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Cablegate: Save Valley: Struggling to Hold On

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002051

SIPDIS

AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE, D. TEITELBAUM
USDOC FOR ROBERT TELCHIN, TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW,
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON, STATE PASS USDOI/FWS
FOR RICHARD RUGGIERO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAID ECON PGOV ZI
SUBJECT: SAVE VALLEY: STRUGGLING TO HOLD ON

SUBJECT: SAVE VALLEY: STRUGGLING TO HOLD ON

1. (SBU) Summary: Hammond Ranch, an American-owned property
in a southeastern Zimbabwe nature conservancy, remains
threatened by the continuing encroachment of settlers
encouraged by GOZ land reform policies. The conservancy
still hopes to reach an agreement with the settlers that will
save one of Africa,s key wildlife sanctuaries. End Summary

-------------------------
SETTLERS AND LAND REFORM
-------------------------

2. (SBU) EconOff recently spent two days with George Hulme,
the manager of Hammond Ranch (one of 27 properties which make
up Africa,s largest private wildlife sanctuary, Save Valley
Conservancy). Hulme explained that settlers from local
communal lands and beyond now control conservancy lands on
two sides of Hammond Ranch. Although the GOZ has not
advocated the takeover, settlers have been encouraged by the
general tenor of GOZ land reform policies. However, due to
their inability to grow enough food to subsist on their new
farms, Hulme said the settlers frequently cross onto Hammond
Ranch property to poach, including setting fires to limit the
ground where the animals can forage, making poaching that
much easier.

3. (SBU) Beyond Hammond Ranch, Hulme said, settlers now
threaten to split the Save Valley Conservancy (SVC) in two as
those who settled on the eastern and western sides have
migrated toward the SVC,s center. If this occurs, wildlife
would have less space in which to live and the southern
portion of SVC would be in danger of complete takeover by
settlers. (N.B. Thus far, no settlers have moved into the
northern section of the conservancy.).

4. (SBU) Hulme said another trouble spot is the Sabi River,
which runs the length of SVC,s Eastern edge. The SVC and
the commercial farmers who had owned the land East of the
river came to an agreement that the entire river would belong
to SVC. The commercial farmers had had their own irrigation
systems and did not need the river for their crops. However,
the new settlers on these properties now demand access to the
river. Hulme expressed optimism that Hammond Ranch,s
historic good ties with the local communal peoples will stall
any takeover, and noted that SVC as a whole continues to
assist local communities and even settlers to eke out a
living.

5. (SBU) Commenting on the GOZ,s new wildlife policy
announced earlier this year, Hulme said a 25 year lease-hold
was too short a time for anyone to recoup a profit from the
massive investment needed. The GOZ recently set up a
committee from Masvingo province (where the SVC is located)
to negotiate new terms. However, according to Hulme, these
negotiations have now broken down with no new talks scheduled
before the March parliamentary elections.

----------------------------
ELEPHANTS AND OTHER ANIMALS
----------------------------

6. (SBU) While a longer-term problem, Hulme noted that the
burgeoning elephant population was also a threat to the
conservancy. With no real natural predators and long life
spans (50-60 years), elephants eat a disproportionate share
of the food base and have begun crowding out other animals.
Hulme told EconOff that no general SVC policy is in place,
but SVC technical committees are working on potential
solutions- that may include culling the herd or sending
elephants to other conservation areas in Zimbabwe or other
countries. However, he said culling the herd would only
occur if Zimbabwe could export the ivory from the tusks
(which would require a special exemption from the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna
and flora). (N.B. Most other parks in Zimbabwe also have too
many elephants and the costs of transporting them outside of
Zimbabwe are astronomical.)

7. (SBU) Like other SVC properties, Hammond Ranch survives on
hunting safaris. Hulme told EconOff that many of the
individual property owners would prefer to conduct only
photographic safari tourism, but that those tourists are just
not coming in sufficient numbers. In fact, he said, Hammond
Ranch,s only photo tourism business for 2004 consisted of
friends of the owners and Embassy personnel.
-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) With invading settlers and falling tourism
squeezing them, the managers and owners of SVC are
nonetheless continuing their passionate efforts to save
African wildlife. In the end, Hulme and others can only hope
that a negotiated settlement will be reached before it
becomes too late to save the conservancy.
DELL

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