Three nations move against hunting

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2013:


SAN JOSE,  Costa Rica;  GABORONE,  Botswana;  LUSAKA,  Zambia––The national legislature of Costa Rica on December 10,  2012 finalized a national ban on sport hunting,  provisionally approved in October by a vote of 41-5. The hunting ban,  the first Costa Rican law passed by voter initiative,  was submitted to the legislature after more than 177,000 Costa Ricans signed petitions favoring it. 

Momentum toward passage of the hunting ban had been briefly slowed by a constitutional challenge filed by 14 legislators including eight of the nine elected members of the Libertarian Movement party.

“There is no data on how much money hunting generates in the country,”  said Arturo Carballo (see video attached for discussion on hunting in Costa Rica-Spanish required),  deputy director of the environmental organization Apreflofas,  which led the petition drive,  “but we do know there are currently clandestine hunting tours that go for about $5,000 per person.”  Hunters may now be imprisoned for up to four months,  and may be fined up to $3,000.

Hunting was already prohibited within the approximately 25% of Costa Rica that are national parks and forests.  The hunting ban is expected to help to curtail poachers,  who typically operate from private property adjacent to protected habitat. The ban will also put out of business several “canned hunts” where clients shoot captive-reared birds and deer.

While hunting has never been big business in Costa Rica,  trophy hunting was until recently a governmentally favored industry in Zambia and Botswana.

Zambian tourism minister Sylvia Masebo signaled that that era may be history,  opening 2013 by announcing an immediate halt to hunting lions and leopards,  and a suspension of the sale of trophy hunting permits to visitors.

“Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion.  If we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry,”  Masebo told Reuters.

Zambia is believed to have fewer than 4,500 lions left in the wild,  plus an unknown number of leopards.  Though depleted,  the Zambian lion population is a substantial portion of the total number of wild African lions estimated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature at 15,000 to 30,000.

The British organization LionAid told Reuters that lions have been extirpated from 25 African nations,  and have nearly disappeared from 10 more,  leaving only about half a dozen nations whose lion populations are not in imminent jeopardy.

Masebo stopped lion and leopard hunting a week after suspending 19 hunting concessions and firing the top management at the Zambia Wildlife Authority due to alleged corruption.

“There shall be no consumptive safari hunting activities in the aborted 19 game management areas for 2013,”  Masebo told Chiswemwe Mwale of the Daily Mail.

Noted Mwale,  “Zambia used to have 42 game management areas,  but they are now down due to uncontrolled hunting some have called ‘plundering,’  which benefited foreigners much more than locals.”

The Zambian government collected about $3 million U.S. from hunting license sales in 2012––less than 3% of tourism revenues.  The United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization estimates that across Africa,  the average price of a leopard trophy is $7,000,  the average price of a lion trophy is $29,000,  and the average price of an elephant trophy is $30,000,  but the value of the animals to attract non-consumptive tourism is much higher––if the host nation has adequate tourist facilities and if the animals are easily seen.

Officially,  3,807 animals were killed in Zambia under resident hunting permits in 2012,  and 2,468 under much more expensive non-resident permits.  However,  “Some resident hunters have resold their licences to foreigners for more money, depriving the government of the revenue needed for effective wildlife management,”  Masebo told Chila Namaiko of the Times of Zambia.

Masebo did not suspend issuing resident hunting permits,  except for lions and leopards.

“Zambia’s moves follow those of neighboring Botswana, which will ban sport hunting from 2014,”  said Reuters,  “as it also works to promote itself as a big game viewing destination,”  emulating the relative economic success of Kenya,  which banned sport hunting in 1977.

Kenya is struggling to retain lions,  leopards,  elephants,  rhino,  and Cape buffalo––the “Big Five” coveted by trophy hunters––due to poaching and loss of habitat to development.  But South Africa,  Namibia,  and Zimbabwe,  which aggressively promote hunting,  have similar problems.  South Africa,  with the most wildlife and the most hunting revenue of the thee nations, lost a record 668 rhinos to poachers in 2012,  twice as many as the previous record set in 2011.

“The shooting of wild game purely for sport and trophies is no longer compatible with our commitment to preserve local fauna as a national treasure,  which should be treated as such,”  declared Botswana president Ian Khama in his 2012 “state of the nation” address.   The actual ban on hunting,  to be phased in over a year’s time,  was announced on November 29,  2012.

Botswana previously suspended lion hunting from 2001 to 2005,  but lifted the suspension for two years after intensive lobbying by former U.S. President George H. Bush,  former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle,  and retired U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf,  on behalf of Safari Club International.  Lion hunting in Botswana was again suspended after 2007.

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