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African Leaders Testify on Behalf of International Conservation Efforts

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led a Republican forum titled “Supporting African Communities: Highlighting International Conservation Efforts Worldwide.”

“It may seem counterintuitive to those not familiar with our North American hunting heritage, but legal hunting practices in our country have led to dramatic turnarounds in game and non-game species populations,” Westerman said. “In the early part of the 20th century, there were few animals left due to unregulated hunting. Yet over the last century, a series of federal and state game laws were enacted to facilitate a ‘user-pays’ system where hunters’ dollars are put into conservation. Populations of whitetail deer, wild turkey and waterfowl – all species I enjoy hunting in my home state of Arkansas – have boomed thanks to investments in conservation. The species not only prosper, but their habitats and rural economies prosper as well. I’m proud to be part of this proactive effort. Although game laws are not identical in Africa, the same results have occurred in parts of that continent where hunters and their investments have incentivized the conservation of wildlife and their habitats. In the countries where many of the African big-game species are hunted, they are far from extinct. Instead, they hold most of these animals and the populations are growing because of conservation and habitat funded by hunters. In fact, in a three-year period, hunting generated over $65 million for wildlife authorities in Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe for conservation, management, research and law enforcement. In addition, revenues raised by hunting have funded the conservation of 344 million acres in sub-Saharan African ecosystems.”

The panel of Republican members heard from three witnesses during the forum.

The Honorable Tadeous Chifamba, ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe

Dr. Marcus Msuha, director of wildlife, Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism

Maxi Pia Louis, director, Nambian Association of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Support Organizations

“Over the last few years, we have seen increasing calls from animal rights activists – in the U.S. particularly – to ban the import of treasures from Africa, in the mistaken belief that this will enhance the conservation of iconic African species,” Chifamba said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. It would have devastating effects for our livelihoods, as well as for sustainable conservation itself.”

“Now is the time for a new engagement between exporting and importing countries, to advance both development and conservation goals for the betterment of people and wildlife,” Msuha said. “It’s assisting Tanzania in maintaining the 30 percent goal of conservation areas that have been set aside by a convention of biological diversity for 2030. In fact, Tanzania has surpassed this goal.”

“Removing the only economic incentive for looking after wildlife will lead to decimation of wildlife through poaching and loss of habitats,” Louis said. “Any policy or political decisions from the U.S. government affecting people in Africa should take into consideration how we live with wildlife and how we manage our wildlife. Imposing unfair restrictions of wildlife trade impedes communities from conserving their natural resources into their own management systems.”

Watch the full forum here.

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