By Ray Ndlovu
Zimbabwe’s hunting industry expects to attract more visitors this year than before the coronavirus pandemic, even as the war in Ukraine and other economic challenges weigh on numbers.
The hunting season, currently underway, is experiencing “exponential growth” from traditional markets including the US, says Emmanuel Fundira, president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe. Revenues are forecast to be 15% higher this year than the US$100 million earned before the pandemic, Fundira said.
The bounce back will help the industry recover from the freezing of global travel in 2020 as governments shut down borders to contain the virus. The lack of revenue made it difficult to sustain wilderness areas, villages and animals.
Hunting is expecting to lure 10% to 15% more people in 2022 than three years ago, even as travel from central and eastern Europe has dried up, according to Fundira. If the Ukraine conflict becomes even more protracted there may be further declines, he said.
To protect against future disruptions, the industry is working closely with tour operators to provide charter and private-air transport for “high-end clients,” Fundira said.
Zimbabwe offers hunts for animals including elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard. In addition to paying for the license to track them down, tourists pay professional hunters to guide them and have their trophies treated by taxidermists and exported home.
Elephants make up the bulk of the nation’s hunting licenses, of which 500 are available this year, according to Tinashe Farawo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. They cost US$10,000 each.