HARARE, May 3– Safari operators will next week travel to the United States to negotiate the removal of a ban imposed on sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, an official said on Friday.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) early last month suspended imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania citing what it termed questionable management practices and a lack of effective law enforcement.

It later on revised the ban and allowed the importation of elephant trophies sourced from Zimbabwe between January 1 and April 4, 2014.

Safari Tour Operators of Zimbabwe president Emmanuel Fundira told New Ziana that if the ban remained in place it would negatively impact on expected revenues.

Operators had forecast revenues from the hunting season which began last month to reach $75 million, up from $65 million earned last year.

Americans make up the majority of trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, exporting an average of 160 elephants per year.

“We are preparing to go to Washington DC on Monday next week to try and convince the USFWS to reverse the unilateral ban they imposed on elephant trophies,” said Fundira.

“The delegation will comprise the private sector and the government. We are going there to give them our side of the story because the ban they imposed was a unilateral one and not based on facts.”

Fundira said effects of the ban were already being felt.

He however said Zimbabwe stood a good chance of having the ban reversed since it had considerable international backing.

“The season had started well but obviously we have been hard hit by this ban. It is a huge blow because 85 percent of our business is from the US.

“However, we are very much confident of winning this issue because the Safari Club International (SCI) which is based in the US is on our side,” he said.

The SCI, which has more than 50,000 members, is an international organization composed of hunters dedicated to protecting the freedom to hunt and promoting wildlife conservation.

The organization has since filed a lawsuit seeking the reversal of the ban against both Zimbabwe and Tanzania arguing that actions by the USFWS would prejudice those who had elephant hunts planned for 2014.

The SCI also challenged the arbitrariness of the USFWS in refusal to allow importation of elephant trophies this year.

In the lawsuit, the SCI points out that the USFWS relied on outdated information and failed to consider the harm that the importation ban would cause to elephant conservation.

SCI hopes that the Court will understand that the importation bans will do more harm than good for elephants in Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

Professional hunters visit Zimbabwe from countries including Russia, the United States, Hungary, Spain and Germany who pay to shoot animals such as lions, elephants and leopards, earning the country millions in revenue.

SOURCE: New Ziana