safaris as a hunting-safari operator on
Hammer confirmed–as ANIMAL PEOPLE reported earlier–that
“American hunters are also flocking to private game reserves that
were seized without compensation, and sometimes with violence, from
white farmers and ranchers as part of Mugabe’s radical land-reform
program. That property is now mostly in the hands of Mugabe’s most
“Many of the land owners who took this property by force,”
Hammer alleged, “have no experience in wildlife conservation. They
reportedly ignore strict hunting quotas on prized species such as
lion and leopard. They also allegedly kill animals, including rhino,
inside protected wildlife areas.”
Hammer did not mention a September 2005 transaction in which
35 rhinos were transferred from the government-owned Gourlays Ranch
to the Bubi River Conserv-ancy, owned by HHK Safari Operators. HHK
Safari Operators once listed Webster Shamu as a partner, but another
partner told The Hunting Report recently that Shamu is no longer
The rhinos were moved, secretary for environment and tourism
Margaret Sangarwe told the Harare Herald, to protect them from
poaching. The move was financed, said the Herald, by the World
Edward Mbewe, who wanted to shoot elephants in Hwange
National Park, said that the rhinos would eventually be released
into Gonarezhou National Park.
“We are encouraging farmers to take some of the animals,
especially rhinos, so that poaching levels are contained,” said
environment and tourism minister Francis Nhema “We have problems at
this time of the year when animals move out of the parks in search of
water and food and are killed by poachers.”
As Hammer’s Newsweek expose went to press, Nhema was also
trying to explain the Mugabe government’s role in the collapse of a
“At least 12 crocodiles have died of starvation on the farm,
in Serui, near Chegutu, while another 258 are close to death after
going without food since November 2005,” wrote Tsitsi Matope of
Harare Herald on January 25.
“Malham Farm was allocated to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority
chief executive officer Mr Karikoga Kaseke on November 3, 2005,”
Matope continued–but Kaseke disavowed responsibility, saying he had
never actually taken possession of the farm.
“Officials from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority
and Zimbabwe National SPCA yesterday rescued the surviving
crocodiles,” Matope added.
Nhema told Matope that “cruelty to animals is a serious
offence that warrants a custodial sentence,” but issued an immediate
disclaimer. “We know that wildlife farming is a new venture for many
people,” Nhema said. “We always encourage those with no know-ledge
to nurture the animals to seek help.”
Hammer of Newsweek further did not mention the longtime role
of the U.S. Agency for International Development in building the
Zimbabwean trophy hunting industry. From 1989 through 2004, USAid
pumped more than $40 million into the Communal Areas Management
Program for Indigenous Resources.
Passed by Congress as an incentive for Zimbabwe to comply
with the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
moratoriums on elephant ivory and rhino horn trafficking, CAMPFIRE
raised about $2.5 million per year in revenue, mostly from trophy
hunts–and rewarded Mugabe regime insiders for neglecting the leftist
goals that brought Mugabe to power.
Hammer cited the Safari Club International convention held in
Reno, Nevada, in January as the most important marketing
opportunity of the year for Zimbabwean hunting promoters.
Mudenda was barred from the U.S., but others claimed success.
“Despite negative Western media publicity, Zimbabwe safari
operators have raked in billions of dollars in hunting deals
clinched,” the Harare Herald declared.
The billions were in Zimbabwean dollars, however, at an
exchange rate of 165,000 to the U.S. dollar.
“There were media reports that discouraged American hunters
from having anything to do with Zimbabwe, as this would mean
promoting the so-called human rights abuses said to be happening
here,” complained Zimbabwean Parks & Wildlife Management Authority
director general Morris Mutsambiwa.
“After discussing the matter with a few other members of our
team, we decided to meet with the United States of America’s Fish &
Wildlife Services, a scientific authority responsible for the
importation of trophies,” Mtsambiwa continued.
In disregarding human rights concerns and in viewing the U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service as an agency that exists to serve hunters,
Mtsambiwa demonstrated an ideological affinity with U.S. President
George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Both are Safari Club
Cheney, on that day, was at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas,
shooting cage-reared quail and attorney Harry Whittington, 78, of
Hit by birdshot in the cheek, chest, and shoulder, while
shooting with Cheney, Whittington later suffered a “silent heart
attack” after a pellet migrated into his heart, but survived.
Cheney was not charged with any offense.