Trump administration opens Alaska’s national preserves to cruel practices like trophy-hunting denning bears and wolves and their cubs; proposes disbanding protections on Kenai Wildlife Refuge

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

June 10, 2020 0 Comments

The Trump administration has given trophy hunters the green light to commit some of the worst sort of carnage on 20 million acres of Alaska’s pristinely beautiful national preserves.

Under a new rule finalized this week, trophy hunters can, starting next month, kill hibernating mother black bears and their cubs in their dens with the aid of artificial lights, shoot wolf and coyote pups and mothers at their dens, use bait like donuts and meat scraps to attract brown and black bears, shoot vulnerable caribou while they are swimming (including with the aid of motorboats), and use dogs to hunt black bears.

This is yet another dastardly move from an administration that, from the start, has carried out a no-holds-barred assault on America’s—and the world’s—most precious wildlife. From weakening protections for native American wildlife covered by the Endangered Species Act to allowing trophy hunters to import the trophies of endangered animals likerhinos and lions, the Department of the Interior, under Trump, has consistently played into the hands of trophy hunters and other corporate interests to dismantle the progress we’ve made for wildlife over decades.

A lot of this, including the National Park Service rule finalized this week, has involved reversing protections for wildlife put in place by the Obama administration.

And they’re not done. Just today, the Department of the Interior proposed another rule, again to overturn the prior administration’s rule that barred baiting of brown bears on two million acres of public lands in the state’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Hunting of brown bears over bait is an extreme practice and biologists have been raising alarms about the loss of brown bear populations in Alaska.

We already know what the carnage sanctioned by these rule changes will look like. Before the 2015 rule, thousands of bears and wolves were shot from the air, killed over bait barrels, clubbed or shot in their dens and hunted down with lights at night. Many of these cruel practices professed to reduce numbers of iconic predators in order to boost prey species for hunters, but science has shown that nature cannot be manipulated this way without terrible results.

We have seen brown bear numbers across Alaska dwindle because of intensive management. State lands, where the egregious practices now permitted by the NPS rule are already allowed by the Alaska Board of Game, have seen sharp drops in wildlife populations. Alaska state officials should prefer their wildlife alive rather than dead because the tens of thousands of wildlife watchers who trek into the state each year put far more money into the state’s coffers than a handful of trophy hunters seeking to kill the animals do.

The Humane Society of the United States, along with a coalition of organizations, is currently in federal court defending the Obama-era NPS and Kenai rules. These changes are unlawful because Congress requires that the Department of the Interior conserve and protect wildlife in national preserves and national wildlife refuges. By opening season on the animals it’s supposed to protect just to appease a few trophy hunters, the agency—and this administration—have not only shown themselves to be extremely poor stewards of our public lands, they have let down a majority of Americans who would never sanction such cruelty against our native wildlife.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Trump Jr.’s argali trophy hunt in Mongolia cost American taxpayers $77,000

Trump Jr.’s argali trophy hunt in Mongolia cost American taxpayers $77,000

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

June 9, 2020 3 Comments

We’ve just learned that Donald Trump Jr.’s trophy hunting trip to Mongolia, where he hunted an argali sheep—an animal listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act—cost American taxpayers a whopping $77,000.

The revelation comes from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which dug into expenses Trump Jr. incurred for this controversial trip made last year. Following an initial Freedom of Information Act request, the group was provided with Secret Service protection costs alone—around $17,000 for the trip. It was only after an appeal that CREW received information of other expenses, including flight costs and a stop Trump Jr. made in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, where he met with the Mongolian president, putting total expenses for that trip at the much higher figure of $76,859.36.

Trump Jr. is an avid trophy hunter and his exploits targeting at-risk animals, including leopards and elephants, are well documented. While all trophy hunting—done purely for fun and the thrill of killing a majestic animal—is unethical and disturbing, what is more outrageous about the president’s son’s pursuit of his deadly pastime is that Americans now have to pay for it.

The trip to Mongolia last August was an ethical minefield from start to finish. ProPublica, which originally broke the story of that trip, reported Trump, Jr. did not even have a permit from Mongolian officials when he shot the animal – it was offered to him afterwards, raising questions about whether he received special treatment from the Mongolian authorities. Argali are prized as a national treasure in Mongolia, and the permitting system for hunting one, according to ProPublica, is based on money, connections and politics.

The hunt itself was conducted at night, with a laser-guided rifle.

Back home, Trump Jr. has established himself as a champion of trophy hunting interests, peddling his famous last name for more privileges and perks, always at taxpayer expense because he receives Secret Service protection on all his trips. In February, he was the guest of honor at the Safari Club International’s annual convention, where the lives of 860 animals, including lions, polar bears, zebras and buffalo, were auctioned off. This included winning bids totaling $340,000 by two hunters for an opportunity to stay on a yacht with and join Trump Jr. in hunting black-tailed deer and sea ducks in Alaska.

Trophy hunters are usually a privileged lot with pockets deep enough to influence policies that favor their bloodlust. But Trump Jr. is not just any trophy hunter. As the president’s son he has an unparalleled ability to potentially influence our government’s policies on the world’s most endangered animals. But just like the Trump administration—which has launched repeated attacks against the most at-risk wildlife in the world, including hacking at the Endangered Species Act to benefit trophy hunters and mining and oil-drilling interests—Trump Jr. has failed to use his power to do good.

We are not staying silent. We’re challenging the administration’s changes to the ESA in court, and we are in good company, with many animal protection and environmental organizations joining us. We have also petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to refuse a permit for Trump Jr. to import the trophy of that sheep. Argali from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Tajikistan are listed as threatened in the ESA, and import of a hunting trophy of an ESA-listed species can be authorized only if it furthers conservation. There is no evidence that this was the case here, or that recreational killing for trophies ever promotes conservation.

Being the president’s son may come with perks, like a retroactive permit from Mongolia to slay an argali and a red-carpet welcome from the world’s largest trophy hunting group; but it also comes with the scrutiny of his questionable spending of taxpayer resources by organizations like ProPublica and CREW, and opposition to his wildlife-killing activities from animal protection groups like ours. Americans do not want their money misused in a manner that will do permanent damage to the world’s most at-risk animals, and we will hold those who do so accountable, no matter how powerful and influential they are.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Donald Trump, Jr’s “sweaty and glassy eyed” appearance on Fox fuels speculation about his health

Viewers expressed concern — and contempt — for junior’s health after his appearance

 

BOB BRIGHAM
MAY 13, 2020 8:00AM (UTC)

This article originally appeared on Raw Story

https://www.salon.com/2020/05/13/donald-trump-jrs-sweaty-and-glassy-eyed-appearance-on-fox-fuels-speculation-about-his-health_partner/

rawlogo

The president’s eldest so appeared on Fox Business on Tuesday to defend his father against the latest charges of racism.

That is a fairly common situation. But what shocked people on Twitter was how the president’s son looked — and what could’ve been responsible for his state.

Viewers expressed concern — and contempt — for junior’s health after his appearance.

Here’s some of what people were saying about his appearance.

maureen greger@moalice46

His eyes? Are they bloodshot? https://twitter.com/JasonSCampbell/status/1260326948129198080 

Jason Campbell@JasonSCampbell

Donald Trump Jr is on Lou Dobbs and he’s, well, not looking great

View image on Twitter
See maureen greger’s other Tweets

Not Afraid Of The Dark@TheReviewnaut

It kind of looks like junior is running a bit of a fever. Wonder what could cause that? https://twitter.com/JasonSCampbell/status/1260326948129198080 

Jason Campbell@JasonSCampbell

Donald Trump Jr is on Lou Dobbs and he’s, well, not looking great

View image on Twitter
41 people are talking about this

Not Afraid Of The Dark@TheReviewnaut

It kind of looks like junior is running a bit of a fever. Wonder what could cause that? https://twitter.com/JasonSCampbell/status/1260326948129198080 

Jason Campbell@JasonSCampbell

Donald Trump Jr is on Lou Dobbs and he’s, well, not looking great

View image on Twitter
41 people are talking about this

Matt Murphy@MattMurph24

Don Jr looks like he’s in rehab. https://twitter.com/JasonSCampbell/status/1260326948129198080 

Jason Campbell@JasonSCampbell

Donald Trump Jr is on Lou Dobbs and he’s, well, not looking great

View image on Twitter
54 people are talking about this

Tunica Hills WMA Closed to Non-Turkey Hunters on Weekends in April

 

https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/news/tunica-hills-wma-closed-to-nonturkey-hunters-on-weekends-in-april
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is reminding the public that Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is closed to all users during weekends in April except turkey hunter lottery participants.

 

The closure is to protect the public during weekend turkey lottery hunts and open turkey hunting on the WMA and is part of the 2019-20 hunting season regulations. Turkey lottery hunts will be held April 11-12 and April 18-19 with open turkey hunting scheduled for April 25-26. The WMA is still open to the public during weekdays in April.

 

LDWF would also alert the public that Clark’s Creek State Park in Mississippi, which offers nature hiking near the Tunica Hills WMA, is closed as a precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

For more information on Tunica Hills WMA, go to https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/tunica-hills.

Penned lions still on offer at US trophy hunting convention

Updated 

WASHINGTON (AP) — An undercover video recorded by animal welfare activists shows vendors at a recent trophy-hunting convention promoting trips to shoot captive-bred lions in Africa, despite past public assurances by the event’s organizers that so-called canned hunts wouldn’t be sold.

Investigators for the Humane Society of the United States captured the footage last week at the annual convention of Safari Club International in Reno, Nevada. SCI is among the nation’s largest trophy-hunting groups and its yearly gatherings typically draw thousands of attendees and hundreds of vendors selling firearms, overseas safari trips and items made from the skins and bones of rare wildlife.

In the video captured by the Humane Society last week, tour operators said the lions for sale were bred in captivity. Typically, the lions are raised in cages and small pens before being released into a larger fenced enclosure. Once reaching young adulthood, customers pay to shoot them and keep the skins, skulls, claws and other body parts for trophies.

“They’re bred in captivity. They’re born in captivity, and then they’re released,” a salesman for Bush Africa Safaris, a South African tour operator, says on the video. “There’s guys who are going to tell you something different on the floor, they’re going to bulls—t you, that is what it is.”

Salesmen from two other safari operators also confirmed they had captive-bred lions for sale, including advertising a bargain-rate of $8,000 for a ranch in South Africa. Multi-day safaris for hunting wild lions can easily cost 10 times that — money that hunting advocates say helps support anti-poaching and conservation efforts in cash-strapped African nations.

“Canned lion hunts have no conservation value and are unethical,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Lions bred for the sole purpose of being hunted for a trophy is an industry built on a conveyor belt of exploitation and animal cruelty.”

In 2018, SCI issued a policy opposing the hunting of African lions bred in captivity, which the group said is of doubtful value to the conservation of lions in the wild. After the Humane Society captured video of canned hunts being sold at the SCI convention last year, SCI issued a statement pledging not to accept advertising from any operator selling such hunts, nor allow their sale in the vendor booths rented out at its annual convention.

In a statement Wednesday, SCI said its policy against captive-bred hunts had not changed and that it would investigate the issue.

“Safari Club International (SCI) proudly supports the right to hunt; however, SCI does not condone the practice of canned hunting by our members, outfitters, or other partners,” said Robert Brooks, a spokesman for the group. “As sportsmen, we believe hunting is best enjoyed when certain fair chase criteria are met.”

Schalk and Terina van Heerden, the owners of Bush Africa Safaris in Ellisras, South Africa, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Despite tweets from President Donald Trump describing big-game hunting as a “horror show,” his administration has consistently moved to expand the list of nations from which the heads and hides of imperiled African elephants, lions and rhinos can be legally imported back into the United States as trophies.

An avid hunter, Donald Trump Jr. was among the featured speakers at the SCI convention last weekend. As part of the festivities, the group auctioned off a weeklong Alaskan “dream hunt” aboard a luxury yacht with the president’s eldest son. Two hunters paid a combined $340,000 to go on the trip.

In addition to the canned hunts on offer, vendors at the SCI convention were advertising a $350,000 hunt for a critically endangered black rhino in Namibia and $35,000 for a guided polar bear hunt in Canada. One safari outfitter from Africa was offering a $25,000 “Trump Special,” inviting hunters to ”make your own drone strike” by shooting a buffalo, sable, roan antelope and crocodile in a single trip.

“This convention does nothing other than celebrate senseless violence towards wildlife,” Block said. “Wild animals are not commodities to be sold, with their deaths something to celebrate. This needs to end.”

A ‘dream’ deer hunt with Donald Trump Jr. is being auctioned by a trophy hunting group

Lara Trump (L), her husband Eric Trump (2L) and Kimberly Guilfoyle (R) listen to Donald Trump Jr. speak during a "Keep Iowa Great" press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 3, 2020.

(CNN)Donald Trump Jr. has been condemned by animal rights organizations for promising to take an auction winner on a seven-day hunting trip to Alaska, in a sale organized by a trophy hunting group.

The yacht-based expedition will see Trump Jr., his son and the auction winner kill black-tailed deer and sea ducks, according to the auction site.
Bidding for the trip had surpassed $10,000 at the time of writing. The auction, hosted by Safari Club International (SCI), also includes trips to kill buffalo in Zimbabwe and to shoot an elephant in Namibia.
The expedition is set to take place in November — the same month that Trump’s father will seek reelection.
“This year we will be featuring Donald Trump Jr., a man who needs no introduction, and who’s [sic] passion for the outdoors makes him the number one ambassador for our way of life,” the listing reads.
An advert for the hunt with Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. is an avid hunter, who regularly posts images of himself with weapons on his social media feeds.
Photos posted in 2012 by the website Gothamist show him holding an elephant tail, which the website said were from a 2011 hunt in Zimbabwe.
Trump has been condemned for those activities in the past by animal welfare groups, and many also criticized the sale by the SCI on Tuesday.
“Advertised as a ‘dream hunt,’ this hunting trip will be nothing but a nightmare for the Sitka black-tailed deer and sea ducks who find themselves in the gun sights of Donald Trump Jr. and whomever purchases this sick thrill,” Jeff Flocken, president of Humane Society International, told CNN.
He added: “Killing for fun is not moral. And it’s not conservation. Period.”
The auction is timed to coincide with SCI’s annual convention which begins on Wednesday in Nevada. Reports have suggested that Trump Jr. will speak at the event. CNN has contacted SCI and the Trump Organization for comment.
SCI campaigns against efforts to ban trophy hunting imports around the world and has argued that trophy hunting “helps wildlife and local economies.”
The decision to allow some imports came after a public backlash to the rollback of Obama-era restrictions on importing trophies of elephants and lions from some African countries by the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service.
On Monday, Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson urged fans to boycott a performance at the group’s conference by his former band, saying he is “emphatically opposed” to trophy hunting.
He tweeted the link to a petition against the performance, adding that there was “nothing we can do personally to stop the show.”

Viewpoint: Protect African wildlife with a state trophy ban

President Donald Trump’s idea of “Make America Great Again” is making it easier for wealthy American trophy hunters like his sons, who are unfazed by six-digit price tags, to slaughter vulnerable, threatened and endangered wildlife. It is more than time for New York state — the biggest port of entry for wildlife trophies — to take steps towards ending this cruel industry.

Donald Trump Jr.’s latest hunting escapade in Mongolia — where he shot a rare endangered Argali sheep, and only received a permit to do so after the kill, on a trip last August that also included some schmoozing with the Mongolian president — is evidence of the unfair system that leaves vulnerable animal species prey to wealthy Americans, including New Yorkers who hunt African wildlife.

From 2005 to 2014, 159,144 animals were imported into New York as trophies — including 1,541 lions; 1,130 elephants and 83 pairs of tusks; 1,169 leopards, and 110 white rhinos and three pairs of horns.

Last year the state Senate passed the Big 5 African Trophies Act, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Luis Sepulveda, D-Bronx, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan. It would ban the importation, possession, sale or transportation of the trophies of African giraffes, leopards, lions, elephants, and black and white rhinos and their body parts throughout New York — all threatened and endangered species.

The thousands of dollars in fees hunters pay to safari companies does little to help protect these animals. Studies show that less than 3 percent of revenue from trophy hunting returns to the communities. Meanwhile, the population of elephants has declined by 90 percent in the past century, with losses attributed to the commodification of elephants for their ivory and skin. This is in addition to the challenges they face from habitat destruction and climate change. There are fewer than 23,000 lions left in Africa, according to a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford, The number of Argali sheep has plummeted more than 60 percent, with just 18,000 remaining in Mongolia.

And while permits by countries that allow the hunting, and permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency to hunt threatened and endangered species and import the dead body parts of the animals killed overseas, are supposed to regulate the industry to ensure a species’ survival, the truth is obtaining the permits are often a matter of political influence and the only difference between “illegal” poachers and trophy hunters with permits is wealth and political connections.

New York City Councilman Keith Powers has introduced a resolution supporting the state trophy ban legislation. The council should approve it, and the state Assembly should act in its upcoming session to end the imports here. New York should lead the nation in standing up for vulnerable species who belong in the wild, not on walls.

Priscilla Feral is the president of Friends of Animals, an international, nonprofit animal advocacy organization.

U.S. should deny Trump Jr. permit to import endangered sheep trophy from Mongolia

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

December 19, 2019 3

No American—regardless of his or her wealth and political connections—should be above the law. That’s why, in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, are calling on the agency to refuse to allow Trump Jr. to import the body parts of the animal he killed.

The letter states that argali sheep are an imperiled species who should not be hunted for their horns or hides to serve as wall hangings. “The reporting on Mr. Trump Jr.’s argali hunt—that was conducted at night with a laser guided rifle, and without a hunting permit issued before the hunt—raises serious questions regarding the legality of the killing and subsequent import of the animal.”

As ProPublica reported, Trump’s hunt was partially funded by U.S. and Mongolian taxpayers because each country sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the multiday trip. After the hunt, Trump Jr. is reported to have met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga, before returning to the United States.

It was also reported that Trump Jr. did not have a Mongolian permit to kill the argali—a beautiful animal with long, curving horns—when the hunt took place. A permit was issued to him by the Mongolian government only after he had already departed the country, in what was clearly a hasty attempt to cover up a violation of Mongolian law. Such a violation should by itself disqualify Trump Jr. from bringing his trophy home.

Argali from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Tajikistan are listed as threatened in the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and import of a hunting trophy of an ESA-listed species can be authorized only if it furthers conservation. There is no evidence that this was the case here. In fact, Mongolia has a history of using these beautiful and endangered animals as lures for those with money, connections and politics, and has not updated its argali hunting management plan in a decade.

A 2017 FWS finding shows that only a small percentage of hunting license fees in Mongolia actually go to argali conservation and community livelihoods.

Most Americans are opposed to trophy hunting, and do not believe in the canard spread by trophy hunting interests that killing one animal can help save an entire species. In fact, an increasing number of conservation scientists have challenged the notion that trophy hunting benefits conservation.

There is no doubt that Trump Jr. behaved unethically when he pointed a laser guided rifle at a beautiful animal whose species is in a struggle for survival. But this is not just about his poor ethics. As the son of the sitting president, his actions have also put our nation’s reputation as a global leader in the fight to conserve endangered wildlife at great risk. That’s why we urge the USFWS to follow the law and not show any special favors to this trophy hunter who has disgraced our nation and disappointed so many of us with his actions. Our laws should apply equally to every American, regardless of wealth, influence, political connections or name.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

The Next Yellowstone: A Hunter’s Paradise

  OCT 23, 2019

In northeastern Montana, a controversial group of millionaires and billionaires is trying to build a privately-funded national park. The group is purchasing ranches, phasing out the cattle, and opening the land up to genetically pure bison and other wildlife.

It’s called American Prairie Reserve. But as we’ve heard in our series, “The Next Yellowstone,” most long-time locals are bitterly opposed to the idea. Still, there are some supporters.

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Listen to the full documentary here.

PARTS: How Big Money Is Building A New Kind Of National Park | A Privately-Funded Park For The People | Save The Cowboy, Stop The American Prairie Reserve |  A Hunter’s Paradise | The Bison Is A Symbol Of God

I find myself in Justin Schaaf’s black Toyota Tundra heading down a two-track dirt road. Schaaf, 27, looks like a high school linebacker. His head is shaved and he’s wearing cargo pants. He’s taking me to one of his favorite hunting spots. While he works as a train conductor for the local railroad, his passion is hunting.

“If I’m not hunting I’m thinking about hunting and planning hunts, and when I’m sitting in the motel for work or when I’m sitting at home in the recliner I’m looking at maps, looking at Google Earth,” he says.

He’s always trying to find the perfect place to hunt.

As the road peters out, Schaaf pulls over. We grab some water and begin hiking in. It’s not big game hunting season yet, so we’re just scouting.

“We’re hoping to see some elk. Definitely some bighorn sheep. I have seen some pretty good mule deer in here,” he says.

We climb over sweet clover and sagebrush. This seems like an easy place to get lost but I’m not worried because Schaaf has lived in eastern Montana all his life. His great-great grandparents homesteaded just a few miles south of here near the Musselshell River. They lasted about 40 years before quitting and heading into town.

“They didn’t have enough land to support the ranching that you need and I don’t think the farming was cutting it at all,” he says.

It was a fate suffered by a lot of homesteaders out here. They couldn’t produce enough food or money to survive. As eastern Montana’s population continues to decline, Schaaf thinks it’s time to try something different.

“Is a little shot of tourism, capitalizing on hunter dollars, bringing more hunters into this area, will that make the difference?” he asks.

He thinks it might. After all, Schaaf is a young guy who stayed in eastern Montana precisely because of this wild country in his backyard.

“I can make more money in other places but it’s the outdoors, being able to pull my pickup up here and not talk to anyone and go for a hike all day long, that keeps me here,” he says. “Opportunity to just roam, I think, is enticing to young people.”

So-called rural recreation counties are growing faster than counties that don’t have a lot of hiking, hunting and fishing opportunities, according to the non-profit Headwaters Economics.

And here’s an important point: unlike a traditional national park, American Prairie Reserve allows hunting.

We don’t spot any wild bison. They’re mostly confined to privately-owned reserve lands north of us. But we do see a big herd of elk, about 45 cows and calves.

“That’s a crapload of elk,” Schaaf says.

It’s getting hot and the hike is grueling. We stumble up steep ravines and past stands of ponderosa pine. Schaaf says he understands that American Prairie Reserve is funded by rich people, some who made millions helping finance industries that degrade the environment.

“I do worry where that money comes from,” he says. But dirty money doesn’t just come from the private sector. He points to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that takes royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling and pumps it back into parks and public lands.

“It’s helped my kid’s playground and it’s provided hunting opportunities for me,” Schaaf says.

More: https://www.kunc.org/post/next-yellowstone-hunters-paradise#stream/0

Zimbabwe slates proposed US anti-trophy hunting law

by Staff reporter
7 hrs ago | 157 Views
Trump’s sons
GOVERNMENT is disturbed by moves by the United States to frustrate wildlife trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and is engaging Washington over the matter, a senior official said yesterday.

The United States is in the process of promulgating an anti-trophy hunting law called ‘Cecil Act’ purportedly inspired by the killing of Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park by an American millionaire dentist, Walter Palmer, in 2015. The killing of the globally famous lion sparked worldwide outrage.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr Munesu Munodawafa, revealed Government’s frustrations at Matopo National Park during the launch of the country’s Rapid Response Guide (RRG) toolkit on wildlife crimes yesterday.

A local non-governmental organisation that advocates for protection of animals, Speak for Animals, spearheaded the formulation of the toolkit with the involvement of stakeholders in various Government departments.

Mr Munodawafa said the US congress recently invited Government to make its presentation on the proposed law and Harare is still negotiating with Washington to understand its implications.

“The background of the law is that there was a lion called Cecil which was shot in Hwange National Park under circumstances that are well documented. Now what has since happened is that the American government is coming up with what they call the Cecil Act. The long and short of what is happening is that they are saying we need to protect certain species and for that to happen the effect of the law will be to prohibit the movement of trophies to America whether by airplanes going to America or even to prohibit the American hunters from coming here. That would be the effect of that law,” he said.

Mr Munodawafa said Zimbabwe’s tourism industry thrives on wildlife conservancy and the proposed law would negatively affect conservation efforts. He said the country benefits from controlled trophy hunts as revenues generated are used for anti-poaching mechanisms. Mr Munodawafa said if the Cecil Act sails through, the country would regress on progress it has made in fighting wildlife crimes as Government cannot fund conservation efforts from its coffers.

“On average the operational budget, just the operational budget for national parks, is plus or minus US$30 million and that money has been coming in from various activities like sport hunting. That is why we even fight the issue of the ban on ivory trade. If you look at it, ivory has been banned, trading in live elephants has effectively been banned, now they are moving to cut off trophies for buffaloes, for lions, for anything they are closing all the sources of revenue,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, acting deputy Prosecutor General Mr Innocent Mutsonziwa said it was curious that the Cecil law is being crafted after an American sparked global outrage by killing the famous lion.

“The law which is being crafted to deprive Zimbabwe and other African countries of benefiting from their wildlife is coming from the same country where that person (who killed Cecil) came from. So, as a thinker you must think big and say what was the plan. Was it just a coincidence or it was a well-planned thing that we do this and after so many years then we tie this country down so that it doesn’t develop? It can’t use its resources. These are things that those with huge imaginations should think about,” said Mr Mutsonziwa.

President Mnangagwa recently revealed that the country is considering pulling out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as it prevents Zimbabwe from benefiting from ivory stocks worth US$600 million.

https://bulawayo24.com/index-id-news-sc-national-byo-171789.html