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.