Liononomics: hard cash trumps t-shirts with fluffy lions on them

Why WWF campaigners should have been working for the Zambian tourist board.

According to reports, Zambia has just banned lion hunting, but only because it can make more money per lion from tourism than from hunting.

So much for all that campaigning and wearing of T-shirts - turns out that those WWF devotees should have been working for the Zambian tourist board all along.

Sylvia Masebo, Zambia's minister for tourism, told Reuters that the big cat numbers were decreasing too rapidly to merit the estimated £1.8 m earned from hunting each year:

"Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry," said Masebo. "Why should we lose our animals for $3 million (£1.8 m) a year? The benefits we get from tourist visits are much higher."

According to blog zambianwatchdog.com, though, she kinda took this back afterwards, in various "clarifications". Now she's saying that although potential hunters will no longer be awarded tenders, those with existing tenders can still hunt:

“Some of the clarifications on the process are that no tender that was awarded has been cancelled, instead, what was stopped was the process of tendering itself. I did not cancel the tender for safari hunting but merely stopped the process,” Masebo said much to the astonishment of the delegates.
From the meeting, it was clear that Masebo acted emotionally to announce the ban on leopard and lion hunting mainly on account of wrong advice from her friends, a close associate to Masebo said.
“Masebo is a puppet of individuals like Yousuf Zumla who is her chief advisor and has personal agenda to settle old score with competitors  and has been using his relationship with Masebo not knowing that he is harming the entire sector,” said one of the delegates close to Masebo.
 

Awww. Photograph: Getty Images
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Brexit Big Brother is watching: how media moguls control the news

I know the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph well, and I don’t care to see them like this.

It would take a heart of stone now not to laugh at an illustration of Theresa May staring defiantly out at Europe from the British coast, next to the headline “Steel of the new Iron Lady”.

Those are, however, the words that adorned the front page of the Daily Mail just five months ago, without even a hint of sarcasm. There has been so much written about the Prime Minister and the strength of her character – not least during the election campaign – and yet that front page now seems toe-curlingly embarrassing.

Reality has a nasty habit of making its presence felt when news is remorselessly selected, day in and day out, to fit preconceived points of view. May and her whole “hard Brexit” agenda – which the public has now demonstrated it feels, at best, only half-heartedly enthusiastic about – has been an obsession of several British newspapers, not least the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

I know these papers well, having spent the best part of a quarter-century working for them, and I don’t care to see them like this. When I worked there, a degree of independent thought was permitted on both titles. I joined the Telegraph in 2002; at the time, my colleagues spoke with pride of the paper’s tolerance to opposing views. And when I was at the Mail, it happily employed the former Labour MP Roy Hattersley.

Would I be able to run positive stories about, say, my mate Gina Miller – who successfully campaigned for parliamentary scrutiny of the Brexit process – in the Telegraph if I were there today? Or at the Daily Mail? Dream on: it’s two minutes of hate for that “enemy of the people”.

Morale in these newsrooms must be low. I am finding that I have to allow an extra half-hour (and sometimes an extra bottle) for lunches with former colleagues these days, because they always feel the need to explain that they’re not Brexiteers themselves.

Among the Telegraph characters I kept in touch with was Sir David Barclay, who co-owns the paper with his brother, Sir Frederick. Alas, the invitations to tea at the Ritz (and the WhatsApp messages) came to an abrupt halt because of you-know-what.

I don’t think Sir David was a bad man, but he got a Brexit bee in his bonnet. I was conscious that he was close to Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, and both had cordial relations with Rupert Murdoch. It became clear that they had all persuaded themselves (and perhaps each other) that Brexit suited their best interests – and they are all stubborn.

It seems to me unutterably sad that they didn’t sound out more of their factory-floor staff on this issue. We journalists have never been the most popular people but, by and large, we all started out wanting to make the world a better place. We certainly didn’t plan to make it worse.

People used to tell me that papers such as the Daily Mail and the Telegraph changed because the country had but, even in the darkest days, I didn’t agree with that premise. We are in the mess we’re in now because of personalities – in newspapers every bit as much as in politics. The wrong people in the wrong jobs, at the wrong time.

Would the Daily Mail have backed Brexit under Dacre’s predecessor David English? It is hard to imagine. He was a committed and outward-looking Europhile who, in the 1970s, campaigned for the country to join the EU.

I can think of many Telegraph editors who would have baulked at urging their readers to vote Leave, not least Bill Deedes. Although he had his Eurosceptic moments, a man as well travelled, compassionate and loyal to successive Conservative prime ministers would never have come out in favour of Brexit.

It says a great deal about the times in which we live that the Daily Mirror is just about the only paper that will print my stuff these days. I had a lot of fun writing an election diary for it called “The Heckler”. Morale is high there precisely because the paper’s journalists are allowed to do what is right by their readers and, just as importantly, to be themselves.

Funnily enough, it reminded me of the Telegraph, back in the good old days. 

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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