Tanzania has started auctioning hunting concessions in some of the country's top game reserves under a new system designed to get rid of operational misconduct that had led to a two-year standstill.
Some 82 hunting blocks have been lined up for auction through an online bidding process that replaces a paper tendering system said to have been compromised by state officials.
The auction will be conducted in stages over the next three years, with the first part held from June 10, lasting seven days, offering 26 blocks. Buyer details were not available by press time.
According to the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (Tawa), first up for bidding at this initial stage were concessions that safari operators had returned to the government over the past three years that are currently vacant.
Tawa aims to generate $3.4 million per year.
At least 18 of the 26 concessions on offer were within the Selous-Mikumi ecosystem in southern Tanzania, while the rest are in Katavi-Rukwa, Ruaha-Rungwa and Malagarasi-Muyovosi.
Five of the areas are considered Category 1 (top quality) concessions, covering 5,688 out of the total 36,425 square kilometres of the 26 concessions.
Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Hamisi Kigwangala told The EastAfrican that e-auctioning is expected to promote a more transparent ownership of hunting blocks and will bring in more revenue for the government.
Under the new system, hunting blocks are set to be leased out for 10 years instead of five years for Categories I and II, and 15 years instead of five for Category III blocks. These proposals are still awaiting parliamentary approval.
A number of taxes charged on foreign safari operators have also been waived to attract more hunters to the country, Mr Kigwangala said without elaborating.
A 21-day safari would cost about $60,000.
A block hunting licence fee is $60,000 per year. Trophy fees for hunting elephant and lion are the most expensive — $15,000 and $12,000 respectively. Other wild animals permitted to be hunted in Tanzania are hippos, crocodiles and other species not listed as endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Last month, Tawa issued invitations for qualified companies, both local and foreign, to participate in the auction. Winning bidders will be allocated up to five areas each, which must be a mix of the three available categories.
Mr Kigwangala first proposed taking the hunting blocks allocation system online in October 2017. His initial intention was to revoke all allocations tendered in December 2016, amid growing concerns about suspected corruption and lack of transparency in the process, and put them up for auction within 60 days.
But after protests from several stakeholders, the minister agreed to extend the allocations to 2020 to allow time for the creation of a workable auctioning process.
The Tanzania Hunting Operators Association (Tahoa) and Tanzania Professional Hunters Association said they are not happy with the online auctioning. Tahoa president Michel Mantheakis said it will have an adverse effect on business.
The timing of the first auction, ahead of the 2019 hunting season that begins on July 1, makes it difficult for concession holders to complete preparations like building camps, cutting roads, hiring staff, and doing reconnaissance on time for the season start, according to the Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF).
SCIF said the concession holders will still be required to pay 40 per cent of their quotas as well as invest in local community development initiatives and counter-poaching programmes.