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Sunday 30 June 2013

Evidence against trophy hunting mounts

By Ian Michler on June 24, 2013

Over the past decade I, along with other people, have consistently argued that the economic benefits of trophy hunting have been crudely overstated. And when viewed against the alternative land-use option, that of well-managed photographic ecotourism, the merit of trophy hunting in nationally protected areas holds even less weight, if any at all.

Image source: Africa Geographic

In this regard, it is worth highlighting two recent scientific reports that clearly conclude that trophy hunting makes an insubstantial contribution to GDP, job creation and local economies. The first, Big Game Hunting in Africa is Economically Useless appeared about two years ago as an IUCN report and was initially only published in French. Since translated into English, it concludes that ‘hunting does not however play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance’. One of many notable economic indicators is that while 16.5% of Africa’s land is in some way connected to trophy hunting, this activity is creating jobs for only 0.0001% of the workforce.

The more recent report, How much does trophy hunting really contribute to African communities? compiled by Economists at Large, draws a similar conclusion. ‘The suggestion that trophy hunting plays a significant role in African economic development is misguided,’ said economist Rod Campbell, lead author of the study. And in a complete dismissal of a typical overstatement made by the trophy hunting lobby, the report has the following to say about revenues in particular: ‘Trophy hunting advocates present the industry as large, citing figures such as US$200-milllion in annual revenue. But in the context of national economies, the industry is tiny, contributing at best a fraction of a per cent of GDP. Nature-based tourism does play a significant role in national development, but trophy hunting is insignificant. Across the investigated countries, trophy hunting revenue was only 1.8% of tourism revenues.’

I again call on the IUCN and the global conservation agencies to undertake a thorough review of the role that trophy hunting plays in the way we manage our dwindling wildlife resources in protected areas. Contrary to the prevailing claims, this sector has in many ways become a central part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.

Orginal article.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Noise pollution concerns at Victoria Falls

By Alice Chimora, 23 June 2009

Archive news item for reference - note date

Victoria Falls under serious environmental threat - Environmentalists concerned about planned increase of flights over the falls.

The World Heritage status for Victoria Falls is under siege after hotel companies and environmental groups voiced their concerns on plans to increase flights over the falls.

At present there are only 6 flight operators but an additional eight is planned. Their argument is that an increased number of aircraft would damage the environment, worsen noise pollution, harm wildlife and lead to the cancellation of Victoria Falls’ World Heritage Site status.

Already two hotels have made formal complaints to World Heritage Commission in Victoria Falls. “Daily we have to endure the noise and constant irritation from these aircraft which fly directly over and above the Victoria Falls Hotel” wrote K. Snater of Victoria Falls Hotel.

UNESCO had declared a 30 kilometer radius of Zimbabwean and Zambian territory around the Victoria Falls, a World Heritage Site, in 1989. Victoria Falls is an international tourist draw card for Zimbabwe.

The heritage status came under severe threat in 2006 when the Zambian government awarded 220 hectares of land in the 66 square kilometre Mosi-O-Tunya National Park at a cost of US$ 9 million, plus an undisclosed recurring levy, to South Africa’s Legacy Group Holdings for development over a 75-year period under a tourism concession programme.

Guests at the five-star Kingdom and Victoria Falls hotels where the helicopters fly just above the hotels during their flights over the rainforest say it is “a nuisance”. If the additional eight operators are given licences, it means 16 more helicopters, taking two from each operator, and if Zambia gives eight more licences it means 32 helicopters plus the existing seven. It takes the whole number to 39 helicopters.

For environmental conservation reasons, only seven aircraft from both Zimbabwe and Zambia are currently allowed at any given time to operate over the rainforest adjoining the world-famous falls.

This is meant to preserve the delicate environment, curb noise pollution from the helicopters and protect the teeming wildlife.

Five of the seven helicopters fly from Zambia while the Zambezi Helicopter Company based in Zimbabwe has two. But eight potential helicopter operators have applied for licences to offer flights over the falls and the rainforest.

In this light, existing operators have written to the World Heritage Site committee, the local municipality, CAAZ and conservation group Environment Africa expressing their concern over the idea of increasing the number of operators.

Environment Africa manager Nhamo Chuma said the issue of helicopters, if uncontrolled, will pose the single biggest threat to the falls’ status as a World Heritage Site. “The last thing this destination can afford is more negative publicity about the increased number of helicopters. Whatever decision is made should be done with environment conservation in mind, otherwise we will lose it,” he said.

Helicopter rides in Victoria Falls — also known as “the flights of the angels” — are popular with tourists, who pay amounts ranging between US$120 and US$200 for a 15-minute flight. The phrase is attributed to British explorer David Livingstone who once described the falls as: “A sight so wonderful that angels must have gazed down on it in flight”.

The noisy choppers fly slowly at a low level over the magnificent waterfalls, giving sightseers an opportunity to enjoy the unforgettable view and capture photographic souveniers. Microlights and other fixed-wing aircraft are also available to adventure seekers.


Are fences the way forward for cat conservation?

Source: Africa Geographic
Date: 11 June 2013
By: Chloe Cooper

Conservation-minded people seem to think that fencing in our big cats may be best for their safety (see previous blog post Half of Africa's Lions Facing Extinction). It seems entirely contradictory that people who are striving for the openness of borders and the development of transfrontier parks and conservation areas are among those who are supporting the notion of erecting fences and creating separate reserves in order to contain our wildlife. Transfrontier areas aim to extend park boundaries across countries and through human settlements in order to re-establish the ancient migration pathways throughout Africa, as the same time equipping people with the tools required to live harmoniously with the wild animals. It is a spectacular thought. Imagine an Africa of yesteryear – a wild continent, rich in resources, wonderful wildlife, cultural celebration and the sustainable living ethic of a greedless nation. Without the introduction of capital to the continent and the financial implications associated with success, it is possible to imagine that we would not be facing a conservation crisis such as the one that faces us today.

Part of what makes lions such a remarkable success as a species was investigated in an article published by Africa Geographic in May – ‘Brawn and Brains’ by Anthony Ham. He observed that lions in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) were a lot calmer and more confident than their relatives beyond the border. Those lions living nearer to human settlements demonstrated fear and skittishness when approached by a vehicle, while the cats in the CKGR were not unnerved. It is an obvious association. Lions preying on livestock outside park boundaries are shot and killed, so they have developed a fear of anything human. Those who prey on game within reserves are not at risk of attack by humans, thus they do not fear them.

When I asked Sabi Sand professional field guide Jason Kipling to comment on the ‘border-safety’ intelligence lions seem to possess, he related this level of association to the behaviour of elephants in Botswana. He told me that the wildlife conservationist Pat Dewil had reported that elephants demonstrated vastly different behaviour within just a few metres of a hunting zone. In the hunting area, they became fearful and anxious; when they moved just a few strides away into a ‘safe’ zone, they became calm and relaxed – a replica of the behaviour in lions, as described by Anthony Ham. This information plays a vital role in the movement to protect Africa’s lions. Jason is of the opinion that containing lions within the protective borders of national parks and reserves is the only way forward if we are to save the species from extinction due to human conflict and hunting. He emphasised that the risk of lions being killed in areas like the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where livestock grazes nearby, is much higher due to the lack of fencing separating predator and prey. One would think that this activity is likely to result in poor quality lion-viewing due to the stresses experienced by animals that have been exposed to the trauma of shootings.

n more ways than one, the loss of lions will devastate Africa – that much is certain. It is not purely the job of ‘greenies’ to protect a species. It falls upon the shoulders of governments to promote the glory of their countries from a tourism perspective, in order to support economical demands. Jason provided me with some real insight into the not-so-welcome notion of physically segregating our wild lands and enclosing Africa’s biggest cat.

If any animal is to be kept within a boundary, we need to make sure that the balances are right in terms of numbers. National parks and private reserves probably have more lions than they can support, due to the fact that they promote business. However, if all the territories are not occupied and there is enough prey to support lions within the parks and reserves, there should be no resason for the cats to breach the fenced boundaries. In a nutshell: strict population control of both predator AND prey species needs to be practised if we want to successfully keep lions in fenced and protected game reserves.

For full artilce visit: Is Fencing in Our Big Cats for the Best?, Africa Geographic, June 2013

Saturday 22 June 2013

Botswana Bushmen win eviction reprieve

Source: Survival International
Date: 18 June 2013
Dozens of Botswana Bushmen threatened with eviction have won a significant court victory in their struggle to stay on their land.
Since the wildlife corridor between the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was first proposed, the local and national authorities have pressurized the Ranyane Bushmen to leave. The corridor project was promoted by the US organization Conservation International (CI) – Botswana’s President Khama sits on Conservation International’s board.
The Bushmen in fact pose no threat to wildlife, alongside which they have lived sustainably for centuries, and many believe the eviction is in fact to benefit local cattle ranchers.
Last month the local council told residents that they would be evicted in just four days, and sent trucks and police to the settlement to intimidate them. The Bushmen went to court, and obtained a temporary injunction against their eviction.
Today, in a new hearing, the court ruled that no government officials can enter the Bushmen’s compounds without their consent; that their water borehole cannot be dismantled without warning; and that the Bushmen’s lawyers must be notified before any further attempt is made to resettle them.
The court also ordered the government to pay all the Bushmen’s costs. Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘How many court cases does it take for human rights to prevail in Botswana? Isn’t it time for President Khama to stop the evictions of the Bushmen, Botswana’s first citizens, once and for all?’
Read More:
Bushmen Want to Live in Peace on Their Land, Voice of America, 30 May 2013
Botswana’s High Court has issued an interim injunction regarding the case between the Ranyane Bushmen of Botswana and the government. It pertains to whether or not the government can remove the Bushmen to make way for what may presumably be a wildlife corridor. Both parties are set to reconvene in court on June 18.
However, Survival International, an organization that focuses on promoting the rights of people who live in tribes, reports that the Bushmen were told on May 28, that they would be forcibly removed from their land.
The NGO said that the Ranyane Bushmen, which number only several hundred now in southern Botswana, continue to be threatened with eviction from their land. This, even after the high court ruled in 2006 that the forced removals were unlawful and unconstitutional. Bushmen have since taken the Botswana government to court several times, alleging that the government continues to harass and threaten them.
The land that the Ranyane Bushmen live on lies between the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It is also occupied by settlers and farms.
Botswana denies plans to evict Bushmen, South Afrian Times, 27 May 2013
This week the indigenous rights group Survival International claimed that the Botswanan authorities were going to evict the community, which has lived in the southern settlement of Ranyane for generations. But Botswana government spokesman Jeff Ramsay said the allegations were false. "The government of Botswana has no plans to remove those who want to stay at Ranyane," he said.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Light solution to elephant problem?

This week a team of specialists from Kenya visited Livingstone to adise ZAWA on people and elephant conflicts around Livingstone and oversee the installation of a new deterrant system which will hopefully help reduce people-elephant conflict in the area.

The team brought with them skills and advice on an American light-based deterrant system which has been used in Kenya for the past year and is working well. Not only does it stop elephants, but also lions. The small solar powered units are attached to trees and telegraph poles.

Gill Standen, of the Livingstone Weekly, reports on eTurbo News: "It was found that if small flashing lights were fixed about 25 meters apart, elephants will not cross the invisible boundary. This is what is being done around the Mosi-oa-Tunya Park to stop them moving into town and farmland. Already lights have been put around farms in Linda which have been constantly hammered by elephants to the extent that the farmers have given up farming. Now, though, although the elephants appear around the farms they will not cross between the lights. Lights have also been put up near the Kazungula Road ZAWA Gate to stop them crossing into the Nakatindi Compound.

"The team is heading to Victoria Falls Town during the coming week to help the people there with keeping elephants where elephants should be and not in the town."

Original Source: eTurbo News, Elephants controlled by light, 16 June 2013

Monday 17 June 2013

Noise pollution concerns at Victoria Falls

17 June 2009

Archive news item for reference - note date

Noise fear for Zimbabwe elephants

Noise pollution from helicopter flights over Victoria Falls could badly affect important elephant herds in Zimbabwe, environmentalists have warned. They say senior government ministers are backing plans for a four-fold increase in tourist flights. It is part of attempts to take advantage of an expected tourist boom when neighbouring South Africa hosts next year's football World Cup.

Work has already begun on new helipads but without official permission. Zimbabwean Environment Minister Francis Nehema says no environmental impact assessment has been made - and without it the scheme cannot go ahead. "It doesn't matter who you are. We want it done. It is a prerequisite," he said.

Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe says at present just five helicopters fly over the falls at any one time. That figure is set to grow to around 20, as tourists scramble to secure stunning aerial views of one of the world's most spectacular sights, he says. But environmentalists fear excessive noise pollution will have an adverse effect on the behaviour patterns of the elephants.

And Deliwe Utete from non-governmental organisation Environment Africa says if the elephants flee it could have worrying repercussions for the resort's entire ecosystem, affecting thousands of wild animals and birds.

Source: BBC News

Thursday 13 June 2013

Batoka Dam 'minimal impact' on World Heritage Site

Some old reference material on the Batoka Gorge Dam, from a UNESCO World Heritage Centre document (1992). Note according to these documents, the lake created by the Batoka Gorge Dam will 'flood up to the third gorge which is about 10 km inside the World Heritage site' but will have 'minimum impacts' on the World Heritage Site. I first read this to mean 10km below the Falls, but it must in fact mean the lake floods 10km up into the World Heritage Site. This is just below the exisiting Victoria Falls Hydro-power Station outlet.

'The Bureau noted that a proposal to construct a dam across the Batoka Gorge could flood some parts of this transfrontier World Heritage site and that the World Heritage Centre has informed the group of consultant engineers who are undertaking an environmental impact assessment of the dam construction project of potential threats to the integrity of this site. The Bureau requested the Secretariat to contact the States Parties concerned and obtain more information on the proposed dam construction project for submission to the Committee in December 1992.

'Since the plans for the construction of the dam across the Batoka Gorge have been drawn up in Zimbabwe, a letter to the national authorities was sent on 14 August 1992, explaining the Bureau's concerns and requesting more information. A copy of that letter was sent to the Zambian authorities. In his reply of 8 October 1992, the Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management of Zimbabwe has informed the World Heritage Centre that the dam to be built at the Batoka Gorge will flood up to the third gorge which is about 10 km inside the World Heritage site and he is of the view that this change in the ecology of the site will have minimum impacts. The Director has also informed the World Heritage Centre that his Department accepts this development project owing to its minimum impact and the fact that it will produce power under favourable environmental conditions, in contrast to the alternative of thermal power production.

'Since the information provided by the Director, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, Zimbabwe, has revealed a threat to the integrity of this trans-frontier World Heritage property, the World Heritage Centre has requested IUCN to verify the information and advise the Committee on possible actions that may be taken to protect the integrity of this site.

Source: link

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Tourist arrivals up 17pc

ZIMBABWE recorded a 17 percent rise in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2013 with all major markets registering increases in the number of people visiting the country. Tourist arrivals in the quarter stood at 404 282 up from 346 299 in 2012. According to a Tourism Trend and Statistics Report released by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority on Monday, the increase in arrivals was clearly a witness to the country’s improved destination image.

The report noted that while all markets registered growth, arrivals from Europe and Asia experienced significant increases which have been, to an extent, due to the increased outbound trend especially in China and the softening of the Euro zone crisis with UK and France contributing significant increases in arrivals to Zimbabwe.

“The ever increasing regional trade and commerce also contribute immensely to the growth through indirect transiting tourists and business tourists as shown by the current 40 percent increase in business tourists and 65 percent increase in shopping tourists,” reads part of the report.

“The market share for the overseas arrivals stood at 14 percent up by 3 percentage points from 11 percent in 2012. The overall arrivals from overseas rose by 54 percent on the backdrop of exceptional increases from Europe and Asia with UK, France and China specifically registering outstanding performances. All overseas regional markets registered increases. Europe contributed 54 percent of the overseas arrivals followed by Asia with 20 percent of the overseas market share.”

The report said there was a general increase from markets within the Sadc region especially Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, and this was mostly attributable to regional trade and commerce within the region.

“It is, however, sad to note that the continued unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen arrivals from the Central African state falling by 20 percent, shedding over a thousand arrivals in the period under review.”

The report further states that average hotel room occupancy levels remained stagnant at 46 percent while average hotel bed occupancy levels rose slightly from 34 to 35 percent.

As for lodges, the report noted that average room occupancy levels experienced growth from 42 to 44 percent in 2013 while average bed occupancy levels also rose from 30 to 35 percent.

“Research has shown that while leisure tourism is still in its infancy in the country especially among the locals, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions activities continue to drive performance in most regions save for Kariba and Victoria Falls which are dominated by leisure travel.”

Source: Tourist arrivals up 17pc (11/06/13)

Biggest luxury cruise liner launched

Patrick Chitumba in Victoria Falls

ZIMBABWE’S biggest luxury cruise liner, the Zambezi Explorer, was officially launched on Sunday on the Zambezi River bank before tourism sector executives. The cruise liner hit the Zambezi waters ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to be co-hosted with Zambia in late August.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive, Mr Karikoga Kaseke cut the ribbon before a bottle of champagne was popped and poured onto the liner’s entry point.

With capacity for 140 guests, the Zambezi Explorer has been described as ideal for both leisure and corporate events where either the entire craft or part of it may be hired for exclusive functions or product launches.

Mr Kaseke said such investment into the sector was evident enough that the country was still a major player to reckon.

“This is a historic moment in the tourism industry and is coming just under three months before we co-host the general assembly. A lot has been said and one concerning the general assembly and I know that we are ready to co-host the event,” said Mr Kaseke.

“This local investment shows that there is still confidence in local tourism and there is capacity for the tourism to regain its status. We are coming from a time when there was havoc caused by the Zimbabwe dollar when the hotels were empty but this shows that we are coming out of the woods.”
He said he hoped that the interest shown in the country by tourists would translate into actual business.

“The Ministry has already booked the vessel for the ministerial luncheon and for the spouses’ sunset cruise,” he said.

Zambezi Explorer chief executive Mr Messias Maoneni said they were optimistic that the country was on the right track to regaining its status as the tourism hub of the region. He said the $1,2million investment was going to result in the transformation of the cruising sector.

“We are looking into the future. We are looking at local, regional and international clients and that’s why the variety in dishes to be offered on this liner. It took us a period of about five years from conception period to actual realisation of our dream liner,” said Mr Maoneni.

The two lower decks provide a 5-star luxury service where guests can choose from an exciting range of beverages and cocktails as well as a selection of delicious snacks.

Information provided by the company indicates the “Signature Deck” is the third level and has gourmet hors d’oeuvres and premium beverages served from a private bar. Guests on that level can relax in the comfort of deep set couches and enjoy absolute VIP service.

The Zambezi Explorer offers sunrise, lunch, dinner and sunset cruises on the Zambezi.
The cruise liner also offers Jetty dinner — a candle light dinner accompanied by the ambient sounds of the African night.

Source: Biggest luxury cruise liner launched (11/6/13)

Monday 10 June 2013

Redevelopment of Livingstone Market requires extra funding

National media reports that an additional KR10 million is needed for the construction of the Livingstone market popularly known as the 'Zim market'. Last year, government released KR28.5 million for construction of a new market site.

The sign and fence - the works are specified as an 'ultra modern market'.

A weekly progress report for the project states that the council has since written to government over the additional funds. Livingstone City Council director of engineering Benny Chiyesu said without the extra funding, the market would be just like any other ordinary market and not the modern facility that it was intended to be.

"The KR10 million will be needed to enhance the quality of the works at the market" Chiyesu said. Asked if the construction of the market was under-budgeted, Chiyesu said the funding was received before the drawings were done. "But the finishing time for this project still remains the same, which is 31st July 2013 and the target will be met," said Chiyesu.

Over the fence, progress to date...

Meanwhile, construction of other projects such as roads, intercity bus terminus, public toilets and the civic centre among others is progressing with contractors promising to complete the works on schedule ahead of the United Nations World Tourism general assembly to be co-hosted with Zimbabwe in August.

Street sellers awaiting the development of the new market area.

Relocated street vendors in Livingstone are apparently conducting business at their new trading location at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Green Market. On May 10 this year, vendors who were operating from the pavements of the Mosi-oa-Tunya road in Livingstone were relocated in an exercise spearheaded by Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo, aimed at promoting cleanliness in the city ahead of the August 2013 United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly.

Livingstone City Council acting Public Relations manager Emmanuel Sikanyika said that the council was already engaged in talks with ZESCO on how and when the Green market would be electrified.

Sources: The Post, Zambia - Additional KR10m needed for L/stone's 'Zim market'
The Lusaka Times, Zambia - Livingstone’s street vendor relocation project successful

Monday 3 June 2013

Batoka Gorge dam project a regional priority - AfDB

The Batoka Gorge hydro-electricity project has been given priority status, allowing it to tap into the $20 billion fund set up by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance key infrastructure projects.

AfDB chief infrastructure economist, Shem Simuyemba, told media last week that the proposed hydro-project on the Zambezi River “is a good example of the kind of project this fund is going to cover because the initial focus of the fund is on those projects that can generate their own cash flow, their own revenue. Batoka is one of the projects that have been identified by potential financiers as one that can generate its own income because it is linked to the Southern Africa Power Pool. This means that if you generate power in Batoka it will feed not Zambia and Zimbabwe only, but the whole of the SAPP.”

The $2,8 billion power project will generate an estimated 800MW each for both Zimbabwe and Zambia. If executed, the project will alleviate power shortages currently prevailing in both countries.

Source and full article here.