Zambian communities halt trophy hunting in dispute over tourism fees
by Swati Thiyagarajan
“It is our land. We are the custodians.” quote by Felix Shanungu, President of the Zambia National Community Resources Board (ZNCRB).
The Community Resources Boards (CRB) in Zambia released a press statement expressing their deep concern over the fact that the communities have not been given their share of either concession fees or hunting revenues.
They have withdrawn their signatures to all the hunting permits in their areas and have refused to sign any others. This will stop any trophy hunting in the future unless the government comes to the table with money in hand.
According to Felix Shanungo, the communities have received no concession fees since 2016 and no hunting revenue since last year. By law, the communities are entitled to 20% of the concession fees and 50% of the hunting revenue. The chiefs who run the communities are owed a 5% share of both.
This news follows the halting of a controversial hunt of 1,200 hippo in Zambia earlier this year.
While the press release states that they will stop all hunting going forward, Mr. Shanungo advised that hunts already underway will be allowed to be completed but that all new hunts will be stopped. The CRB has been in talks with the hunting companies to warn them about this and to get them to put pressure on the Zambian government. He added that the communities do not want to penalize the hunting companies who have paid but want the pressure to galvanize government into action.
He said that it will be impossible for the communities to continue patrolling and protecting against poaching as people have not been paid their salaries in months.
The communities have two demands: To allow the hunting operators to pay the CRBs their share directly and that the concession fees must be re-negotiated for a higher share.
Various hunting outfits claim that trophy hunting brings US$200 million into the sub-Saharan Africa economy. This figure was published in the academic journal Biological Conservation and is often used to defend hunting, a claim hotly contested by conservationists who contend that less than 3% of hunting revenues actually go to communities. The same paper claimed that this figure was accumulated by 18,500 hunters. In comparison, a World Bank report estimated that close to 33.8 million people visit the region (mainly for wildlife tourism) and contribute US$36 billion. Most tourists who come to visit for the wildlife do not realize that hunting is allowed in these countries; it is believed that Africa’s reputation will suffer if this fact was more widely known.
The wildlife areas in Zambia are divided into the National Parks (where no hunting is allowed) and game management areas (GMA) which act as a buffer between the parks, farmlands and private hunting reserves. Legally, there has to be revenue sharing from hunting and concession fees with the communities in the GMAs – this is called Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM). In order to ensure the money is delivered and managed, several CRBs were created.
With growing concerns over biological collapse in the time of the sixth mass extinction, it is only a matter of time before global pressure phases out hunting all together. It seems better for the countries in question to determine their own phasing out process. This will allow them to focus on community based eco-tourism where revenue can go directly to communities, and to expand the tourism sector versus allowing the killing of some of the most spectacular treasures we have on this planet.