LUSAKA (June 20, 2005) -- Zambia is to reopen elephant hunting for the first time since it was closed in 1982.

Elephant licences will be issued in two wildlife management areas -- Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa -- for 20 trophy elephants. No date has yet been set for the first licences to be issued, but a position paper issued by the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) indicates the plans are completely in place, from the exact hunting areas, to sharing of revenue, to arrangements for meeting CITES requirements.

Zambia’s elephant population now stands at between 22,000 and 25,000 animals, mostly concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

Elephant hunting was closed in 1982 in response to a drastic decline in numbers, mostly due to poaching. All commercial trade in ivory and elephant parts ceased in 1989, when the elephant was placed on CITES Appendix 1.

Since then, the elephant herd has bounced back and the animals are now found in healthy numbers -- so much so that they have become a threat to both crops and human life in some areas. Reopening elephant hunting, with the attendant revenues, will not only help compensate rural people for the damage and threats, but also give them an incentive to conserve elephants and share meagre resources with them.

Currently there is no government compensation program to reimburse villagers who lose crops, or families whose members are killed. This year, elephants have been responsible for 60 per cent of the problem-animal incidents in Zambia. This situation mirrors Zimbabwe and Botswana, where elephant numbers are mushrooming.

ZAWA has placed a limit of 40 tusks (20 animals) for sport hunters. Right now, a prime trophy elephant in Tanzania or Botswana can generate more than US$60,000 in trophy fees, ivory tax, daily safari rates, licences, and so on. Zambia already has a binding benefit-sharing arrangement for the proceeds of sport hunting, which is expected to apply to elephant hunting. Under the system, direct animal fees are shared between ZAWA and the local community. The elephant meat will be given to the local people.