Hunting bookings are up by between 30% and 50% in Matabeleland North Province for the period between June and November this year, with the united states constituting 60% of the clients, while the remaining 40% are from Europe.

The hunting season kicked off in March with some operators reporting that they recorded low business as the forests were thick due to the incessant rains, making it difficult to spot the animals during that period.

Some operators however reported that the season kicked off on a high note with the number of clients up by 30% compared to the same period last year.

Hunting business executive, Mrs Siphilisiwe Ngwenya confirmed that their bookings have increased with the lion and leopard bookings all taken by European clients who are interested in smaller species while american bookings focus on the big game.

“We were thinking that maybe America would have dropped because of the ban on the elephants and the lion but when we tried to analyse, we realised about 60% of our elephant bookings are still from America and the other bit from Europe,” she said.

Chairperson of the Gwayi Valley Intensive Conservation Area, Mr Mark Russell attributed the increase in bookings to intensive marketing which has seen Zimbabwean operators penetrate the Russian, Scandinavian and other markets in Europe over the last two years.

“Also with the anticipation of the Safari Club International lifting the import of elephant ivory and products, we anticipate that lift to come up anytime soon, so there are lots of bookings  that have come from America. Other bookings from Europe come on the back of a massive marketing drive,” said Mr Russell.

Although the hunting season kicks off in March, the peak season starts in June and ends in August.

Unlike in the previous years where hunting normally ends in October due to poor business, the bookings for this year are stretching to December.