The UK government wants to tell Africans what to do with our wildlife — this is colonialism all over again
In this open letter to the UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, 109 representatives of community-run conservation areas in the four African countries which come together in the massive Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) respond to the bill currently before the British Parliament to ban the import of hunting trophies to the UK.
The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) covers 520,000km² of Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. It is more than double the size of the United Kingdom and encompasses 20 national parks, 85 forest reserves, 22 conservancies, 11 sanctuaries, 103 wildlife management areas, 11 game management areas and is home to three World Heritage Sites — Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta and Tsodilo Hills.
Representatives from the four countries attended a two-day biannual planning meeting for local leaders of community-based conservation, held in Wuparo Conservancy in Namibia’s Zambezi Region in late February 2023. This letter arose out of that meeting.
All the signatories are involved in activities in support of the largest transfrontier conservation area in the world, KAZA. Ironically, the UK government supports KAZA with funding. Ethical hunting is a part of this five-African-nation conservation endeavour which provides habitat and critical connectivity for wildlife across multiple borders. The communities argue that the anti-hunting bill is therefore contradictory to other UK policy aimed at supporting good conservation.
Dear Minister Andrew Mitchell,
Re: Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill — Wildlife decline and community poverty
We, the communities within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) from Namibia, Botswana, Angola and Zambia, met recently for our Biannual Planning Meeting in Wuparo Conservancy, Namibia.
It came to our attention that the British Parliament is in the process of passing a bill into law which intends to prohibit the importation of hunted trophies into Britain.
The British Government should be aware that this bill will negatively impact both the conservation of wildlife and the livelihoods of our communities.
As communities living in the KAZA TFCA landscape, we recognise the importance of wildlife and other natural resources and the role they play in maintaining biodiversity in our shared environments.
We have inherited these natural resources from our forefathers and invested in their conservation with the support of our governments by forming community-based organisations (CBOs) in the form of Conservancies, Community Forests, Communal Fisheries Reserves, Trusts, Associations and Cooperatives.
Through our shared governments’ legislation, we have been given rights to manage and utilise our natural resources sustainably for the benefit of our community members and the wildlife.
However, conserving these natural resources is costly. It involves heavy capital investments to cover the operational costs of our community-based organisations — such as training and employing conservancy personnel, educating our communities on the importance of conserving our wild animals, providing other benefits to communities living with wildlife, and monitoring and managing these CBOs.
To finance these operational costs, much of the income comes from trophy hunting, which is done ethically and is supported by scientific monitoring systems such as the Event Book system, fixed route patrols, and annual wetland and aerial game counts.
The data derived from these monitoring systems are used to allocate sustainable quotas by our wildlife management authorities to determine the number of animals to be culled, and this is done in the form of trophy hunting.
It should be emphasised that these activities take place on communal farmland, where we are farming with livestock, crops as well as wildlife, not national parks. It is important for you to know that because of the policy incentives in our countries, more wildlife is living outside national parks than in them.
Therefore, the current bill in your Parliament, if passed into law, will have the following ramifications.
- Undermine the incentives for our rural farming communities to look after and sustainably manage wildlife;
- Increase human-wildlife conflict with those species which are costly for farmers to live with (predators, elephant, hippo, etc) and reduce compensation, thereby making farmers unwilling to have the animals on their land;
- An unsustainable local increase in some species such as elephants that have a destructive impact on vegetation and habitats, thereby impacting the broader biodiversity, including a number of endangered species;
- With reduced revenue from trophy hunting, poaching will increase because there will be less funding to pay salaries to the community game guards for their anti-poaching patrols to deter poachers;
- The nutritional status of people will be affected because there will be less meat from hunted animals to distribute to communities;
- If trophy hunting ends, our game lands will be encroached on by other land utilisation activities, with the potential to increase deforestation and destroy the natural habitat of wild animals, resulting in a decline in many wild species. We all know that deforestation will increase the carbon footprint and contribute to global warming; and
- The loss of revenue from trophy hunting will drastically increase unemployment in our communities, resulting in poverty, with the potential of community members becoming poachers.
It is sad to mention that we feel this is another way of recolonising Africa, with all the consequences that had befallen our forefathers.
We, therefore, would like to:
- Invite British parliamentarians to come to Africa to see our conservation efforts as opposed to listening to animal rights activists who have no knowledge and experience of living with wild animals.
- Alternatively, let your ambassadors engage with us, the communities within these community-based organisations whose aim is the conservation of natural resources and improving community livelihoods — and provide you with the facts.
Please acknowledge that you have received this letter and inform us, the communities who live with wildlife, how you intend to respond to hearing our voices.
Yours sincerely (name of conservancy or organisation in brackets):
Kavari Rironderuapi (IRDNC); Sydney Mustnamauq (IRDNC); Vihemba Tckikiugs (Association for the Conservation of the Environment and Integrated Rural Development, Angola, ACADIR); Castro Tchipindomotias (ACADIR); Abel Luis (ACADIR); Sebakeu Muyelugeea (ACADIR); Laurida Kassoya (ACADIR); Domingos (ACADIR); Justina NeFreinciso (ACADIR); Bernado Kassariga (ACADIR); Amadeu Sancuassa (ACADIR); Nyambe Hansen (Kasika); Beritha Mafuiila (Kasika); Sumalumba Iuze (Impalila); Kamwi Iaan (Impalila); Cacious Lisito (Sobbe); Mulela Matenau (Lindanzi); Joyce Mooka (Sikunga); Steven Muyangala (Sikunga); Rudolph Tlaveondjpi (IRDNC); Wendy Muhita (Lake Lyambezi); Elizabeth Mazambani (Kabbe); Mushitu Muwikonzo (Bamuny); Novic Mukaya (IRDNC); Thadius Mbeha (Karulabula); Jerome Mwihinza (Burnunu); Alfred Kwibish (Msunduia); Nadia Songa (Lusese C); Mary Siseho (Lusese C); Sanimombo Coully (Wuparo); Mgundano Muyemi (Wuparo); Beven Muyenga Zhakwa (Wuparo); Ricco Muchila (Nakabolwa); Michael Simasiku (Nakabolwa); Leonard Sitwala (IRDNC); Oscar Mwinga (Nsundwa); Markfaw Neema (NNE); Thomas Neema (NNE); Alex Bekele (Eilitene); Sally Simula (Rabilabla); Doreen Saidai (Salambala); Susan Myfalali (Salambala); Charles Mutumba (Seboba); Joe Misika (Seboba); Ronliwansi Teen (KA); Alfred Chedau (IRDNC); Kapinga Kepie (KA); Calicious Bupilo (Balyerwa); Knox Salushando (Balyerwa); Philip Ndozi (Balyerwa); Ellen Sumatag (MEFT); Hendrika Apollus (PCS); Muyunda Penna (IRDNC); Dominic Muema (IRDNC); Mubyana Tendy (Balyerwa); Kabende Kahundiu (Dzoti); Mpho Williart (Birdlife Botswana); Kerapetse Banty Peter (Tcheky Trust); Mogolodi Dara (Tcheky Trust); James Kangino (Shaikarace); Moses Kelatwhwe (Teemashane); Annitah Ponisa (Kwandu); Annety Kachitomwa (Kwandu); Wilson Chali (Kwandu); Maureen Ni Nlakakena (Inuaseu); Sianga Sianga (Lucinsa Mjoit); Mwshabati Buyoya (Ihyaseat); Mwauamal Edbela (Eyokofloanfa Conservatory); Susilan Mululcog (Panthers); Frances Chase (NNF); Patricia Skyer (WWF); Kelvin Kutnkuba (UNAM); Alice Limani Poniso (NNF); Brilta Hackeuteg (NNF); Mana Lazanis (IRDNC); Kaino T Shilume (NNF); Beuilto Ndana (NNF); Elizabeth Aitana (MEFT-Dof); Caleb Mwitumwa Nangana (IRDNC); Janet Mctola (IRDNC); Reuben Maforti (IRDNC); GM Liswrevuno (Bukalo TA); CbSifu Jeke (Mayoye); R Musilizo (Mafwern); R Wimbindo (Mashi TA); Alfred Mulewe (Sekute); Patrick Rawiki Kalundu); Lubinda Nyaywa (Mwandi); Julia Shekutoamba (MEFT); Nyambe Mwambna (Simalahac): Jennifer Tutalife (Mayuni); John Kamin (IRDNC); Beatrice Mutelo (Mashi); Samuel Melody (Mashi); Masikono Nephy (Mashi); Thomas Iluki (Bukalo CF); Ben Mukasa (Sikamjabula); Martin Luyanda (Masida); Allen Siwbanga (Sobbe C); Opg Walubitg (Mayum); Buddy Simalymbu (Lubuta); Eugen Lishoni (Sachona CF); Buchane Lyster (Zilitene); Mazazi Simasiku (Lake Lyambezi); Semasiku Kachana (CECT); Julius Maguta Mungapo (CECT); Lukuwo Luwaile (WWF-ZAM); and Siyawga Obecioeecs (IRDNC). DM