Klaserie River Sands

Evidence against trophy hunting mounts


Over the past decade I, along with other people, have consistently argued that the economic benefits of trophy hunting have been crudely overstated. And when viewed against the alternative land-use option, that of well-managed photographic ecotourism, the merit of trophy hunting in nationally protected areas holds even less weight, if any at all. 

In this regard, it is worth highlighting two recent scientific reports that clearly conclude that trophy hunting makes an insubstantial contribution to GDP, job creation and local economies. The first, Big Game Hunting in Africa is Economically Useless appeared about two years ago as an IUCN report and was initially only published in French. Since translated into English, it concludes that ‘hunting does not however play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance’. One of many notable economic indicators is that while 16.5% of Africa’s land is in some way connected to trophy hunting, this activity is creating jobs for only 0.0001% of the workforce.

The more recent report, How much does trophy hunting really contribute to African communities? compiled by Economists at Large, draws a similar conclusion. ‘The suggestion that trophy hunting plays a significant role in African economic development is misguided,’ said economist Rod Campbell, lead author of the study. And in a complete dismissal of a typical overstatement made by the trophy hunting lobby, the report has the following to say about revenues in particular: ‘Trophy hunting advocates present the industry as large, citing figures such as US$200-milllion in annual revenue. But in the context of national economies, the industry is tiny, contributing at best a fraction of a per cent of GDP. Nature-based tourism does play a significant role in national development, but trophy hunting is insignificant. Across the investigated countries, trophy hunting revenue was only 1.8% of tourism revenues.’

I again call on the IUCN and the global conservation agencies to undertake a thorough review of the role that trophy hunting plays in the way we manage our dwindling wildlife resources in protected areas. Contrary to the prevailing claims, this sector has in many ways become a central part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.

Ian Michler

Ian has spent the last 24 years working as a specialist guide, photo-journalist and consultant across Africa, including a stint of 13 years based in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. When not guiding, he writes predominately for Africa Geographic covering topics on conservation, wildlife management, ecotourism, and the environment, and has been writing his popular monthly column since 2001. Ian is also the author and photographer of seven natural history and travel books on Africa, and is a past winner of the bird category in the Agfa Wildlife photographic competition (1997). He has also worked as a researcher and field coordinator on various natural history television documentaries for international broadcasters and as a consultant on ecotourism to various private sector and government agencies. Prior to his life in the wilderness, he spent eight years practicing as a stockbroker in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

  • Brett Thomson

    Wonderful news – Derek Joubert, David Bristow and Adam Cruise explain why the Trophy Hunting of Lions is not contributing to their conservation here as well:


    For the ordinary person to assist in the protection of lions, we need the US Government to add lions to the Endangered Species list. This would help prohibit the import of “trophies” and the commercial trade in lion parts. At the moment 560 wild lions are killed by international trophy hunters each year. And 62% of these “trophies” are imported into the United States.

    So its a good place to start, and you can sign the petition here:



    Brett Thomson, Sun Safaris.

  • Bertrand Chardonnet

    Dear Ian,

    Congratulations for your work and understanding!

    I would like to add a few words on this topic: another increasing problem with big game hunting nowadays is that the income generated par hectare is – at the very maximum – 2 USD per hectare. Today the cost of range management for conservation is well over 2 USD per hectare, say 5 to 10 when species like lion are involved, and up to 100 USD per hectare when industrial poaching (rhino, elephant) is concerned.

    This return of 2 USD per hectare is not a benefit (actually most of the time it is a loss as tourism charges are high: camps, road, vehicles, staff, concession and various fees…bribes… and almost nothing is used for real proper range management (including anti-poaching). While the problems increased over the years, the big game hunting benefit/return did not and now the amount of money available for management is much less that what is really needed. That is the main reason why hunting is now less and less an efficient conservation tool over tropical Africa.

    All the best.


  • Cory Risseeuw

    Ok so what is the breakdown? Tourism produces how much and hunting produces how much? This really tells us nothing.

  • RobinOfTheWest

    “Legal” does not imply “Moral” and those who can’t distinguish between the two are easily identified. How much revenue killing exotic and endangered animals generates is not the issue.

  • Amur Tiger

    If there wasn’t for corruption, trophy hunting in Africa would be long forbidden.. now hunting can even cause financial losses, but still, it will be tolerated as long as cash keeps coming into the pockets of politicians.

  • Chusyn Dyy

    Excellent article. High time to call things by their proper names.Trophy Hunting, yes it is . It is not an outdoor “sport”; it is not conservation, and it has nothing to do with sustainable development. It’s the unjusified killing & the organized extermination of African wildlife. Thank you.

  • Dirk

    This article might be interesting for you: Some facts about the killing of a black rhino. Trophy Hunting with the WWF. Please spread the word: http://www.pandaleaks.org/kill-it-to-save-it/

  • Roxanne Sutton

    About time intelligence and knowledge was involved , I’m sick of the vile excuses from fake conservationists who’s only goal is a trophy.

  • Ken Mar

    I once attended a talk by a prominent paleontologist/conservation expert. When ask by a bright young student from the audience what should the young generation do to help the cause of conserving fauna n flora, the expert advised the student to have less or no children! Hunting is not the main reason driving species extinct. Humans overpopulating mother Earth is. DO THE RIGHT THING!

  • Pingback: OPINION: Botswana’s Hunting Ban Deserves Better from the New York Times | National Geographic (blogs)()

  • Gordon Goldhaber

    The trophy hunters are refusing to back down. They think they are winning, but they’re not. When Blackfish was released, Seaworld refused to back down, but now they arent gonna breed orcas anymore.

    Give it time, Cecil’s death won’t be in vain.

    -Elephant deaths now exceede birth rates
    (trophy hunters appearently aren’t helping)

    -Ian Khama has now recorded a rise, as well as a stabilization of Botswana’s elephants
    (And give it time, lions will also recover, maybe even double)

    -Namibia sadly has only 500-600 lions left
    (That are probably on they’re way out unless the government gives them protection from hunters)

    -Kenya, which hunters wrongly stereotype as a doom & gloom country for wildlife, now has one of the best anti-poaching systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Wheras Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique are getting worse.

    In time, the hunting industry will raise the white flag, and surrender to ecotourism.

Africa Geographic