Poachers threaten viability of safari hunting industry

RAMPANT poaching activities in Matetsi area of Hwange District are threatening the viability of safari hunting industry, a leading safari operator has said.

In an interview with Business Chronicle safari operator, Mr Wisdom Bushe Neshavi said the upsurge in poaching cases is crippling safari hunting, which is already reeling under the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The effects of Covid-19 have impacted negatively on the tourism industry, particularly to game farmers like me. There has been no international flights, no clients and no income, subsequently leading to failure to pay salaries and service the farms,” he said.

Mr Neshavi said the situation has been worsened by increased poaching since outbreak of Covid-19.

“High unemployment has seen an increased number of people resorting to poaching. The ‘stay home’ call doesn’t work with poachers. Day and night they navigate their way into farms setting-up wire snares while others hunt with dogs,” he said.

It is estimated that each safari farm in Matetsi area has lost an average US$150 000 in potential revenue from hunting activities which have been affected by travel restrictions.

Mr Neshavi is the owner of Okatoie Safaris and Tours Private Limited. He is also a manager and advisor at four safari farms within the Matetsi area. The enterprising safari farmer is also the secretary of Matetsi A2

Commercial Farmers Association as well as treasurer of Matetsi Eastern Block Safaris.

Mr Nehavi said farmers in the area have come up with a voluntary anti-poaching programme.

“The response has been good and eleven learner professional hunter and guide students responded positively and have taken up a 14-day voluntary anti-poaching exercise, which they have since extended to 21 days,” he said.

The programme has become an added advantage to the students’ tutorials.

“These learner professional hunter and guide students also benefit from first-hand practical feel of the situation on the ground. Information shared during patrols include patrolling techniques, flora and fauna identification, clientele care, basic bush awareness, tracking and survival skills among others,” said Mr Neshavi.

The voluntary anti-poaching exercise began on the first week of this month.

“This is a pioneer project and it is already yielding positive results as we have removed more than 100 wire snares within a short space of time. However, funding such a programme entails numerous logistics. The volunteers are providing their own food and transport,” said Mr Neshavi.

He said their plan was to expand the programme to cover all A1 and A2 farms in the Matetsi area but were being constrained by lack of funding.–chronicles

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