The Mugabe government’s ‘land reallocation,’ starting in 2000, converted hundreds of productive farms into subsistence ice-age, and much of the long-nurtured plains game is simply gone. There are a few good ‘general bag’ areas remaining, especially the large conservancies, but Zimbabwe no longer competes effectively in the plains game market, and has slipped to the third-most popular safari destination, after South Africa and Namibia. However, the designated Safari Areas remain superb for buffalo and elephant, and thanks to many years of conservative quotas Zimbabwe is becoming a surprisingly good destination for lion, with a fine selection of kudu, eland, sable, bushbuck, and waterbuck. Common game includes zebra, impala, warthog, grey duiker, and steenbok, with spotty distribution of reedbuck, tsessebe, nyala, klipspringer, and Sharpe’s grysbok. All of these species (and more) remain huntable, though the concentrations of plains game once found on private lands is now greatly reduced. Zimbabwe is typically heavy mopane woodland – thornbush – and as such offers ideal leopard habitat with a CITES quota of 500 exportable leopards plus the largest CITES quota for elephant. Zimbabwe almost certainly offers the best combination of availability and affordability. Buffalo hunting is also some of the continent’s best, with many thousands of buffalo still roaming the Zambezi Valley to the north and the Hwange Park corridor to the west.
The land reallocation has been devastating, primarily on private land. It has been estimated that Zimbabwe has lost 80% of her sable since 2000. The economy is/was in dire straits, and the political process has been widely questioned. However Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife continues to do a fine job, as do Zimbabwe’s professional hunters and safari operators. Zimbabwe has the most rigid professional hunter licensing standards on the African continent, a genuine (and lengthy) appren-ticeship followed by rigorous written and practical exams. A Zimbabwe PH licence means something, and there remain many great areas where some of Africa’s best PHs and safari operators are able to offer superb hunting experiences. At this writing it appears that the ‘power-sharing’ government is increasing in efficiency, and Zimbabweans are guardedly optimistic toward the future. In terms of either safety or results there is no reason to not consider a Zimbabwe safari, but due caution must be exerted in selecting an outfitter, and remember that only a Zimbabwe citizen can hold a Zimbabwe professional hunter’s licence.