In Zambia, the reopening of those 19 closed concessions remains stalled. You’ll recall the ministry wanted wildlife population surveys before moving forward with the hunting allocations. Those surveys were conducted this past November, during the wet season when it is most difficult to spot game. I spoke with someone in direct contact with the pilots on those aerial counts. While it was difficult to see game, the trend is clear, he says. Pilots reported flying for two to three hours at a time without seeing much until they were over the national parks. Game numbers are way down in those closed concessions.
In addition to that, the corruption investigation that Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo launched into the allocations done in December 2012 has concluded. The results had not been officially released when I spoke with sources at the Safari Club International convention in February.
The standoff has put the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in a bit of a pickle. They have completed both the surveys and the investigation, which the minister and others said they needed in order to reopen those hunting concessions. If they declare there was corruption, they have to expose the guilty, chance the consequences and conduct new allocations. If they deny finding any wrong doing, then the Minister loses face politically and ZAWA must allow the allocations to stand. Otherwise the operators who won those allocations will sue ZAWA for not releasing them. Of course, the minister herself is now under investigation for corruption. The results of that may determine how ZAWA moves forward.
No matter what the outcome, the biggest loser here is the wildlife of Zambia. The one thing everyone agrees on is that the poaching in the closed concessions is out of control. If and when the areas reopen, operators will have a rough time making any money on safaris there while getting the areas back in shape.
In the meantime, hunting in Zambia continues in the other seven concessions that were not part of the recent reallocations. I listed those and a number of fenced operations last March in Hunting Report. There are also great hunting opportunities on a number of game ranches I have reported on as well.
Author: Barbara Crown (Courtesy: The Hunting Report)