Not long ago Ms. Jean Kapata and her colleagues in the PF Government lifted the ban on the hunting of lions. Their reasoning was that Zambia had enough lions to be hunted for trophies and that the government had enough safeguards against poaching and the illegal issuance of hunting licenses. Just last month Special Assistant to the President for Project Monitoring and Implementation, Mr. Lucky Mulusa, informed the nation that 35 elephants have been killed by poachers in the last 6 months. The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), whose duty is among others to protect endangered animals from poachers, failed to protect these 35 elephants.
The sad part about this story is that Mr. Mulusa further said that the poachers had been arrested but were later released upon payment of a K900 fine. This is laughable if it were not sad. For Ms. Kapata and her colleagues, K900 fine is a deterrent for poaching! According to Mr. Mulusa, the existing legal framework on game management is inadequate; this is exactly what we said in the policy statement in relation to this issue when it appeared the first time. Kapata says we have a robust animal protection system, while another minister in the very same government says we do not have. These are the inconsistencies of the PF we have been talking about.
On July 1, 2015, the world woke up to shocking news that Cecil, a 13 year old male lion wearing a tracking collar had been killed by hunters in a National Park in Hwange, Zimbabwe. The hunters claim to have obtained a hunting license but the authorities in Zimbabwe dispute this. This helps solidify our earlier opposition to the lift on the ban of hunting lions. If a lion wearing a tracking collar can be killed by hunters, what hope is there for those without? It is not a secret that our colleagues in Zimbabwe have a better game management system than ours, but even there animals are being illegally hunted. We are now going to Botswana to learn how they do it. Wasn’t this supposed to happen before the lifting of the ban?
Zambia is one of the few countries in the world that still has game such as elephants, lions and other big cats in their natural habitat. We are duty bound to protect these animals for posterity.
However, protecting them also makes a lot of economic sense. They are part of the reason tourists travel from far and beyond to come to Zambia. Tourism in Zambia, if well managed has a potential to create employment for our youth and be a major source of foreign currency.
Thailand raked in US$16 billion last year from tourism. I will end by repeating what I wrote in an earlier statement when the ban on hunting big cats was lifted. I proposed the following alternatives:-
UPND will encourage wildlife conservation. The aim of this will be to protect animals and their habitat for posterity;
UPND will provide incentives for businesses in tourism industry such as reduced or zero rated VAT;
UPND will reduce the number of licenses required for setting up a business in the tourism sector and in general;
UPND will review visa requirements so as to encourage more tourist arrivals;
UPND will enhance training and research in ecosystems science; and,
UPND will incentivise institutions of higher learning that will teach degree courses in tourism and hospitality.
It is not rocket science to know that a lion or leopard can be photographed a million times. The gun, on the other hand will shoot once and kill. The camera will create jobs and improve the livelihoods of our people.
Compatriots, lets protect that which God has given us. Let us agree with the US Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz, who said “Lions belong to the wild and not the wall.”