Occasional elephant hunting has long been carried out in Zimbabwe. The USA will not allow the import of trophies from Zimbabwe elephant hunts as their community conservation is not at an acceptable level.

The original concept of hunting and community involvement was the brainchild of Graham Child, a ranger and senior official in the Rhodesian National Parks and wildlife. Initially very successful, many of the operations fell into disrepair after the invasion of farms and conservancies. Poaching has seen a huge spike, and the communities involved are no longer seeing the returns that they were getting in the 1990's.

The idea of the project was that local communities could own the wildlife on their land and could sell safaris and hunts. This would generate income to the community and place a value on the wildlife.

By placing a value on wildlife, it was hoped that poaching would be discouraged.

In a telephonic interview, the United States Secretary of the Interior said that the USA feels the government of Zimbabwe is not putting “sufficient measures in place” for the conservation of the country’s wildlife in communal areas. She went on to say that they acknowledge that human-animal conflict can be a problem for rural communities and that hunting can bring in revenue for those communities. However, more needs to be done to see that the profits from elephant trophy hunting go back to the communities affected by the animals.

The USA government and natural resources authorities have been working closely with Zimbabwe to work toward a long-term method that will conserve wildlife and see communities benefitting from their natural resources.

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The USA has a “responsibility," says Robert Dreher of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to “ensure” the endangered species are managed in a sustainable manner.

The country of Namibia was held up as an example of the type of effective community management the USA wants to see before they lift any bans on the importation of elephant trophies. Namibia has been working with the WWF to see that communities have rights over their wildlife resources. They are then able to ensure that income is fairly distributed.   

Wildlife in much of Namibia is now a valued commodity rather than a human-wildlife conflict situation. Communities are protecting their own financial futures, so they work together to protect their wildlife from poachers and land mismanagement.