CAMPFIRE: Towards the Development of a New Elephant Management Plan and Policy
February 2015, Volume 13-1

In his welcome address George Pangetti of SCI noted that tourist hunting is critical for Zimbabwe and CAMPFIRE and highlighted the importance of updating Zimbabwe’s national elephant management plan in a way that it be internationally accepted.

Deputy Director of the Ministry of the Environment Tanyaradzwa Mundoga described that CAMPFIRE provides direct and indirect benefits to districts and local communities, including building projects and greater food security. He announced that the Ministry is planning to evaluate the CAMPFIRE program and will also look at successful CBNRM programs in Namibia for inspiration.

ZimParks’ principal ecologist identified threats to elephant conservation including: habitat loss, poaching, land use conflicts, human-wildlife conflicts, Zimbabwe’s large and costly ivory stockpile, and the US trophy import suspension.

Each district representative presented on CAMPFIRE performance, including revenue allocation, offtake from poaching and problem animal control (PAC), elephant quotas and utilization, as well as on the revenues generated primarily by tourist hunting (mainly elephant hunting) and distributed to communities and RDCs.

Notably, reported poaching levels were generally low to very low, with several districts reporting zero incidents. Districts located near Zimbabwe’s international borders, particularly the Mozambique border, reported higher levels of poaching and poisonings. Despite this, total poaching in CAMPFIRE areas averaged only 23 elephant/year. Approximately 50 elephant are taken annually as problem animals (PAC) – far lower than the average utilized hunting quota of 123 elephant/year. Quota utilization levels were surprisingly low in some districts and likely reasons for low utilization include declining trophy quality due to widespread poaching in neighboring countries, inefficient safari operators or local councils, and reduced numbers of tourist hunters as a result of the US trophy import suspension.

During the Mbire RDC presentation, Miles McCallum of Charlton McCallum Safaris gave a view of elephant hunting in a CAMPFIRE area. McCallum Safaris was one of the first safari operators to develop a joint venture with local communities. This model should be adopted in all CAMPFIRE areas so that local communities receive their fair share of tourist hunting income and play an active role in the sustainable use of wildlife. In 2013, McCallum Safaris paid over $349,215 to CAMPFIRE wards and the RDC. US elephant hunters contributed 40% of this total ($132,870). But in 2014, while a total of $400,995 was paid to wards and RDC, the contribution of US elephant hunters dropped to 27% ($100,800), hence total income from elephant hunting dropped to 32% ($118,425) of the total. McCallum mentioned the effect of high levels of poaching in Mozambique which lead to an observable trophy quality decline. He said that if elephant hunting is cut off completely, such as through an extended trophy import ban, elephant will not survive in CAMPFIRE areas. Poor rural communities will not tolerate crop damage, will lose their incentives to turn in poachers, may join poachers, and will have no reason not to clear fields in areas that are currently wildlife habitat.

Charles Jonga said CAMPFIRE will not survive if the US trophy import suspension continues. Although this was not the workshop’s focus, it was the “Elephant in the Room,” and he mentioned the suspension’s impact on CAMPFIRE for 2014, including a 45% increase in incidents of human-elephant conflict and a sizable decline (57%) in quota utilization due to canceled hunts.

The workshop identified a number of CAMPFIRE’s successes and concerns. The significance of CBNRM in Zimbabwe was reinforced and the continued need to encourage those who live with wildlife to protect it and use it sustainably for everyone’s benefit. CAMPFIRE should now address 3 pressing issues. The 2014 survey preliminary results show an elephant population of at least 82,000, which must be balanced with human population pressures. CAMPFIRE must ensure revenue from tourist hunting and other resource uses continues to flow down to local communities and households to keep the incentives for safeguarding wildlife and natural resources in place. CAMPFIRE faces these challenges with limited resources and capacity, especially while the trophy import suspension continues and must attract the assistance of USF&WS, other countries, international organizations, and NGOs. CAMPFIRE must make them realize they have a prime opportunity to “help CAMPFIRE help itself,” and keep CBNRM on track in Zimbabwe for the benefit of its wildlife and its people.

Author: Regina Lennox (edited by G R Damm –full report see Conservation Bulletin February 2015)