Before I start this – some of you may think this is going to be negative because you know the array of stakeholders that were likely to be present at the meeting today. I was able to put faces to so many names I’ve heard and really encouraged by the amount of support I received – from all parties – for what I had to say, what I’m doing and what we should be considering as a national wildlife body.
It is a HAPPY story I write today, one of hope, restored faith and excitement for the future. We are getting there and we are getting there together.
The meeting I was looking forward to for all the wrong reasons…
I went to a meeting today about lion and leopard trophy hunting regulations/guidelines/legislation in Zambia where representatives of the government wildlife department were present – in full force. Also in attendance were two representatives of conservation NGOs – a carnivore one and a general conservation one which focuses on managing areas, with a fantastic record, and has reintroduced a certain species to Zambia. Several members of the hunting community were present although it was timed badly – most are currently hunting several hundred kilometres away – my partner included – effectively excluding their knowledge, input and professional expertise. Two international experts were present to provide facilitation, suggestions and consultation. I believe the meeting, and all the associated actions, are supported by the European Union.
The were three types of ecologists present – government, NGO and me (undefined but neither of the other two classes mentioned).
I had known about this meeting for a while and had looked forward to it, not because I thought it would be this positive, but because I enjoy a good debate (despite being told to be on my best behaviour). I was wrong. I don’t usually admit it when that happens but I was wrong – this meeting was…like nothing I had imagined (except for one person who lived up to my expectations of conservation NGOs and their ideas of what conservation ought to be).
I was here listening, and contributing to a certain extent, for more than one absent Professional Hunter – as were most of us. I am so excited to tell them it was NOT a compete shit show. I cannot express how happy this makes me. I really can’t.
Some observations I made but may, of course, have misinterpreted:
- The hunting community was, at times, stricter about certain things than the other stakeholders and put there foot down – simultaneously in a board room – in response to some things.
- We all managed to keep it professional and, on several occasions, agreed with each other.
- There were some more vocal than others – myself included and a lovely lady I had the pleasure of meeting there – but the more quite in attendance seemed to nod and agree when we [the vocal ones] said something (suggesting we were on the right track and that it was necessary for us to have spoken up).
- There were some – well, one actually – who were so obviously against hunting and seemed to only be present to ensure all hunting representatives were reminded that hunting is a disgusting thing to promote never mind carry out. This person made everyone in the room visible bristle whenever they spoke purely because of their negativity, patronising word choice and interesting view on who should be invited to meetings…I digress.
- The government and all hunting representatives made it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that the captive breeding and hunting of big cats (defined as cheetah, lion and leopard) within Zambia is strictly DETESTED, UNACCEPTABLE AND NOT OPEN TO DISCUSSION.
- I was the youngest in attendance (by quite a large margin) and the only person representing some hunting parties with and understanding of ecological scientific method which, sometimes, seemed to surprise the rest of the group with my understanding of the topic from both sides of the fence as well as positive suggestions. I was even able to provide some constructive criticisms and, far more in comparison, suggestions on the way forward that incorporate science, conservation, hunting, communities, legal obligations and finances. [I felt proud of myself and this is me patting myself on the back].
- This was, all in all, an INCREDIBLY POSITIVE MEETING with several positive outcomes for both lion and leopard as well as the financial viability of safari hunting in the country.
If all meetings were this positive, I believe we could really achieve something amazing and ground breaking in Zambia with regard to the safari hunting and conservation of lion and leopard in the country. I am thoroughly impressed by everyone present, bar one, and thoroughly look forward to working with these fantastic, passionate wildlife warriors of different tribes.
“CONSERVATION MUST PREVAIL” – direct quote from the Chairman of Professional Hunter’s Association of Zambia (PHAZ)
Let us remember we are all in it for the same cause just that we take different routes to achieve it and, sometimes, for different reasons.