Zimbabwe today defended the sale of baby elephants to countries like China saying it was above board and the country has more elephants that it can accommodate.
Tourism and Acting Environment Minister, Walter Muzembi, told journalists in Harare that Zimbabwe has an overpopulation of elephants and selling them is one of reducing their numbers.
Addressing journalists while announcing a 100 thousand dollar Royal Netherlands Embassy sponsorship deal for Zimbabwe’s participation at that country’s forthcoming international travel and holiday fair, Mzembi said the money raised from the sale of elephants would go into a conservation fund.
He said the international lobby against Zimbabwe’s sale of baby elephants was just cheap politicking.
Mzembi said the sale of the elephants to countries that offer appropriate habitats was in line with international treaties, adding the money raised would be used for animal conservation purposes.
He said the other way to deal with elephant overpopulation was through hunting trophies but noted that the country could not go that route after the United States issued an executive order banning the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe last year.
Despite this, Mzembi said Zimbabwe has to raise a conservation fund to sustainably manage the environment.
The minister said he would respond to all those who have petitioned the nation urging Zimbabwe to stop the elephant exports and admitted that the negative publicity on these issues is tourism.
Meanwhile, Mzembi commended the Netherlands government for supporting tourism in the country, saying the sponsorship for Zimbabwe to participate in its international trade fair next week would enhance Zimbabwe’s marketing drive in Europe.
He added that the sponsorship would enable Zimbabwe to gain its lost market share in the Benelex market. Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg make up the Benelux market.
Netherlands Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Gera Sneller, said Zimbabwe has been given an opportunity to market the country and expressed hope that participating at the her country’s biggest travel and holiday fair would bring more tourists to the southern African country.
She said the sponsorship was made possible under her country’s new approach of supporting the private sector.
Zimbabwean tourism operators would exhibit at the fair which begins on the 13 January. Thereafter they would have road shows in Netherlands and Belgium to market Zimbabwe as a tourist destination.
But Mzembi said all these efforts would come to naught if Zimbabwe does not align its tourism prices to regional standards.
He said Zimbabwe was a very expensive destination and this year his ministry would engage other government ministries and stakeholders in the tourism industry to address the issue of pricing in the industry.
He said issues like tourism charges and value added tax on tourist arrivals and accommodation was making Zimbabwe an expensive destination.
Mzembi said it was puzzling that when the price of fuel was going down globally in Zimbabwe it remained high, adding he would discuss this issue with Energy Minister, Samuel Undenge..
This, he said, was affecting tourism seriously as one of the international airlines that had returned to Zimbabwe after years of absence, KLM airlines, pulled out last year over the high cost of Jet AI fuel.