A country is set to begin selling the rights to shoot endangered elephants to replace tourism revenue lost from the pandemic.
Zimbabwe will start selling off the rights to hunt hundreds of its elephants every year, the country announced this week.
The move to allow as many as 500 elephants to be shot will begin “soon”, according to CNN.
The right to shoot an endangered elephant will cost up to $US70,000 ($A90,530) per animal, Bloomberg reports.
Tinashe Farawo, from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, said a decline in tourism revenue brought on from the coronavirus pandemic led to the decision.
It comes just one month after the African forest elephant was declared critically endangered, and the African savanna elephant was declared endangered.
”We eat what we kill,” said Farawo. “We have a budget of about $25 million for our operations which is raised – partly – through sports hunting, but you know tourism is as good as dead at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
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The move has been criticised by environmental advocates who say the wildlife authorities should look to eco-friendly measures to raise funds.
Simiso Mlevu from the Center for Natural Resource Governance, a Zimbabwe-based environmental and human rights advocacy group, called the decision “appalling”.
“We strongly condemn trophy hunting – a practice that agitates wild animals and escalates human-wild life conflicts,” said Mlevu.
“It is almost certain that surviving families of wildlife families that witness the senseless gunning down of their family members mete out vengeance on the hapless local villagers.
“Contrary to government arguments that trophy hunting is meant to assist with conservation, the practice is motivated by greed and often the money is not even accounted for.
“There is a need for more innovative and eco-friendly measures to improve revenue generation from photo safaris and tourism in general.”
Zimbabwe is not the first to put wild elephant hunts up for sale.
Namibia sold 170 elephants considered “high value” during a drought period in December 2020, citing an increase in numbers of the large mammal.
The country said the rise in numbers of the critically endangered species was posing a risk to people.