HARARE – Government is maintaining a stringent policy regime against bow hunting, despite spirited efforts by safari operators to relax the terms in the wake of booming clientele interest, especially from the American market.
Safari operators — who argue the activity is a multi-million dollar business, with capacity earn the country at $5 million per month — are lobbying for a removal of the bow hunting ban on a wide range of wildlife species, including the buffalo, which was imposed by government two years ago following the slaying of famous Cecil the lion by American bow hunter, Charles Palmer.
The killing triggered a global outrage from animal rights groups and conservationists.
Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe president, Emmanuel Fundira, said government must relax the regulations, arguing it would unlock revenue streams, especially at a time the country desperately needs foreign currency.
“Bow hunting is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and Zimbabwe stands to benefit from this as one of the top hunting destinations in Africa, especially if South Africa has now stopped the bow hunting,” Fundira said.
“An issue to consider is the major advancement in bow hunting equipment with hugely improved technology. Today a 31,7kg bow is generating the equivalent energy of a 9 040,8kg bow which was previously being used.
“Since the beginning of the bow hunting trials in Zimbabwe, significant improvements in the technology of the modern bows and arrows has superseded the regulations and these should be updated and this has the potential to bring in at least $5 million in revenue annually,” he said.
American bow hunters are stalking Zimbabwe after South Africa succumbed to pressure from animal rights groups and conservationists to ban the sport.
The sport borrows from ancient forms of hunting game using the bow and arrow.
The groups are arguing that killing game for thrill is cruel due to the suffering animals are subjected to after being shot by arrows.
Although bow hunting is permitted on certain species only found in private safari areas, no person is allowed to hunt crocodiles, rhinoceros, buffaloes, hippopotamus and elephant using a bow and arrow anywhere in Zimbabwe in terms of Parks and Wild Life (General Amendment) Act of 1999.
The law also bans bow hunting on national parks and places tough specifications on the sport practiced in private wildlife sanctuaries.
There are also rigid specifications regarding certain species for which bow hunting is permitted.
Government’s wildlife regulator, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) said there won’t be any policy shift regardless of how much was on offer.
Zimparks spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo, said Zimbabwe’s tough position was informed by experimental harvesting of wildlife trophies in Zimbabwe using bow and arrow which was carried in the 1990s until its banning following an outcry from animal rights groups and conservationists in 2010.
“Pieces of legislation were enacted to help the management and monitoring of these hunts. The use of bow and arrow for hunting on private and communal lands in Zimbabwe was legalised by Parks and Wild Life (General Amendment) Act of 1999. The experimental use of bow and arrow on big game hunts such as buffalo, elephant and leopard started in the late 2000s on private and communal land as well and this came to an end in 2010.
“After the conclusion of the experimental use of bow and arrow on hunting, Zimparks commissioned technical experts to assess whether the methods had been beneficial or detrimental to wildlife management in Zimbabwe where it received complaints from individuals and organisations that were opposed to the hunting of big and dangerous game using bow and arrow.
“The argument was that such hunts were cruel and inhumane methods of harvesting because a kill could not be made with one shot in most instances.
“The success of experimental hunts was questionable because when using a bow and arrow the hunter needs to be extremely close and to be well experienced if the animal is not to be wounded.
“Zimparks evaluated the experimental bow and arrow hunting method decided to stop this method in big game hunting. The bow and arrow will continue to be used for those animals that are prescribed in terms of Zimbabwean legislation,” said Farawo.
The same legislation also specifies the types of bows and arrows that are supposed to be used for each category of animals that are approved.
It specifies that hunts for lion, eland and giraffe, shall use a bow with a draw weight of not less than 35kgs and an arrow weighing not less than 45kgs, with a permitted broad head consisting of only two cutting edges and constructed of steel.
Bows and arrows that should be used for animals such as wildebeest, leopard, hyena, zebra, cheetah and kudu should weigh not less than 32kgs and 40kgs.
Farawo said: “Zimparks remains committed to the sustainable utilisation of wildlife for the socioeconomic development of Zimbabwe, including sport hunting when it is done within the specifications of the law.”
The tough stance has excited the world’s largest animal rights group, People’s Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), which said only tighter legislation would help protect animals and preserve biodiversity.
“The only thing that can block a trophy hunter’s bloodlust is the law, and public opinion is on the side of ending this barbaric blood sport. Bow hunting is one of the cruellest ways to kill. Animals impaled by an arrow-tipped metal rod experience great pain and lingering deaths, with many able to crawl away to die,” said Peta president, Ingrid Newkirk, in response sent via email from his base in New York, USA.