In 1982 the Zambian Government (Zambian Wildlife Authority or ZAWA) closed elephant hunting due to concerns over population declines across southern Africa resulting from extensive ivory poaching. Continued poaching and the resultant decline in elephant populations across southern Africa resulted in the African elephant being classified as a CITES Appendix 1 species in 1989. As a result, elephant hunting remained closed in Zambia until 2005 when the Zambian Government was successful in obtaining an approved CITES quota of 20 elephant bulls from the Chiawa, Lupande and Rufunsa Game Management Areas (GMAs). At that time, the elephant herd in Zambia was estimated to be somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 animals. Unfortunately, elephant taken in Zambia between 2005 and 2010 were not importable into the United States under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the regulations adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or the Service) governing the importation of threatened and endangered species into the country.
During the 2011 SCI Convention in Reno, an announcement was made that Zambia, the Safari Club International Foundation and the USFWS had reached an agreement to allow the importation of up to 20 bull elephant into the US from Zambia in 2011 (and beyond on a year-by-year basis). However, considering that elephants in Zambia are still listed as a threatened or endangered species under Appendix I of CITES, the Service must first make an Enhancement finding before allowing the importation of any legally taken elephant trophies. This finding must show that the hunting of elephant in Zambia will “enhance” the survival of the species in Zambia and an action is required before the Service can make such a finding. At the time of the SCI Convention, the Service had not received any formal applications for the importation of legally taken elephant parts and/or ivory in 2011 from Zambia – so while an agreement in principle has been reached, the final approval for importation is still contingent upon a positive Enhancement finding by the USFWS.
We are now advised that a number of permit applications have been submitted to the Service seeking approval for the importation of elephant taken this year and we are also advised that the USFWS Division of Scientific Authority has prepared a positive Enhancement finding and forwarded said finding on to the Division of Management Authority for review and approval. Now, based on the agreement reached between the USFWS, the government of Zambia and SCI, it is inconceivable that the Service would agree to allow the importation of legally taken trophies from Zambia if they didn’t intend to approve the Enhancement finding necessary to allow said importation. But, strictly speaking, importation can not occur until that finding has been approved by the Service. Once the positive Enhancement finding has been approved, the Service should begin issuing the individual import permits for sport-hunted elephant on a case-by-case basis.
As indicated above, ZAWA initially approved three GMAs in the country in which elephant hunting was allowed, but the word is that ZAWA intends to open up the rest of the GMAs this year, with the result that areas will now be open that have not seen any sport hunting of elephants since 1982. Let me say that again, hunting will be allowed in areas that have not seen elephant sport hunting in 29 years!
Some Zambian professional hunters have expressed concern that the United States may not allow the importation of elephant taken in these areas, but again we are advised that the Enhancement finding issued by the Service will be a country-wide determination and will apply to any areas where elephant hunting is legally authorized by the Zambian Government. So, the next step in the process will be for ZAWA to open these areas and set a quota.
Pending these developments with regards to the issuance of the positive Enhancement finding by the USFWS and the opening of the remaining GMAs by ZAWA, 2011 and 2012 could see some impressive jumbo hit the ground in Zambia. Hunters in 2011 will be able to sort through herds that have not seen any sport hunting pressure for 29 years with the result that this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity at a 60 lb. elephant or better.
In this regard, one of our outfitters was allocated three of the twenty permits available for 2011 and now has only one permit left for an October hunt, but he will have three permits again for 2012. So if you want to be one of the first U.S. hunters to hunt elephant in Zambia in either 2011 or 2012 give Bob Anderson a call at 307-473-1268 or send an email to email@example.com for pricing and details. We will even assist you with your CITES Import Permit application!
NOTE: The information provided above concerning the initial closure of elephant hunting in Zambia, the subsequent uplisting of the species to CITES Appendix 1, the mechanisms involved in that listing, and the recent development leading towards the opening of Zambia to the sport-hunting of elephant once again are based on a general overview of existing information as well as discussions with professionals who are familiar with the current situation. The processes involved in listing species under CITES, and the decision processes utilized by the USFWS concerning the importation of these species into the United States, is a very complex undertaking. As a consequence, the information presented above is designed to give the reader a general overview of the current situation as it apples to the possible opening of elephant hunting in Zambia and is not in any way intended or construed to be a concise scientific discussion or overview of how CITES and the USFWS permitting processes function. Nor is this discussion a guarantee that the USFWS will issue a positive Enhancement finding which will open the door for the sport-hunting of elephant in Zambia.