Safari operators in Zimbabwe tell us our recent call to take a wait-and-see attitude toward 2002 safaris to that country has caused great concern among booked clients, and they asked us to send you an opposing statement from George Pangeti, head of the Zimbabwe Association of Tourist and Safari Operators (firstname.lastname@example.org). We do that willingly for our many friends in Zimbabwe, and we urge you to read the message carefully:
Message From Zimbabwean Safari Operators and PH's
To Subscribers of The Hunting Report
"It is very important to understand that the common perception of 'hunting concessions' in Zimbabwe is complicated. Safari hunting takes place on two main and very different categories of land: 'Big Game Areas,' which are primarily state-owned land; and 'Ranch Areas,' which are primarily privately owned.
"The big game areas are comprised of Department of National Parks Wildlife Safari Areas, such as the Chewore S.A., Chirisa S.A. and Matetsi S.A. units; state forest areas, including Ngamo Forest Area, Kazuma Forest Area and other state lands; and communal lands/CAMPFIRE Areas, which cover Omay C.L., Dande C.L. and Tsholotsho C.L.
"These areas have never been affected by political events. Indeed, the local people literally love having hunters in their area, because they bring much needed meat, cash and jobs. Hunters here are welcomed by waving, smiling and laughing local people.
"As for ranch areas, these are primarily lands owned by private individuals, multinational corporations and government parastatals. Many of these are grouped together in large conservancies; others stand on their own as hunting areas. Of the privately-owned lands where safari hunting is undertaken, huge tracts are totally unaffected by the political situation.
"During 2000 and 2001 more than 2,500 successful hunting safaris were conducted in Zimbabwe without being affected in the slightest by Zimbabwe's political situation. Indeed The Hunting Report was flooded with over 100 very positive subscriber reports by happy returning hunters.
"The US State Department recommendations on Zimbabwe are clear, and we concur with them - stay away from political gatherings, avoid occupied farms deemed to be unsafe and avoid traveling around on your own.
Politically motivated violence happens at political gatherings, but this occurs mostly in urban townships and possibly downtown areas or on occupied farms deemed to be unsafe. Safari hunters need not be any part of this. Typically a hunting client lands at one of the international airports, such as Victoria Falls and is transferred out to his hunting camp in the bush within a few hours of landing. Once his hunt is completed the reverse happens.
"It is extremely important to be objective about the undeniable violence that has accompanied Zimbabwe's political crisis. To put things in perspective, in South Africa, which is Africa's largest hunting destination, several hundred farmers have been murdered by thugs. Many South American countries frequented by international sportsmen have been racked by violence for many years now. In fact, the safety of air travel in the US is now an international concern. However, we all continue to visit the US by air.
"Our advice to booked and prospective clients is as follows: Book your safari with reliable, registered safari operators and professional hunters with a proven track record and who are members of both the Zimbabwe Association of Tour and Safari Operators and the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association. If you are booked into a Zimbabwean 'Big Game Area' do not worry at all; the likelihood of you or your safari being affected by violence is as unlikely as anywhere else in southern Africa.
"If you are booked onto a Zimbabwean "Ranch Area" make sure you have a clear understanding from your operator about the status of the area and an understanding that you will be informed if that status changes and what the alternative plan is as to reorganizing the hunt and/or refunding monies paid.
"Finally, and this applies to hunters going into any part of Africa today, hunting clients and their safari operators should be in close communication right up to the point of the hunter's departure from home.
"In conclusion, in hunting areas all over Zimbabwe right now, there are thousands of buffalo bulls, elephants, leopards, lions and all the array of plains game that occur there. The continued survival of the wildlife populations that produce them and their long-term protection relies heavily on the income generated by the safari hunters coming in this year. Their collapse would be a disaster for the international hunter and a black mark on the hunting fraternity's commitment to conservation.
"For further information or clarification, do not hesitate to contact Zimbabwe Association of Tour Operators and Safari Operators, Box 7240, Harare, Zimbabwe. Tel. 011-263-4-708878. Fax: 011-263-4-702484. E-mail: email@example.com." - George Pangeti, Chief Executive
(Postscript: With all due respect to Pangeti and the many professionals in his organization, here at The Hunting Report we reluctantly feel we should repeat our call to hold back on full payment for 2002 safaris to Zimbabwe until after the presidential election in early March - or until such time as a peaceful outcome of that election appears more likely. Our concern is what happens in Zimbabwe if the outcome of the upcoming election is not acceptable to the majority of Zimbabweans, and right now that appears to be what is going to happen. We think there is a distinct chance that Zimbabwe is not going to be huntable, or governable, in the near future, and we would not be loyal to our subscribers if we didn't say what we really think.
All of that said, devoted conservationists who hunt and who love Zimbabwe as much as we do, may want to make good-faith deposits toward their 2002 safaris, fully aware it could be years before the country is fully huntable again. With that, we will let subscribers make their own tough decisions about how much they are willing to bet on Zimbabwe's ability to pull through this crisis. Our heart goes out to everyone in that torn land. - Don Causey.)
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