Open Letter to Zimbabwe Ministry of Tourism
We read with interest the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is mulling implementation of a Command Tourism scheme as a way of increasing earnings from the sector. “The command model has already been successfully implemented in the agricultural sector with the country expecting about 2.7 million tonnes of maize this year.”
Tourists are not maize.
But what does “command” our attention is the Zimbabwe government’s view of wildlife as commodities. Since the killing of Cecil, world attention has turned to what happens behind the scenes in your beautiful country, and to its wild populations. We are appalled not only by the unethical, gratuitous killing, but also the ongoing capture of wild elephants and lions and other species for sale to China zoos.
‘Tourists Against Trophy Hunting ‘ (TATH) is a new international coalition that represents the growing opposition of tourists worldwide to the senseless killing of endangered wildlife. Our numbers include conservationists, ecologists, travelers, travel agents, writers, and bloggers; they represent via social media audiences many thousands of people. Tourism is a billion dollar business, and tourists are increasingly wanting to know the status of endangered wildlife protection in the countries they visit.
We are aware through our sources in Zimbabwe that the elephant and lion capture is ongoing, underway now, with 80 more elephants to be caught, and that as recently as this week so-called ‘problem’ lions are being darted and moved to Mchibi, the National Parks holding pens at Main Camp Hwange.
The important issue, according to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority website, is not about managing ‘individual’ animals when dealing with locally overabundant species. The focus is on managing populations, species and functioning ecosystems. The question that should come to mind is “Are protected areas being managed?” Our answer is no, and individuals do matter, and there can be no “overpopulation” of species who are at risk of extinction. The answer to regional human-caused “overpopulation,” if it exists, is not death by any means or sale to zoos, which is simply another kind of death. ‘Problem’ animals can be managed by nonlethal means, the first resort is not to kill or capture. Your government says it needs to raise funds for conservation. But there is no proof whatsoever and much reason to doubt the money raised goes back into conservation.
The export of wild-born elephants and lions and other wildlife to China as a debt-settling plan is unacceptable to tourists. We are appalled that wildlife we might enjoy on safari at your ecotourism lodges could well become live exhibits in zoos, as well as victims of unscrupulous trophy hunters. Chinese zoos have shameful welfare records. Wild born animals are broken by cruel methods and made to perform circus stunts.
Back to “Command Tourism”….Speaking to journalists recently, ZTA chief executive officer, Dr Karikoga Kaseke, said the tourism sector was ripe for the implementation of Command Tourism.
“I am very serious about Command Tourism. We have heard lots of complaints about the things that affect tourism but if we have Command Tourism these things will be stopped and it must be commanded from the highest office of the President.”
We can agree that things that adversely affect tourism must be stopped. Until they are, we will continue to ensure tourists are well informed as they make their destination choices. We are not interested in a pseudo Disneyland in your country, we are interested in the protection of iconic wildlife….in the wild.
Tourists Against Trophy Hunting