Wildlife reliant communities struggle to shake off Covid-19 burden

By ZBC Reporter

THE hunting industry and wildlife reliant communities are feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic as they struggle to recover from revenue losses that are threatening development and conservation efforts.

A year on, the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt with revelations of depleted incomes negatively impacting on the capacity of the hunting industry and communities that rely on wildlife incomes for sustenance.

Rural district councils are among those that are feeling the heat as revenues from safari operators which accounted for ninety percent of their incomes severely depleted.

“We have 6 schools that were affected because these are projects that largely depended on revenues that we get from safaris. All the projects we were doing were affected. Anti-poaching was highly affected because we usually pay our scouts through proceeds. So it has been 13 months without paying our scouts,” said Councillor Vulindlela Mhlanga- Matetsi Ward1.

The cycle is vicious and even affecting compensation schemes resulting from human wildlife conflicts which is usually paid out through the rural district councils.

In the absence of funding, vital programmes that were being conducted under the CAMPIRE programme are also under threat.

“Indeed our programmes were severely impacted … What we see is a huge gap in terms of wildlife protection as the welfare of game scouts has been compromised. There has also been a spike in human wildlife conflict. What we have witnessed over the last year is historic as villagers lost the highest number of livestock to wild animals in areas such as Hwange, Mbire and Thsolostho,” said CAMPFIRE executive director Charles Jonga.

The hunting sector describes last year’s events as a bloodbath.

“We had a target of 100million dollars last year and we only managed just twenty percent of that. It has been a huge blow for the hunting sector and even now the situation remains dire for the industry,” said Emmanuel Fundira.

A report issued by Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association last year also noted the huge effects of the pandemic on other vital programmes such as ward level anti-poaching units (APUs), which conduct routine patrols, poaching and problem animal control.

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