Somebody needs to direct Hon. Jean Kapata minister of tourism and arts to the Discovery and Animal Planet channels. According to the Daily Mail Newspaper last week, she just lifted the ban on the hunting of the cats in our national parks. This means that lions and leopards now have their days numbered. It is baffling how such a decision can be made. Does the minister have some information that the rest of the wildlife conservationists do not have, this might be a right time to share it.
The minister has stated that the reason for lifting the ban is because of lost profit during the ban that was enforced in 2013 by then minister of tourism and arts Slyvia Masebo. Hon. Kapata claims that it was due to weak regulation, so we must now presume that this weak regulation has been rectified but she did not tell us how. The minister further went on claim that the profits from the trophy hunting would bring profits to help with conservation and help the rural people with their livelihoods. Really. Once again the minister did not tell us how. Say we are to believe her argument that it would indeed bring in profits, how much profits are actually brought in and what benefits to the rural areas does it bring. Employing two or five tour guides does not warrant it to be called development.
The government is on an agenda to diversify the economy, but we should not do it at the expense of unsustainable means. This situation is a clear indication of short sightedness on the part of the minister. The numbers of the big cats all around Africa are diminishing and here we are fuelling people's hobbies of killing lions and leopards for the thrill of it. What do we get in exchange for supporting this hobby? According to the World Lions Day website, in 1975 the lion population stood at 250,000 and today it is between 25-30,000 on the continent of Africa. Lions are extinct in Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Malawi. We might as well be adding Zambia to that list soon. The numbers have been dwindling by the year. In case the minister has forgotten, tourists come to see lions in Zambia, soon there will be a situation where they will be struggling to even find any lions, or leopards to see. She also did mention that she would allow the killing to reasonable numbers, now who is to determine what is reasonable in the first place. Is it 10, 100, or 1000. One person's definition of reasonable may be different from another person. If the other argument is that we have too many cats in our national parks why not export them instead of killing them. Hey, if someone can be championing the legalising of marijuana for export, we could at least consider getting into the export of lions and leopards.
Another issue worth considering is that what message are we sending to the local people who are constantly told, "No poaching". They are told not to kill the elephants and the rhinos. But what are they to make of it when they see someone coming from Europe and taking an aim at the lions and leopards. How do you explain to them that you cannot kill the animals, but people from outside Zambia can. And yet these are the local people who have the right to the land. This is also likely to defeat the efforts made towards protecting endangered species.
The decision made by the minister is one that should be reversed immediately. It is a shame and a disappointment in this time that we are failing to protect the resources that we have. Tourism has a significant potential for economic growth, but here we are wanting to kill whatever potential that exists. My great, great grand children should also have a chance to see the lions and leopards. If the minister believes that their too many in our parks, she should give them away to Zoos and other countries, I am sure they would gladly accept the offer. Just because some tour operators are complaining that they are losing business does not mean we should bow to their cries.