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Expert suggests safaris

Expert suggests safaris

C

AMBODIA could make millions from carefully controlled sport hunting instead of

seeing rare species exterminated for a few dollars, safari guide Thor Thorsson

said.

He pointed to the successful conservation of wildlife in South

Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana where he works as a prototype for the way

forward here in Cambodia.

In those countries a limited number of hunting

licenses are issued for protected species and international hunters are prepared

to pay huge amounts of money for them. A license to shoot a bull elephant in

Zimbabwe costs $17,000 and one for the extremely rare white rhino costs

$150,000.

Hunting expeditions over 12 to 16 days in the southern African

countries can run into tens of thousands of dollars for even relatively common

species, Thorsson said. Guides such as Thorsson charge $160 per person per day

for their services and by the time trackers and skinners, hotels, air tickets

and other payments are added in, costs creep up to $700-$1,000 per day. And that

is not including licenses and having trophies stuffed and mounted by

taxidermists.

Yet there are hundreds of extremely wealthy hunters from

Europe, the United States and Australasia who are prepared to pay that kind of

money and Thorsson believes they could be attracted here, significantly boosting

the economy.

He said: "A small exclusive hunting operation could be

organized in this country and trophy hunters invited to hunt one or two species

like sambar deer, the wild boar, muntjack deer and small barking deer. There is

enough wildlife in this country to sustain some activity.

"It is not just

the thrill of the hunt these people enjoy but the experience of being in the

jungle."

And not all of the hunters, many of whom are registered with the

Tucson Arizona-based Safari Club International, carry guns. Some, for a lesser

fee, are happy to shoot wildlife with their camera only.

Swedish-born

Thorsson pointed to the lushly forested and under populated eastern provinces of

Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri as ideal areas for sport hunting.

He also

suggested that Cambodia could follow the African countries' lead in controlling

poaching. Under a scheme called Campfire some of the revenue from hunting

license is shared out with the nearest settlement to where a legal kill is made.

This provides a great incentive for villagers not to poach animals but leave

them to be hunted in a controlled way by foreign tourists.

And in

Zimbabwe not only are there stiff jail terms of up to 14 years for poaching but

suspects can be shot if they refuse to obey rangers' orders. In the last three

years around 60-70 suspects have been killed.

Thorsson also urged

Cambodian conservationists to form a group to advise the government and press it

to pass legislation to protect wildlife.

In Zimbabwe the strict

conservation policies have been so successful that its elephant population has

grown to 80,000, perhaps 20,000 more than the remaining jungle land can

comfortably support.

It also means legal hunting is desirable to control

the population, Thorsson said.

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