The ban on buffalo hunting has been relaxed in Zimbabwe, with permits being issued to hunt the animals with specific bows and arrows.

This was announced by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) in a statement released last week, which read: "ZimParks has relaxed conditions relating to the hunting of buffaloes by allowing the use of specific bows and arrows as part of efforts to diversify options for professional hunters and boost revenue from the sport.”

Hunting is regulated in the country, with authorities able to issue permits to hunt wildlife using bows and arrows, dogs and hand guns on private land; while permits are also being issued to safari operators to hunt bigger game such as lions, elephants, buffaloes and leopards on state-owned land.

The decision to lift the ban has been driven by demand from tourists, who wish to replicate the ‘traditional’ hunting experience in Africa, said President of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, Emmanuel Fundira.

“The traditional hunting habits in Africa have been to use methods such as a bow and arrow, before the advent of ammunition, rifles and guns. Hunting enthusiasts who are coming to Africa are trying to replicate the same type of experience that our forefathers enjoyed in the bush. Hunting occurs all over – it occurs in the UK, Europe, and America. There is an economic benefit that comes from it. It is an income that is needed for funding conservation, and for communities.”

In an interview with CNN, Chairperson of the Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Dr Dilys Roe, commented: “When hunting is done properly, when it is well regulated, the overwhelming evidence is that it is good for conservation and it can result in recovery of key species such as lions, elephants and rhinos.”

Roe added: “There are bad practices and unscrupulous operators, and it is true that in some sites where hunting is not managed properly it has caused problems for conservation, but on a species level it isn't a major threat to any of the species that are of concern.”

However, Ian Michler, Founding Partner of Invent Africa Safaris and an Environmental Journalist, commented: “Hunter-gatherers hunt animals, but that’s always with a huge amount of respect, and it’s for food or for ceremonial purposes. It’s never as a form of fun or sport, to hang a trophy on the wall. I’m against any form of trophy hunting as a conservation measure. We have sustainable ways of taking care of species in protected areas, and that’s through well-managed eco-tourism. And look what happened to Cecil the lion – Cecil was hunted with a bow and arrow. So the idea of killing animals is one thing, but to do it with a bow where there’s a very good chance that an animal like a buffalo is going to be wounded – it’s simply cruel and beyond reason.”