Last month, I explained how Zambia's Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo canceled the reallocation of 19 prime hunting areas in that country and closed all lion and cat hunting there. Our February issue went to press before the Safari Club International Convention started on January 23, so I was not able to report about the minister's visit there. Needless to say, she was in high demand, going from one meeting to the next with various SCI officials, conservation committee members, those involved in lion projects and research, safari operators and more. During the convention, the minister spoke to a gathering of more than 200 international conservationists to explain her vision for sustainable-use conservation and ensure everyone that her intention was not to ban hunting in Zambia. Later, SCI President John Whipple announced that Masebo is committed to collaborating with SCI and the hunting community to conduct the necessary scientific research needed for Zambia's big game species, and that SCI is committing "hundreds of thousands of dollars" toward those efforts. (See the SCI press release on this posted to our website under Website Uploads.)
Whenever Masebo was not in meetings, she was on the SCI show floor visiting Zambian operators. I spoke with a number of people who met with her. Overall, those I spoke with believe the minister is sincere in her efforts, just uneducated about the hunting industry, wildlife management and conservation overall. Some believe she has been misinformed and intentionally mislead by at least one of her advisors, who is supposedly an anti-hunter. During her visit, the minister expressed how surprised and pleased she was to find so many people who know and care so much about her country and its wildlife. While all are not convinced her intentions will benefit the hunting community or even conservation, most I spoke with are at least cautiously optimistic. The new ZAWA board includes at least one person with a long-term history in Zambia's hunting and wildlife industries. It simply remains to be seen if Minister Masebo comes through with her promises. Stay tuned for updates as things develop.