Zimbabwe has sparked outrage after it lifted a ban on hunting buffalo with bows and arrows in a bid to attract big-spending foreign tourists.
A spokesman for the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority this week said only heavy-duty bows would be permissible in an attempt to ward off criticism that such weapons raise the risk of only wounding the thick-skinned beasts.
“These type of bow and arrows kill instantly,” said Tinashe Farawo.
Hunters who want to shoot buffalo by bow will have to use modern arrow-heads of at least 30mm cutting length, present their equipment for inspection and be accompanied by trained guides.
The government has maintained the veto on using the ancient weapon to hunt other animals with a firm hide including the hippopotamus, elephant and giraffe. Only guns can be used against such creatures.
Zimbabwe hunt-providers have pushed for the reform as they seek to attract mostly American enthusiasts.
Archers have been allowed to hunt lions for years. In 2015, an American trophy-hunter wounded Cecil the lion with an inaccurate arrow-shot during an illegal hunt. The majestic cat escaped into the bush but was found, exhausted and in pain, the next morning before being shot to death by rifle.
One Zimbabwe hunter, who asked not to be named, said: “I don’t like bow and arrow, and I don’t care how sophisticated this equipment is now, we know that there are less chances of mistakes with guns.”
“In many ways I think it is cruel, risky,” he said.
A dedicated wildlife expert, who does considerable voluntary work in Zimbabwe’s vast Hwange National Park, said: “This is a dreadful development. I reluctantly accept hunting as a financial necessity, but not with bow and arrow. Remember what happened to Cecil. This is wrong. And we don’t have much expertise here to know if the equipment is ok."
The Professional Hunters’ Association said Zimbabwe had to “fall in line with most other southern African countries and allow Zimbabwe a fair share of the market place. Modern bows are more than adequate to efficiently hunt a buffalo.”
Emmanuel Fundira, president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe said “new generation” bows and arrows had been thoroughly tested and were “more effective than traditional ammunition used for hunting. We have found no negative outcome.”
Mr Fundira said Zimbabwe regretted the death of Cecil the lion: “We wished this had not happened. Cecil’s death raised so much money for others but not a cent came back to Zimbabwe to help us protect our wildlife.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, desperate for investment for bankrupt Zimbabwe, last week told a group of Chinese tour operators: “You, who are lovers of golf, I will offer you land in the national parks so that as you play golf, you can see elephants and lions.”
Zimbabwe will shortly export 35 young elephants captured early this year to China.
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In the last few years the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority says it sold about 100 elephant youngsters, mostly to Chinese safari parks to raise money for conservation and anti-poaching.