120lbs Elephant hunted south of Gonarezhou

The Elephant that measured 120lbs on both sides that was recently harvested in the Malipati Safari Area south of Gonarezhou was a magnificent bull but, Iconic? Little is known of this elephant and the only confirmed report of his presence was from the air some three weeks ago by the Frankfurt Zoological Society who have been working in Gonarezhou for several years now; unknown to visitors, tourists and Parks staff alike images of this giant tusker were not paraded around; he was not famous, sought after and ‘followed’ by the media, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Although the Gonarezhou is/ was famed for its big tuskers – Kabakwe, otherwise known as Kambaku, poached in the mid 80’s, was the most famous of the Park‘s iconic bulls. Not a ‘resident’ of the Gonarezhou, but of Kruger, whose wanderings like others, brought him north , a giant tusker yes, well known to the south, but not an ICONIC Gonarezhou and Zimbabwe elephant.

Once again the hunting industry finds itself under scrutiny BUT let us put aside the noise and look at the facts – The bull has not been aged properly but Rowan Martin, Zimbabwe’s elephant expert, estimates that this bull would most likely not be younger than 40years of age, his sunken temples are indicative of an aging animal and in all probability passed his prime and breeding years. This would also mean in the past 15 years he would have been classified as a trophy for sure weighing 50lbs very early in his life, by 90% of hunters simply because of his genes. This is a rather liberal assumption.

The Gonarezhou National park is, by and large, surrounded by hunting areas; the Elephant survey of 2014 put the population of Gonarezhou together with the Mahenya area at 11452 which is up 123% from the 2001 count; with quota being set at 0.5% some 57 hunting permits would have been issued for the area which is certainly sustainable.

The Chiredzi Rural Council controls vast swathes of Communal land from the Limpopo north where hunting is permitted to around the Gonarezhou. The bull in question, presumably on its journey north, passed through some of the communal hunting blocks where it could have been shot by a hunter. Yes, people would have been aghast and amazed at the news of such a large tusker been taken in the Communal areas; of course there would be criticism, that is a foregone conclusion BUT, it is believed the response would have far less vehement and disapproving, than we see today – the influencing factor is the Gonarezhou and the close proximity of the Malipati Safari area.

The chances of this particular bull being in a hunting area when a hunt is being conducted have got to be very small and the possibility of his been shot as minimal as is evident in him reaching a ripe old age and not being known, especially since he has been a Bull of interest to hunters for 15 years.

Zimbabwe has produced 4 bulls of over 100lbs in the past 6 years in the Gonarezhou and Hwange areas. To our knowledge this is an increase from the previous decade. So it appears Zimbabwe is doing something right in these areas as far as quotas are concerned. Hunting methods certainly have not changed.

Zimbabwe has a reputation for big tuskers among the hunting fraternity but unfortunately, the photographic sector seems not to be able to convey this message. This needs to change. What other country has and continues to produce as many big tuskers as Zimbabwe today?

The Gonarezhou is clearly a hidden gem and, with the involvement of Frankfurt Zoological Society, it will only prosper further. The world needs to be made aware of this and that there are tuskers other than this migratory bull.

In this discussion it is of importance to note that at the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association 2014 AGM a proposal was put forward to our members that the photographic sector wanted to propose a maximum tusk limit of 80 pounds-a-side. The vote on this proposal was a resounding 79% NO. Please bear in mind we also have Professional Photographic Guides as members. Our members sent a counter proposal to the non consumptive sector of the Safari Operators Association Zimbabwe (SOAZ) suggesting we follow and implement the Kruger Magnificent 7 model.

This is a quote from the minutes of the SOAZ committee meeting in February 2015:

” The counter-proposal was for each Park to identify 6 or 7 good bulls; name and collar them and give the tuskers status for publicity purposes. They should be designated as a National Treasure and should be protected by Parks Rangers. Members of SOAZ and ZPHGA would be instructed not to shoot these animals. This system had been implemented in South Africa. It was agreed this exercise should start in Hwange.”

Unfortunately this proposal has not moved forward much and it would need legislation to implement, it can be done.

We the “Zimbabwean Hunters” are willing to work for the greater good of our wildlife, country and its people and we insist on having Zimbabwean solutions. This is evident in the above quote and the fact that we had the “Hunting turnaround Workshop” PRIOR to the Cecil saga. There is however only so much we can do. We do need to push this proposal, but we need the non consumptive operators to get more involved in implementation.