Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls -

Saturday, 17 February 2018

AAT appoints new boss for Vic Falls Safari Lodge

Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) hospitality group has appointed Dustin Kennedy as general manager of its Victoria Falls Safari Lodge estate.

He took over the reins on Monday, replacing Jonathan Hudson who left the group in October.

AAT chairman, Dave Glynn, said Kennedy’s experience would boost the hospitality group.
“His 5-star experience in Zanzibar together with a host of experience in the hotel industry in many countries makes him ideally qualified for our existing needs and aspirations for AAT going forward. We look forward to his positive impact,” Glynn said.
Kennedy said it was an honour to be joining the hospitality group.
“This is a lifelong goal achieved, and I intend to use my 16 years of international hospitality experience and knowledge to assist in ensuring that we are providing our guests with the most memorable experiences the region has to offer,” he said.
Kennedy was born in a family involved in the hospitality and tourism business in Zimbabwe, and has wide experience in management roles in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Dubai and Zanzibar, after working up through the ranks from his early 20s.
AAT said Kennedy has known the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge estate, and many of the staff too, since it was built in the early 1990s, and has closely followed all developments that have taken place.
A passionate hotelier with a keen sense for the “guest experience” and well-known to the travel trade in the region, Kennedy joins AAT at an exciting time of growth and potential for the tourism sector in Zimbabwe after a very positive 2017.

Adoption of Victoria Falls (SEZ) to boost tourism arrivals

The Government of Zimbabwe is set to consider the adoption of the Victoria Falls Tourism Special Economic Zone corridor approach which will go a long way in addressing imbalances in product profiling within Matebelaland North region, a move which is set to benefit marginalised communities especially such as Gwanda and the part of lower Zambezi area which have been excluded for a quite a long time with women and children the most affected.

"This will go a long way in ensuring tourism development does not only concentrate on Victoria Falls but spreads to the entire province", said the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Hon Prisca Mupfumira while speaking during a consultative workshop on the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) in Victoria Falls.

Minister Mupfumira further emphasised that the designation of the region as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) should not only concentrate on investment from outside the country while ignoring the local people at the grassroots level. The project will, upon successful implementation, enable the Victoria Falls Tourism Special Economic Zone to see the emergency of world class tourism and hospitality training institutions that will capture the attention of the entire SADC region.

She said Government through her ministry had shown preparedness and commitment to the development of the Victoria Falls Tourism Special Economic Zone by placing the project under the ministry's 100~day work programme.

Hon Mupfumira also challenged the accommodation sector in Victoria Falls to seriously consider the domestic tourism market and not only be glued on international tourism, as it presents opportunity for economic growth and sustainability of the hospitality industry.

Presently, Victoria Falls has 1 781 rooms and hotels constitute 1 125 of the rooms while the remaining balance being lodges and other accommodation facilities.

The project which was funded at the tune of US$80k saw the training of women and youth residents in Victoria Falls in housekeeping, food and beverage services, food preparation, tour guiding and business management for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and women co~operatives in the tourism sector.

This development by the Tourism sector in Zimbabwe through Government's adoption of the Victoria Falls Tourism Special Economic Zone will see a boost in arrivals not only for Victoria Falls but also stimulate growth for tourism for other towns along the railway line corridors such as Gwanda.

Source: Adoption of Victoria Falls (SEZ) to boost tourism arrivals in marginalised Mat North (16/02/18)

Friday, 16 February 2018

Hospitalised elephant handler fears he may never walk again

A VICTORIA Falls tour guide, who was trampled and left for dead by a domesticated elephant last week, is still battling for his life at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo.

James Ncube (64) of Milonga Village in Jambezi, sustained spinal injuries after an elephant from Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) went berserk and trampled him.
Ncube told Southern Eye from his hospital bed on Monday that he has lost hope of ever walking again.
“It is still painful as I was stitched all over my body. I hardly sleep, but the doctors are trying by all means to save my life. I am waiting for them to put a cast on my fractured limbs, but I cannot sit nor walk,” he said.
His wife, who identified herself as MaSibanda, said her husband had a slim chance of surviving.
“This is a blow to the family. As he said, he cannot do anything. The day of the incident, he was asked to remove the elephant from the garden where they grow maize. As he was walking it out, it attacked his boss [Hazel Palmer] before turning on him. The person who was employed to handle it called Simon was off duty, that is why they had to assign my husband. When I saw him at hospital, I never thought he was going to make it to this day. We thank God for saving his life.”
However, ACHM founder Allan Savory’s daughter, Sarah, disputed claims that the elephant was domesticated.
She insisted that the elephant just attacked Ncube and Palmer, as they were walking along a foot path.
“I am not sure where you got that information, but it is not correct and has caused great stress for all of us involved in the incident.
“Dojiwe (the elephant) was not a domesticated elephant. She was orphaned as a very young calf and we rescued her. No wild animal can or should ever be described as domesticated. When elephants are orphaned, they have to have constant companionship, otherwise they would die of loneliness and this companionship has to be with human handlers.”
Savory said the rogue elephant was put down in order to save human lives.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Concern over accommodation capacity in Victoria Falls

THE Government is concerned about limited accommodation and conferencing facilities in Victoria Falls which makes the country’s prime tourist town inferior to other international destinations, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Speaking during the ground breaking ceremony of $13 million Sawanga Shopping Mall being built by Zimbabwe Reinsurance (Zimre) Property Investments in Victoria Falls on Friday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira said Victoria Falls will face hotel accommodation challenges by 2020 if no new facilities are built.

“Currently, Victoria Falls is lagging behind other regional destinations such as Durban and Cape Town in terms of accommodation and conferencing as well as entertainment facilities,” she said. Victoria Falls has 1 781 rooms, of which 1 125 are in hotels and the remainder offered by guest houses and lodges. Residents have been turning their houses into lodges to cater for unmet demand.

“Victoria Falls is indeed under-hoteled. Going by the renewed confidence in destination Zimbabwe in general and Victoria Falls in particular, arising from visitor-friendly policies being implemented under the new era, the resort town is bound to run short of accommodation by year 2020,” she said.

The Minister noted the need to increase room capacity by not less than 1 500 by 2020 to cater for the anticipated increase in tourist arrivals.

The Government is also planning to build a convention and conference centre on a piece of land between Masue River and the Victoria Falls International Airport where there will be conference facilities, hotels, banks and amenities.

Minister Mupfumira said it was worrying that the resort town which the Government wants as its conferencing capital has no suitable facilities.

The only possibly big conference facility is at Elephant Hills Resort where about 500 delegates can be accommodated.

She said the Government is open for investment in the hospitality sector.

“Against this background, the need for increased investment in tourism facilities by both local and foreign investors needs not to be overemphasised,” she said.

Under the Government’s 100 Day Plan, Minister Mupfumira said her ministry would be convening consultative workshops to get stakeholder input on the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) development process in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Chinhoyi, Masvingo and Victoria Falls.

The workshops begin this week, the first in Harare tomorrow with a view to developing a comprehensive approach to tourism.

Source: Accommodation worry in Vic Falls (08/02/18)

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Zimre Pours $13m Into Vic Falls First Ever Mall

Victoria Falls — Restructuring conglomerate Zimre Holdings Limited (ZHL), through its Zimre Property Investments, has started constructing a $13 million multi-purpose shopping mall in the resort town.
A ground breaking ceremony was held on Friday on the 1 500 hectare piece of land along Pioneer Road, with construction set to finish in January next year, according to the Contractor, Masimba Construction Company.
To become the first ever shopping mall in Victoria Falls, the complex will be known as Sawanga Shopping Mall and will house 23 tenants including big shops such as Pick'n Pay, banks, restaurants, a car park and offices among others.
Tourism and Hospitality Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, who was guest of honour, said the development was a clear sign of good prospects for the resort town.
She said some investors had shown interest in the development of tourism facilities in the resort town.
"I would want to commend Zimre for investing $13 million into this mall which will surely change the fortunes of Victoria Falls as a destination. This development is indeed significant as it shows renewed confidence in Zimbabwe arising from renewed interest in the country.
"This is testimony of great things to come in the tourism front and we thank Zimre for complementing government efforts to promote local investment," said Minister Mupfumira.
She said the complex will centralise market under one roof thereby ensuring ease of doing business.
The name is derived from the Nambya people's early Chief Sawanga who migrated to Hwange from the Rozvi State.
Zimre managing director, Edson Muvingi, said the mall will be more than an ordinary complex with a lifestyle centre and entertainment hub.
Victoria Falls Town Clerk, Ronnie Dube, challenged the contractor to employ locals saying the project should benefit local people.
A representative from Masimba Construction said actual construction will start in two months after clearing about 15 000 cubic metres of Kalahari sands from the piece of land.
The project comes almost a year after the resort town was identified as one of the Special Economic Zones where government is calling on investors to take up various developmental projects.
Source: Zimre Pours $13m Into Vic Falls First Ever Mall (05/02/18)

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Zambezi River flowed before the dinosaurs roamed

The Zambezi River has recently been declared the oldest river in the world, celebrating its 280 millionth birthday, so was flowing 30 million years before the Triassic, when the first dinosaurs appeared. How can we say that?

A small caveat…
Geology is one of the most fascinating subjects in the world. To a layman it can seem like an incredibly complicated subject — and it is! — but there is much of value in understanding some basics relating to the stone and dirt beneath our feet.
Understanding the evolution and development of the Zambezi river system is deeply complicated and new research constantly changes what we know.
What is presented here is an amalgamation of the latest findings, simplified with as little of the inevitable jargon as possible.
Tell us a little about the Zambezi.
Today it is Africa’s fourth-largest river and remains one of the finest and least spoilt rivers in the world. Its source rises from a tiny spring in north-western Zambia and flows for 2,700 kms into the Indian Ocean at its delta on the Mozambique coast.
Its basin, if you include all the river’s tributaries, covers most of central and southern Africa; an area of some 1.3 million square kilometres — larger than the Sahara Desert.
Eight countries in the region are directly linked into this vast river system: Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Within its catchment, the geological and palaeontological heritage of this part of the planet is almost without comparison.
Current biodiversity — the species of birds, plants, animals, insects, fish, birds, etc — within this area is ancient and deserves much more protection, research and appreciation than is currently the case.
How old is the river?
Newly published research has dated the beginnings of the river to 280 million years ago!
What is particularly fascinating about this latest research is geological study now establishes the ancient Proto-Zambezi (i.e. the river in its earliest phase) as the Earth’s oldest-known river and, perhaps confusingly to us today, that this ancient Proto-Zambezi ran in exactly the opposite direction, west across Africa into the Karoo, compared to what it does today, flowing east into the Indian Ocean.
The Proto-Zambezi was formed as Gondwana’s ice sheets begin to melt as the super-continent drifted northwards.
Water flowing downhill formed part of the river we would now call the Middle Zambezi and the Luangwa. The river flowed west at this time because of the huge mountains — bigger than the Himalayas — in the centre-east portion of the super-continent (see Figure A).
What’s the evidence for this?
There is geological, hydrological, landscape formation studies, as well as a study of the distribution of various lifeforms, especially fish, living in the river (see below). One can date the spread of such species via cutting edge genetic studies.
The Proto-Zambezi river originated in the drainage system that was established as vast Dwyka ice-sheets were melting and becoming smaller across the super-continent of Gondwana (see Figure A).
Gondwana was formed when the cratons that now form the continents of Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia were welded together thanks to plate tectonics.
As Figure B shows, at this time the immense highlands of the Trans-Gondwana mountains directed the westerly flow of glacial meltwaters into the interior of Gondwana.
With its catchment entirely contained within Gondwana, this massive river sustained a vast, inland sea centred on modern‑day Botswana.
So how did the geology affect the rivers?
This geological record of the ancestral Proto‑Zambezi follows much of the same route as the modern river.
In particular, the evidence reveals that precursors of the modern Luangwa and Middle Zambezi already existed in the early Permian, some 300 million years ago.
This geological record in the Luangwa and Middle Zambezi valleys has survived despite the complete reversal of the Zambezi’s flow caused by Gondwana’s breakup, which forged the African continent.
Around 200 million years ago, for a period of 100 million years, a flowing mass of lava began to emerge from within the earth — the Stormberg lavas.
Fluid enough to flow over the land and fill hollows, troughs and valleys, it left behind an almost horizontal aspect, trapping sandstones beneath.
Eventually an area of at least 2,000,000 square kilometres were covered by these various lava sheets to a depth of perhaps nearly 1000 metres deep at Victoria Falls and up to 9000 metres elsewhere!
This basalt was subjected to great stress due to cooling and regional tectonic activity.
This stress caused deep fracturing and lines of weakness, and it is these that the growing Zambezi river would come to exploit in its course via river capture.
Explain river capture.
When a river is extending its channel upstream by headward erosion ( the lengthening of a river’s course by erosion backwards from its source), it may come into contact with the headwaters of a river which is less vigorous.
The headwaters from the minor river may be diverted into the more rapidly eroding channel. This is more or less how the Zambezi has grown into the massive river we know today.
At one time, most of the tributaries of the Zambezi river flowed south into the Limpopo River, but have all been captured.
As Gondwana broke up and as the continents drifted, river by river, flow in the Proto‑Zambezi’s catchment was redirected eastwards into the Indian Ocean, away from the previous lake inland where Botswana lies today.
The Zambezi captured rivers arising to the north – the Kafue, then the upper Zambezi and lower Kwando.
This capture resulted in the loss of water to the palaeo-lake Makgadikgadi and it shrank in size.
And the evidence from fish?
Something quite fun to consider is the fact that we can also trace the changing river systems in this area thanks to the spread of a rather important creature to Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.
The first known ancestors of the tigerfishes, Hydrocynus, are known in North Africa dated to between 35-21 million years ago.
The evidence from DNA studies reveals our local tigerfish, the Zambezi tigerfish, H. vittatus evolved within the confines of the Zambezi River where it became isolated from neighbouring populations in central Africa within the past 2-3 million years.
The species is believed to have originated in the Congo Basin; and thereafter it dispersed through south- central Africa southwards as far as southern Mozambique, and Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu-Natal in South Africa. T
he Kasai, a north-flowing Congo tributary, captured an easterly flowing headwater of the Upper Zambezi. Thereafter tigerfish dispersed far and wide south of the Southern Equatorial Divide.
It only colonised the Middle Zambezi below the Batoka Gorges within the past 200,000 years.
What next?
The next river to be captured is the Okavango which will see the eventual end of the magnificent Delta.
Once the Okavango River is captured an entire drainage network that once formed part of the Limpopo Rover system will have shifted to the Zambezi.
Geologically recent captures of the Chobe, Kafue and Upper Zambezi testify to the relative youth of the (modern) river’s shape.
The Great Equatorial Divide on Africa’s high plateaux comprises the Zambezi’s modern watershed, and its present position testifies to repeated re-shuffles of links between long lived rivers. To summarise, scientists now estimate the modern Zambezi basin to be barely 250 thousand years old.
This article is based on the work published by: Cotterill, F.P.D., A.E. Moore & R.M. Key. 2016. On the Antiquity of the Zambezi River, its Rifts, and its Wilderness. African Fisherman 172, 31-35.
Source: Zambezi River flowed before the dinosaurs roamed (02/02/18)

Read/Download the original article here 

'Domesticated' elephant shot after trampling handler, Victoria Falls

The incident happened on Wednesday morning at Dibamombe Safari Lodge 32km from Victoria Falls town.

The elephant, called Dojiwe, was shot and killed by Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers after the attack on Thursday.

A witness and co-worker said the elephant turned against James Tshuma and their manager, as they were chasing it away from a maize patch in the garden.

“After opening the paddock, Dojiwe went to the garden instead of going to graze. Our manager [Hazel] Palmer, together with Tshuma, then led her out and she complied. As they were leading her out, she hit Palmer with her trunk and that is when Tshuma tried to reprimand her, but she immediately turned on him,” Stephen Tshuma said.

“It lifted him up before throwing him to the ground and trampling on his feet and goring him all over his body. He was badly injured.

“It then left him after noticing the feeding cubes that he had dropped scattered all over and that’s when we took him to hospital and he was transferred to Bulawayo.”

Dojiwe, the elephant, was popularly known for her adventurous and friendly behaviour towards tourists, who would visit the site to marvel at her kneeling down and kicking the ball, among other tricks.

Tshuma said it was their first time to witness such behaviour since her adoption.

Last year, another domesticated elephant called Mbanje from Adventure Zone was shot after trampling its handler to death.

Animal rights activists condemn elephants capture and rides, arguing that the practice is cruel and should be banned.

Source: Jumbo tramples handler, shot dead after attack (03/02/18)

More: Elephant tramples handler in Victoria Falls (03/02/18)
Domesticated elephant shot after trampling handler (03/02/18)

Friday, 2 February 2018

ZPI launches $13m mall in Vic Falls

ZIMRE Property Investments (ZPI) will launch its $13 million upmarket shopping mall in Victoria Falls tomorrow, setting the stage for the construction of the mega project.

ZPI managing director, Edison Muvingi told NewsDay yesterday that all is set for the project to start.
“On Friday, we are having the ground-breaking ceremony and the work in the mall is expected to take 12 months,” he said, adding the project would create employment opportunities for locals.
The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed property concern is into residential and commercial property development and seeks to tap into the anticipated business boom on the back of an influx of tourists in the resort town, following the $150 million upgrade of the Victoria Falls Airport International Airport.
The mall will house offices, internet cafes, bookshops, banks, boutiques, hair salons, restaurants, motor spares shops, medical centre, theatres, cultural centre and gymnasium.
An elaborate sewer and water reticulation system would be put in place with access roads being constructed for easy vehicular movement.
The property developer was given the Environmental Impact Assessment certificate to start construction work by the Environmental Management Agency in December last year.
Muvingi said they were committed to the development of Zimbabwe’s economy, having invested close to $20 million in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
In Bulawayo, the company is involved in the construction and development of Nicoz House at the corner of Fort Street and 8th Avenue, into a student accommodation facility and the building of five blocks of student hostels in Selbourne Park.
The Selbourne Park project is expected to offer 900 beds, while the Nicoz House refurbishment project will create about 190 beds.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Local tourists moan high charges

The Government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry is campaigning for revitalisation of domestic tourism saying locals especially civil servants should be capacitated to be able to visit resort places in the country.

The charges for the different activities are very high and as such are beyond many Zimbabweans who might want to go on holiday.

Victoria Falls residents have used different platforms to complain that they are being sidelined from enjoying local resources because of the high charges.

Some have taken to social media, where they have implored operators to reduce charges or introduce special packages for locals as part of measures to promote domestic tourism.

Some of the activities offered especially in Victoria Falls include bungee jumping, tour of the Rainforest, white water rafting, boat cruise, game drives, flight of angels, elephant ride, lion walk, and gorge swing, among others.

The tour of the Rainforest is probably the only activity affordable to locals as adults pay $7 and kids $4.

The other activities in the resort town range between $100 and $300 per person.

Some of the activities are charged in packages of three.

Zimbabweans pay less for the Rainforest tour compared to what is paid by foreign tourists but for other activities the charges are the same for both locals and foreign tourists.

Responding to locals’ concerns, Employers’ Association of Safari and Tourism Operators spokesperson, Mrs Mercy Mushangwe-Ncube conceded that the charges for activities are very high.
“It is true that prices are high and we wish to try and emulate what the national parks have done at the Rainforest where fees are categorised into local, regional and international,” she said.

Mushangwe-Ncube implored operators to consider reducing prices saying this would help promote domestic tourism.

“Reduction of prices will attract local people to actually come and enjoy the local activities which are being offered by tour operators.

“This is a challenge to operators to come together and review their packages so as to promote local tourism,” she said.

However, she said operators have made efforts to make their rates affordable to local through offering special packages based on the seasons.

“There is really a need for tour operators to re-look into their pricing.

Source: Local tourists moan high charges (25/01/18)

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Zimbabwe tourism arrivals to surpass 2.5m in 2018

THE tourism sector in Zimbabwe is expected to grow by more than 20% in 2018, with tourist arrivals surpassing 2,5 million due to renewed confidence in the destination triggered by the recent change of government, an executive has said.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive, Karikoga Kaseke, told NewsDay in emailed responses that the outlook for 2018 was exciting following the ushering in of the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in November.
He said as follow-on effects of Operation Restore Legacy and the vision outlined by Mnangagwa, the tourism sector was expected to grow by more than 20% in 2018, thereby surpassing the annual global tourism growth and the regional growth forecast of 4 to 5% and 5,5%, respectively.
In turn, Kaseke said tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe were estimated to reach over 2,5 million by the end of the year.
In the first nine months of 2017, the country received 1 726 247 in arrivals, 12% up from 1 538 905 received during the same period in 2016.
In 2016, arrivals were 2 167 686, 5% up from 2 056 588 received in 2015.
Kaseke said Zimbabwe is expected to ride on positive trend of an increase in tourism arrivals in Africa which is projected to grow at an average rate of 5,5% per annum for the next decade, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
He said the $150 million facelift of the Victoria Falls International Airport would also contribute significantly to the growth of the sector.
“This development is expected to usher in a new era of the country’s tourism growth. Victoria Falls is now the emerging regional aviation hub, connected to major regional capitals such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Lusaka, Luanda, Windhoek, Gaborone and Maputo,” Kaseke said.
This, he said, would see Victoria Falls becoming the main tourist hub for the Sadc region due to its central location.
Kaseke said after nearly two decades of negative publicity, Zimbabwe “is slowly recovering from the negative image as seen by the removal of travel warnings against the country by several countries including the United States, Japan and Germany last month.”
In his 2018 National Budget statement, Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa said the thrust this year would be on strengthening destination marketing, paying special attention to high spending markets to increase tourism receipts.
He said the Budget would increase allocation for the sector, so as to enhance marketing of the country as a preferred destination for tourism, as well as support the promotion of domestic tourism with a bias towards improving community based tourism enterprises to empower local communities.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Confusion as Zimbabwe promises review of elephant exports amidst global condemnation

Three weeks after 31 young elephants were exported, presumedly to China, Zimbabwe's office of the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced the nation would examine its conservation policies.

"In light of the recent export of elephants from Zimbabwe, the government is reviewing conservation decisions of the previous dispensation and formulating a policy to move forward," said Christopher Mutsvangwa, the Chief Advisor to the President.

A media report in the Zimbabwe's Daily News claims that the new president actually went further than a review: the news story says the president fully banned the export of live elephants, as well as the export of rhinoceros, pangolin and lion. 

This unconfirmed information has now been extensively quoted on social media.

However, no official statement from the President's office or any other official Zimbabwean source has confirmed this. Nor could any confirmation of the source of the Daily News article be obtained from the newspaper, who's editor suggested it came from the initial statement. This clearly did not say the practice would be ‘banned', only that conservation policies would be ‘reviewed'.

At least, five other well-informed Zimbabwean sources were unable to corroborate the existence of a ban. Yesterday, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the body that governs the international export of live elephants, tweeted the Daily News article announcing the ban but John Scanlon, the CITES Secretary General, was also unable to confirm its validity.

For those who are familiar with Zimbabwe politics, contradictory messages aren't entirely out of character. "Whilst I am grateful to read of President Mnangagwa's commitment to preserving Zimbabwe's wildlife, it is clear that there is often a disconnect between the Zimbabwe's government's rhetoric and what happens on the ground," says former Senator David Coltart, based in Bulawayo. "It is time for actions rather than words. We need new policies to be implemented to address the very serious concerns raised by environmentalists…"

Zimbabwe's export of elephants, which has seen almost 100 elephant calves exported from Zimbabwe to Chinese zoos since 2012, is becoming increasingly controversial around the globe. A Care2Petition petition to stop the trade garnered almost 280,000 supporters.

Humane Society International (HSI) submitted a letter last week, co-signed by 33 global conservation groups as well as prominent elephant scientists and biologists urging the Zimbabwean president "to immediately halt the further capture and export of young, wild elephants from Zimbabwe's parks to captive facilities overseas."

The letter referred especially to a recent Guardian exposé which showed undercover footage of the capture process, including graphic video of a 5-year old female elephant being repeatedly hit and kicked in the head by her captors. The letter further noted that the negative ecological and conservation issues of the live elephant trade which was highlighted in a paper presented at a meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES in Geneva.

"Zimbabwe, and any country that might consider selling elephants to zoos, need to alter their stance and instead see the importance of elephants to their country, its environment and its tourism," says Rob Brandford, Executive Director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. "People will travel to a country to witness elephants being elephants, living wild...they will pay for themselves through the tourists they bring." 

Brandford calls the capture of wild elephant inherently cruel: "We must hope, beyond hope, that the new President of Zimbabwe acts for elephants, which means not allowing their capture from the wild, not selling them to zoos and not allowing them to be hunted - none of those acts will save elephants and the trauma it causes to individuals is unimaginable."

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species (IUCN) Survival Commission African Elephant Specialist Group opposes the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use, declaring that there is no direct benefit for their conservation in the wild. South Africa has banned the capture of elephants from the wild for permanent captivity in 2008.

Damien Mander, Founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), believes the recent statement from the office of the President will "begin to shape Zimbabwe's future position and the government's willingness to work with the global community."

"There is still much baggage to be shed," he admits, but "discussions with the new leadership leave me confident that Zimbabwe and its conservation policies are moving in the right direction, step by step."

But, while Mnangagwa hailed Zimbabwe's current progress with regards to the conservation of pangolins and the IAPF's introduction of an all-female anti-poaching unit, he made no further mention whether his government would continue with the capture and export of live wild elephants.

In the meantime, the Chinese foreign ministry replied: "We do not know of such circumstances" when questioned on the last round of export of elephants to China in December last year, including when they arrived and their condition.

 Animal welfare advocates sent photos of an Ethiopian Airways cargo flight which they claimed transported the elephants from Victoria Falls to China.

Flight analysts at FlightAware, a global flight tracking system, identified an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 777 Cargo aircraft, that departed near Victoria Falls on December 29. The aircraft appears to have stopped for fuel near Mumbai India and was tracked until it ultimately arrived near Guangzhou, China.

Requests for comment from Ethiopian Airlines were also not responded to at the time of this writing.

Source: Confusion as Zimbabwe promises review of elephant exports amidst global condemnation (22/01/18)

More from this blog: Zimbabwe Elephant Capture Petition attracts over a Quarter-of-a-Million (20/01/18)
Elephant calves captured in Hwange exported to China via Victoria Falls Airport (3/1/18)
35 elephants captured from Hwange on a 'Flight to Hell' (27/12/16)

New Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe overwhelmed by Visitors

The recently-commissioned $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport has insufficient capacity to meet burgeoning air traffic demands, spurring a problem of congestion and delays.
As traffic continues to grow with airlines jostling to introduce direct flights to Victoria Falls, the problem is worsening.
This issue has become a major concern of airport authorities and innovative means of accommodating the ever increasing airline traffic are being sought.
Zimbabwe Immigration Department principal director Clemence Masango said immigration officials were having a torrid time containing traffic as the airport’s arrivals section was too small to contain the deluge of visitors.
The airport was refurbished at a cost of $150 million. The airport’s expansion began in February 2013 and was carried out by a Chinese firm China Jiangsu International Group through a concessionary loan by the China Export and Import Bank. It was commissioned in November 2016.
It had been expected to smoothly handle around 1, 5 million passengers annually up from 500 000, but is now struggling to contain the huge volume of traffic.
This comes after BAComair is now operating larger aircraft on the Joburg-Vic Falls route, and over the coming months will be offering double daily flights on several days of the week.
The BAComair daily schedule is operated by a B737-800 aircraft, which accommodates 162 passengers in a business and economy configuration. The airline is also licensed to operate these three additional services per week year-round as required, should there be demand.
South African Airways is operating an Airbus A330-200 with 222 seats, which is 88 seats more than their previous aircraft capacity.
In addition, Victoria Falls has new airlines servicing the destination, namely Ethiopian Airways and Kenya Airways, linking Victoria Falls to North and East Africa. Both airlines have their own hubs and networks for better connections and packaging.
Kenya Airways fly on from Victoria Falls to Cape Town, creating a much-needed route linking the three iconic African destinations of Cape Town, Victoria Falls and Kilimanjaro.

The latest arrivals into Victoria Falls Airport are SA Airlink, offering the Cape Town to Victoria Falls route six days a week, and Fastjet, which has now added Johannesburg to Victoria Falls three times a week to their schedule.

In the domestic air space, Air Zimbabwe and Fastjet are now both operating 7 days a week, which has been a boost for domestic tourism.
As a result, tourism players had raised complaints about the airport capacity chaos at a tourism briefing last Friday.
“We are aware of this complaint. We are doing our best with what is there,” Masango said, adding he had engaged the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe to find a solution.
“I want to point out that although that airport is new, the plan was not drawn yesterday. The plan was done many years ago and when it was developed, I think close to 20 years later, many things were not right.
“That arrival hall, many of you travel around the world, that arrival hall is far from being an arrival hall. In other airports, it’s just a lounge. It cannot take more than 600 passengers.
“And that’s the nature of the volumes we deal with. Three planes if they come fully loaded carrying on average 200 passengers, that’s 600, we can’t sustain. And that’s why you see some passengers spilling onto the tarmac. Then any inconvenience experienced by travellers is naturally directed at immigration.”
Amid the airport chaos, hotel operators in Victoria Falls are reporting better-than-expected profits and raising their earnings forecast for the year, helped by a boost in business travel following the commissioned $150 million international airport.
Victoria Falls hotels’ occupancy levels are ranging in the “high nineties” (90 percent) since government commissioned the $150 million international airport. Apart from the falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya or “Smoke That Thunders”, Zimbabwe can offer safari hunting, some of Africa’s largest game reserves, scenic resorts and the ancient Great Zimbabwe ruins, one of the most important archeological sites on the continent.
New businesses are opening across the industry in the region, with new lodges, hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, and new activities, all of which combine to enhance the draw of the destination, which is a hub for Hwange, Matobo Hills, the rest of Zimbabwe and the Kaza (Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area) region.
Kaza, which is made up of five southern African countries, boasts some of the most pristine and diverse wildlife areas left on the planet.