Yes. Zimbabwe! Since the Cecil Safari event in August of 2017 was announced, we have had an amazing response. There are still a few openings for those lucky enough to be able to join us.
In addition to the enthusiastic responses we’ve received to providing the opportunity to visit Cecil’s territory, see his pride and the other magnificent game at Hwange National Park, we’ve had a number of Community members question our decision to go to Zimbabwe.
After all, we’ve heard (i) the government there is corrupt, (ii) they do little to protect their own threatened and endangered species and in fact sell them to be shipped abroad, (iii) hunting is a significant part of the economy surrounding Hwange and (iv) they let both Palmer and Bronkhorst get away with killing Cecil.
All true. Very regretfully true.
So what, you might ask, would make us return to Zimbabwe and invite others to join us? Why would we promote tourism to a country with such a dismal record in animal welfare? How could we encourage travel there?
We are happy to have the chance to address these questions, as our return is the direct result of all of the above truths. Our return to Zimbabwe is simply because the alternative is to surrender it to the hunters and the money they bring. And we are not willing to do that. So let’s address these truths one by one.
- Support of the government in Zimbabwe will consist of the $35.00 to get your visa at the immigration point of entry. $35.00… We cannot ignore the dismal record of Zimbabwe’s government, and we do not support their treatment of their animals, but we cannot influence their government or understand the challenges we face there without spending more time speaking with and learning from the people who live with the issues we are trying to solve. And so we return… with $35.00 in hand.
- While we would all agree that supporting repressive regimes with horrible records on human rights and animal welfare is something we should all avoid, all we have to do is turn objects in our home upside down and count how frequently we purchase goods that are made in and support the economy of China. No country imports more wildlife from Zimbabwe for is captive viewing, circuses, private-ownership, caged life existence than China. While few of us avoid purchasing anything from China in protest of its government, many suggest we should avoid providing jobs and livings through tourism to the very people in Zimbabwe who need it most. So we are not going to Zimbabwe to support Mugabe, we are going to support the dozens of hard working people there who are dedicated to photo tourism and the preservation of the animals that allow them to earn a living. And the more of us who go for that purpose, the less they must rely on hunters. So, yes. Zimbabwe.
- More importantly, when the government took the farms around Hwange from the farmers and gave the land to their cronies, many of the major employment sources in the region disappeared. When you force people to make a living supporting the hunters who come there, that is how they will make their living. If the tourists stay away, the hunting business will, and has, flourished there. It’s why Palmer visited multiple times. Botswana, Kenya, and Costa Rica all realized that a tourist economy will dwarf a hunting economy and all have banned hunting to encourage the development of tourism. Their tourism funds the conservation and anti-poaching efforts in those countries and brings in far greater revenue than hunting ever did, or will. This took time but without the tourists, none of this would have happened. And without tourists, it will never happen in Zimbabwe. So yes. Zimbabwe.
- When the news of Cecil’s death broke, we believed that Palmer and Bronkhorst would not be held accountable, we expected that they would walk. Many criticized us for not expending efforts to try to bring them to justice. Our belief then, as it is now was “F*@^ Palmer and F*@^ Bronkhorst”. Cecil would be given justice through the movement his killing created, uniting longtime animal advocates with those new to the cause who could collectively bring greater energy to animal welfare. We kept the Cecil Facebook and Cecil Web pages as positive gathering places to force change. And change is being forced. Sometimes the changes are found in one simple moment.
One simple moment….
One moment continues to come back to us as we recall our flight back from South Africa. We were looking at the photos we had taken of Cecil while in Zimbabwe and at the very same moment a man in the seat directly in front of us was showing off his photos of a lion he had shot on a farm in South Africa. Cecil, still alive at that time and a dead lion all captured in the very same moment. And why is this particular moment striking to us?
Because that man can no longer bring his “trophy” home on that plane.
Because that man can no longer bring his “trophy” back into the United States.
And why is that? Because THIS Community banded together with others and through joint positive encouragement and directed action, helped cause all of the major US airlines to ban the carrying of trophy kills. And then the US Department of Fish and Wildlife banned the import of lions killed in canned hunting or captive breeding farms. So when we/you return from Africa this time, it will be with the incredible satisfaction of knowing that we/you will not be flying with dead lions. Because of what YOU and others did to protect Africa’s threatened and endangered wildlife. Because you not only demanded change – YOU acted on that demand.
Change is happening. And we want to learn how to accelerate it where it is needed most. In Zimbabwe. The greatest challenge is in Zimbabwe.
We, and you if you are joining us, will be meeting with the guides, the anti-poaching units, the conservation groups and anyone else with whom we can arrange to meet prior to our arrival to learn more, and more in-depth about what needs to be done to develop a tourist economy. To help Zimbabwe look at its animals as more than an expendable commodity. To see that shooting photos can provide far greater revenue than shooting lions, elephant, and rhinos. To bring to this Community the best information and actions we can take continuing to work with others. To create more and greater successes. To come home more dedicated than ever to succeed. And… to see the amazing array of spectacular wildlife in Hwange on incredible game drives. In Zimbabwe. Where Cecil’s pride still roams.
So yes, absolutely yes! Zimbabwe!! This time, with a mission. Hope you can join us.