FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 13, 2014
Washington, D.C. – This week, Charles Jonga, Director of the Community Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) in Zimbabwe came to Washington as a guest of the SCI Foundation. He discussed the necessity of community involvement in wildlife management before the Presidential Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking (Advisory Council) and shared how hunting is an integral source of funding for CAMPFIRE programs. Additionally, Director Jonga addressed over 150 U.S. Congressional staffers at the International Conservation Caucus Foundation to inform policy makers on CAMPFIRE’s anti-poaching efforts, and to demonstrate the negative impacts created by the recent U.S. ban of elephant imports.
“The CAMPFIRE program benefits over 750,000 households across Zimbabwe. I was very thankful for the opportunity to speak, so that I could articulate just how severe an impact would occur if U.S. government policies continue to undermine our funding base,” Jonga said. “Organizations such as CAMPFIRE rely on American hunters as a primary revenue source to fund anti-poaching programs. The current ban will severely cut CAMPFIRE’s budget and our ability to protect elephants.”
During his visit, Director Jonga presented detailed the successes of CAMPFIRE as a community-based management program. He highlighted CAMPFIRE’s successful community engagement in the fight against poaching. He also noted that communities are incentivized to protect their wildlife when wildlife has an economic value to the community.
Director Jonga’s visit to Washington, D.C. came in response to an abrupt and arbitrary regulatory ban taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). On April 4, the FWS announced — without any prior consultation with Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Authority — that all sport-hunted elephant imports to the U.S. would be banned. The FWS decision has financially crippled wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe. An average of 90% of CAMPFIRE’s annual revenue comes from hunting, with elephant hunting contributing more than 70% of their resources. On average, $1.2 million paid by hunters per year directly benefits local communities. Further, hunting stimulates tourism in rural communities providing employment that otherwise does not exist. Director Jonga explained that the FWS’s ban does nothing to stop poaching, but undercuts conservation initiatives that are already underway.
“CAMPFIRE is a great example of a program that creates incentives for people to conserve their own wildlife. The rural people of Zimbabwe are protecting their elephants because their elephants have value. Revenue generated by elephant hunting provides people with basic needs like clean water, school supplies and clinics. People see elephants in a positive way, despite human-elephant conflict,” SCI Foundation Deputy Director of Conservation, Matt Eckert said. “Charles Jonga is correct – the elephant import ban counteracts the United States’ efforts to promote community-based conservation and anti-poaching in Zimbabwe. If the ban is not lifted, we are concerned that rural Zimbabweans will have no incentives to tolerate elephants. We hope the FWS fully realizes what the ban means for the future of elephants in Zimbabwe and reconsiders their importation ban.”
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CAMPFIRE is a program that combines local communities in Zimbabwe and hunters for the benefit and conservation of wildlife in the area, including elephants. Through the program, local communities are encouraged to conserve and manage wildlife species so that hunters may sustainably harvest the animals. In return, the communities receive economic benefits from sport hunting.