This is an African continent, wild cat species story; specifically Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. The black element in this ‘battle’ is the government of Robert Mugabe and the white element is British colonialism and the white farmers that remain in Zimbabwe. It is just one more example of conflict amongst humankind (isn’t there too much?) and the fall out from it that affects companion animals and in this case wild animals including these wild cat species: cheetah, serval, lion and leopard.
I have simplified the history of Zimbabwe but there a dispute over the use of the 1,000 square mile Savé Valley Conservancy, which is one of Africa’s best managed wildlife parks. It was founded in 1991 and contains much wildlife including the wild cat species listed above. A government loan was made available to allow the reserve to be re-stocked with wildlife because a drought had decimated it.
Location of Savé Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe, Africa:
Politicians who are members of Mugabe’s Zanu PF ruling party have been granted leases over areas of the the reserve coupled with hunting rights. This is an extension of Mugabe’s policy to hand white owned farms to black people.
It has been described as “a wildlife based land reform programme”. The publicity seems to be saying that the white operators of the reserve will endeavour to work with the new black leaseholders and the government but the hostile nature of the granting of the leases indicates something else.
The white operators say that they are cooperative in respect of what they call, “a viable indigenisation plan”. I guess that means occupation and ownership of parts of the reserve. However, the government think they are being obstructive.
The hostile nature of the takeover of parts of the reserve and the foreseeable negative consequences is supported by the reported behavior of Mrs Mahofa who was granted a lease. Apparently she has sacked anti-poaching staff and hired “national park scouts to hunt for her”.
In the past there were expensive licensed hunting that helped to finance the running of the park. These have been stopped because they were “cancelled by the authorities” (the words of the operators of the reserve). This has had a bad impact on revenue from I guess European and American hunters. The animals that were hunted for large sums of money such as sable antelopes are now finding their way onto the markets of a nearby town in the form of bady butchered carcasses.
The problem for someone like me is that the already endangered, to lesser or greater degrees, wild cat species listed above are now further endangered. This is one more example of the near impossibility of preserving reserves in a highly commercial and sometimes corrupt world.
The Zanu PF party are themselves in conflict over the recent hostile actions to forcibly possess parts of the reserve (perhaps leading up to full control). Some members of the government see it as an abuse by government officials and not in the interests of the citizens of Zimbabwe, which is what it appears to be.
For me it is also an abuse of wildlife and the world’s precious remaining wild cat species.