Wild Frontiers

Missing the Mark: African trophy hunting fails to show consistent conservation benefits

The pressure on the trophy hunting industry to take increased responsibility for its impact on endangered and threatened species is growing, with the US now assessing the impact of their trophy hunting activities on African wildlife. The Democratic Staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources has published 25-page report discussing the failure of trophy hunting in conserving species in many areas of Africa.

The report discusses successful and failing programmes in depth, but for those don’t wish to read the entire document here are the key findings. Of course any summary will neglect the detail, so the best option is to download and study the full report. Any omission is in the interests of expediency and any implied bias is unintended.

EH 7018P Ernest Hemingway on safari, Africa. January, 1934. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Ernest Hemingway on safari, Africa. January, 1934. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Introduction

The report acknowledges that although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) official stance is that trophy hunting industry, “can and has provided significant long-term benefits to the populations of many species” in many instances this has not been the case.

The report then goes on to examine under what conditions trophy hunting may contribute to conservation highlighting that, “in places like the United States, where laws against wildlife poaching are generally well respected and enforced and transparent mechanisms funnel taxes and fees generated by hunters to effective conservation programs, hunting has helped restore populations of some prized game species” however in parts of Africa trophy hunting has not helped species.

The report examines the effects of trophy hunting on five major threatened or endangered game species (the African elephant, African lion, black rhinoceros, southern white rhinoceros, and leopard) in four African countries (Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe), noting that the laws, institutions, and capacity necessary to make trophy hunting benefit conservation are often lacking.

It notes that there is a responsibility on the FWS to significantly improve its permitting process to ensure that trophy hunting doesn’t destroy existing populations of these species.

Important findings of the report

1.    Scientists believe that Earth is now on the cusp of a sixth great extinction – the first one driven by humans. A major driver of this extinction event is poaching and trophy hunting and, although poaching is a major driver, trophy hunting does remove significant numbers of animals and appears to be the primary driver of certain animal (such as lion) declines.

2.    While some species can support a level of hunting, this report focuses on Threatened or Endangered animals, where there is little margin for error in managing these species.

3.    American hunters of these species have the financial means to ensure that they are acting responsibly and not promoting practices that are detrimental to wildlife. This of great importance as the US is the largest importer of wildlife trophies in the world.

4.    It is clear from this report and others that these hunters do not always act ethically or in a way that promotes wildlife conservation – as demonstrated by the killing of Cecil the Lion. In addition, there is no evidence that trophy hunting lessens the rate of poaching, despite claims to the contrary.

5.    In order to prevent these types of practices a strong legal framework that promotes conservation in the source countries is required. In addition, hunting outfitters need to demonstrate conservation benefits. Obviously where corruption levels are high, trophy hunting ‘benefits’ are negligible or nil.

6.    The findings of this report were that in many instances funds that should have been used for conservation, were diverted from their purpose and instances of non-sporting methods of hunting are increasing. In addition some species are being hunted at a rate that out-paces reproduction making the justification of trophy hunting very difficult.

7.    The report does note that not all trophy hunting operations were a failure, with Namibia’s conservancy model working well to conserve wildlife and enhance local welfare.

8.   On the importer side the FWS has only required one import permit from 2010-2014, even though 2,700 permit-eligible trophies were imported during that time. Failing to do so meant that the FWS did not collect data which is of vital importance as many individuals or organisations are known to repeatedly violate wildlife laws.

9.   Instead the FWS often uses data generated by external organisations, including Safari Club International (SCI) – the biggest advocacy organisation for trophy hunting. At times the FWS may not disclose the sources of data aside from authors without naming affiliation(s). Recent external evaluations of SCI ‘surveys’ found no scientific merit in any of them.

10.  The report states the FWS is not making use of its position to ensure American trophy hunters are not making bad situations worse for African wildlife species.

Conclusions and recommendations

Benefits of trophy hunting cannot be assumed. There can be benefits but only under specific conditions were corruption levels are low, legal frameworks are strong and there is transparency with regards to conservation funding practices.

American organisations need to do more to ensure that trophy hunting does not decimate struggling wildlife populations. Data collection from impartial and scientifically sound studies, and the enforcing of permits is one way the FWS could assist in African countries to conserve their wildlife.

In addition the FWS should not continue to allow imports without verifying that these imports do actually enhance species conservation. Loopholes need to be closed and import permitting requirements need to be tightened.

Finally, the report recommends that the trophy fees should be increased to fund scientific research and conservation and that trophies should only be imported from fair chase methods.

Carolynne Geary

Carolynne is a South African who has returned after a decade here, there and almost everywhere. During her travels she gained a Masters in Conservation from University College London, taught in a Mexican university, managed a language school in Italy and became a field guide in the African bush. She is passionate about conservation, photography, languages and Italian gelato. The views expressed in her posts are her own. Connect with her on Facebook.

  • Gordon Goldhaber

    Well hunters.

    Try bringing up imaginary observation bullshit all you want.

    According to this article however, you are the ones who are wrong.

    Lions don’t need trophy hunting, nor do elephants, leopards, rhinos or cheetahs.

    So say all the lies, exaggerations, amd hate rhetoric you want. But it changes nothing.

    If African elephants go extinct, I can’t wait to see what pathetic justification you come up with for that.

  • Gordon Goldhaber

    Graeme if you are reading this comment I am posting. I am sending a message to you.

    It’s high time you give up. You and your precious safari club international have been exposed.

    No more lies, exaggerations or hate rhetoric out of you. Your only ridiculing yourself.

    I almost laughed at your CAMPFIRE comment. That money benefitted the outfitters, not the villagers. If you read, Edward Ngwenya, a villager, admits he doesnt recieve a cent from hunting.

    • Schroederville

      I could not agree more, Gordon! SCI is so heinously corrupt and ugly. Killing for prizes and ego. Selfish barbaric crimes against nature. I will fight until the day I die to protect these beautiful sentient beings from the ugly low men who would shoot and butcher them to hang them on their walls. KILLING IS NOT CONSERVATION! Never has been, never will be. Ban trophy killing!

      • Gordon Goldhaber

        Finally, someone on africa geographic who agrees with me!

        Im glad im not alone.

        And say, you been to any major safari country?

        • Schroederville

          I work in conservation here in the United States. I am traveling to Africa in 2017 to do some volunteer work and to go on photo safari. I will never stop fighting for lions until the day I die. I love them.

        • Bundubele

          Gordon, there is a certain blogger who is clearly ‘winding’ you up…..its called ‘bear baiting’ I think. Probably working in a commercial abbatoir is a suitable pastime for this person but you musn’t concern yourself overly with such types. They are everywhere and the best you can do is discipline your commentary (if you don’t mind me saying) and perhaps research articles that can have a beneficial insight for us all to enjoy -just saying, old chap, no offense intended.

  • Whattheh***

    Maybe the truth is, that as trophy & meat hunting is economically based, no real conservation ethics apply. You cannot get a trophy of the large proportions that hunters and their clients want, without killing the sexually mature of the animals they are after. Hunters for meat don’t care either way as they are filling quotas. Weekend hunters are also normally after the experience, and the meat (biltong & freezers). So really who is doing the conserving after all this? Hunting guidelines for licences etc as also approved by those in the industry, and the bottom line is always money!! Why do all things fauna and flora have to have some sort of economic value to be considered worthy of protecting? Why do we not realize that habitat protection is probably the most important conservation tool. At the end of the day, mankind is also an animal, and realiant on his enviroment too for survival. If it is always only about money, then this world will be a very sad and barren one in 40-50 years time, filled with battery chickens, and feedlot beef, and no natural wonders to wonder at.

    • Joc Guest

      I like your statement about habitat protection. What is of concern is that it is being lost due to populations being poorly managed and I include mankind in this statement. One that is of great concern is that of the overpopulation of elephants in Southern Africa as this must receive urgent attention now. Unfortunately emotion is the driving force not scientific conservation to ensure survival of the ecology.

      • Freedom

        Get the illegal aliens to go back to their respective countries,last I looked there were more than 14 million illegal intruders here.Man has created this inbalance in our eco system,they should now fix it.Why take from wildlife what belongs to them,to give to those who shouldn’t be here in the first place.

      • Phillip L

        The “elephant overpopulation crisis” is not scientifically substantiated, and it appears as if culling, from a scientific and management perspective, is not a desirable and almost certainly not a necessary measure to control populations. See http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2016-06-21-calling-out-ivo-vegters-fractious-fulminations01/#.V49eP7p94WM for a piece clearing out of the way some misconceptions about elephant populations in Southern Africa, and also read

        [1] Baxter, P. W. J., Modeling the Impact of the African Elephant, Loxodonta africana, on Woody Vegetation in Semi-Arid Savannas , University of California, Berkeley , 2003

        [2] Owen-Smith, N. et al., A scientific perspective on the management of elephants in the Kruger National Park and elsewhere, South African Journal of Science 102, 2006

        [3] Gillson, L., Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Change: Using palaeoecology to manage dynamic landscapes in the Anthropocene, isbn: 9780191022104, Oxford, 2015

        The objections to culling are grounded in more than moral or emotional appeal.

  • Jd Creager

    Remember the recent story we posted about how hunters are contributing $1.1 billion to U.S. wildlife conservation in 2016 alone?

    Our
    collective economic impact doesn’t end there. The latest scoop on what
    visiting hunters spend in Africa is $426 million annually according to a
    new study from market research firm Southwick Associates (SA). The
    report—“The Economic Contributions of Hunting-Related Tourism in Eastern
    and Southern Africa”—researched hunters’ total economic contributions
    between 2012 and 2014 in the top eight African hunting destinations:
    South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique,
    Tanzania and Zambia. The findings? For starters, American hunters led
    the charge with the total number of visiting hunters worldwide exceeding
    18,000 accounting for 53,000-plus jobs. Once again, hunting takes
    center stage as a driving force in wildlife conservation and in the
    growth of local economies.

    For more on the study, which is so
    impressive that Bloomberg Economics covered it earlier this month, check
    out these five facts:

    The United States accounted for the
    greatest number of visiting hunters—74 percent—with Europe a distant
    second at 16 percent.

    Hunters spent an average of 14 days in Africa—11 of them hunting.

    Hunting parties averaged two hunters with one observer who provided additional economic benefits.
    The top three countries visited were South Africa (8,387), Namibia (7,076) and Zimbabwe (1,361).
    Average hunter spending was estimated at $26,000.

    Commenting
    on the study, which was conducted on behalf of the Safari Club
    International (SCI) Foundation, Rob Southwick, president of SA, said,
    “Our
    results show that a substantial number of jobs and income are created
    by each hunter who visits Africa, and when you add them all together,
    hunting becomes a critical sector of the region’s economy. Considering
    that hunting occurs in regions where photographic safari operations and
    agriculture are often limited, the economic benefits of hunting are
    critical.”

    This brings up an important point that emerged during
    the live “Hunters Conserve Wildlife” debate in New York City on May 4
    when pro-hunting debater Catherine Semcer of H.O.P.E. (Humanitarian
    Operations Protecting Elephants) explained how photographic tourism and
    agriculture simply aren’t feasible in many remote areas of Africa where
    hunting is the only viable method of providing economic opportunities
    and wildlife conservation incentives.

    – Bloomberg Economics Full Article

    • Phillip L

      There is no denying the sums of money spent by visiting hunters throughout Africa, although what is being especially questioned in the report referred to by the author above is the proportion of that income spent on communities and conservation. There has been studies suggesting that this proportion is as low as 3% (Citation: http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/Ecolarge-2013-200m-question.pdf). This is $13 million for the annual continent-wide hunting revenue amount you cited. The Kruger National Park (exclusively photographic) generates about $2 million a month just from conservation fees paid upon entry, nearly doubling the annual net hunters’ contribution for the whole continent without consuming any animals.
      Also consider that since the number of visiting hunters are in the order of a few thousand (e.g. over 8000 for South Africa), the amount of animals consumed during these visits is at least as much (though likely much more, since hunters kill multiple animals during their visits) – this comes at a cost to replace the hunted animals in addition to significantly reducing natural populations, which in the case of some species only number a few thousand globally.

      • Jd Creager

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights: Legends of the Fall
        A Daily Reckoning Special Position Paper
        by Jim Amrhein

        “The
        encouragement of a proper hunting spirit, a proper love of sport,
        instead of being incompatible with a love of nature and wild things,
        offers the best guaranty for their preservation.”

        –– U.S. President and Nobel Prize winner Theodore Roosevelt

        I
        ONCE WROTE an essay in this forum that I’m still getting feedback
        about. It dealt with the touchy subject of animal rights (or rather, the
        lack thereof). In the closing paragraph of that piece, I promised to
        expose the animal rights crowds for the hypocrites they are at a later
        date — and to demonstrate that the best friend any wild animal ever had
        is the hunter who exercises his or her personal freedom to stalk the
        woods, mountains, meadows, or marshes with gun or bow in hand….

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights: Hunting for Reason — and Respect

        And
        now that it’s the crisp and colorful fall, and time once again
        for those who are so inclined to hang some healthy wild game on the
        ol’ meat hook, it’s time for me to make good on that promise. I’ll
        also offer a “sacrificial lamb” to some critics who claim some of
        my columns have little financial component to them. To those folks, I
        say this: What you’re about to read should slake your thirst for
        numbers. But as you read, I urge you to keep in mind my larger point —
        that there’s a negative fiscal impact whenever personal freedoms
        are compromised.

        Here’s a fact the animal rights crowd doesn’t like to hear, or to admit:

        There
        wouldn’t be nearly as many (if any) vast tracts of publicly owned land
        to hike, bike, bird-watch, dog-walk, horseback ride, or generally gambol
        around on if regulated hunting did not exist. Funds generated by
        license fees and federal excise taxes on outdoor gear pay for these
        lands by an overwhelming margin. In fact, these monies dwarf all other
        sources combined — including the nearly nonexistent contributions of
        animal rights organizations (more on this in a minute). That means
        outdoor sportsmen are overwhelmingly the largest source of conservation
        funding in the United States….

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights: “Hunter-Vationists” Are Paying for Everyone’s Party

        Here
        are the numbers, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the
        International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and
        other public sources:

        ** $746 million —
        Annual amount of money spent by hunters in the United States on
        licenses and public land access fees alone. Sportsmen’s licensing
        revenues account for more than half of all funding for state natural
        resource agencies

        ** $300 million —
        Additional monies contributed to wildlife conservation every year by the
        more than 10,000 private hunting-advocate organizations, like the
        National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and the Rocky Mountain
        Elk Foundation

        ** $4.2 billion —
        Amount of money sportsmen have contributed to conservation through a 10%
        federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and gear since the 1937
        Pittman-Robertson Act established the tax. Millions of acres of
        public-use land has been purchased, preserved, and maintained with this
        money.

        From an ecological point of
        view, here’s what all this translates into– The needs of wild animals —
        especially endangered and threatened species — are immeasurably better
        served by the millions of acres of well-maintained, patrolled habitat
        that hunters’ dollars are paying for than the lies and propaganda dished
        out by animal rights groups. In fact, their efforts are among the most
        destructive forces facing wildlife of all types today…

        Why?
        Because if the animal rights crowd got its way and hunting
        were outlawed, there’d be no money for the preservation and expansion
        of the habitat that houses not only game species, but the
        endangered, threatened, and recovering species as well. Like it or not,
        and believe it or not, sportsmen’s dollars are in large part what has
        made possible the wildly successful re-establishment of the wild
        turkey, black bear, bison, elk, and the bald eagle. Yes, it was vast
        tracts of public, protected land and plenty of dollars for
        reintroduction efforts that made these miracles of conservation a
        reality — not to mention the 20-fold increase in the number of wild elk,
        the 133-fold increase in the wild turkey flock, and the roughly 70-fold
        increase in the national whitetail deer herd over the last century.

        If
        sport hunting and/or sport fishing were outlawed (animal rights groups
        are gunning for them both), many of these species would dwindle once
        again — because sooner or later, the government would no doubt pony up a
        lot of these lands for development. They’d have to; who else would pay
        for their upkeep and regulation? The animal rights crowd?

        Uh, no.

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights: A-Hunting They Will Go — for Headlines and Hype

        In
        case you’re wondering how much money animal rights groups devote
        to habitat preservation and the welfare of wild species, take a gander
        at PETA’s 2004 financials. Straight from its Web site, I discovered
        that PETA’s prodigious revenue of over $29 million bought:

        ** 2,700 media interviews

        ** 703 organized demonstrations

        ** Nearly 11,000 mentions in print

        ** Coverage on at least seven major TV networks

        ** 150,000 “vegetarian starter kits” disseminated to the public

        ** Enough “educational materials” for 235,000 teachers and 11,000,000 students…

        But not a single acre of land for wildlife preservation — not even for endangered species!

        Hmmm.
        Seems that PETA and friends just don’t realize that what critters of
        every stripe need more than billboards, picket lines, ad campaigns, and
        celebrity advocates are places to live and thrive. Without the immense
        revenue of hunting-related dollars, these lands simply would not exist.
        That’s a hard pill for them to swallow. And as if it isn’t bad enough
        that animal rights groups — for all their high-profile anti-hunting
        bluster — don’t seem to pay for ANY true wildlife conservation efforts,
        they also spend a good deal of their time and resources obfuscating the
        truth about where conservation money does come from. Case in point:

        In
        a 2003 news release aimed at opposing the New York Bureau of Wildlife’s
        plans to promote hunting and trapping in publicly owned sections of the
        Catskill Mountains, the notoriously militant Fund for Animals (ironic
        name, since I could find no evidence that they spend any money on
        wildlife conservation, either), stated that: “Although [the Bureau of
        Wildlife] is financed by millions of dollars of the public’s tax money,
        the nonhunting public’s viewpoint is consistently ignored…”

        Yet
        according to the New York Bureau of Wildlife’s own financials,
        its primary source of funding is hunting, fishing, and trapping
        license fees, public land usage fees, and fines for violations of
        fisheries and wildlife management policies. Less than 12% of its
        operating budget comes from state tax revenues. This is a similar ratio
        to other states’ natural resources agencies’ funding. In fact,
        nationwide, sportsmen’s dollars outpace tax dollars for conservation
        efforts by a ratio of 9-to-1!

        Can you think of ANY other federal government program that divines only 10% of its budget from the general fund?

        But
        what’s really mind-boggling about the whole shebang is this: Even if
        animal rights groups could match the $3 million a day American sportsmen
        contribute directly to wildlife conservation and protection through
        license fees, land usage fees, and excise taxes, it still wouldn’t even
        come close to justifying the outlawing of hunting from
        a dollars-and-sense perspective, personal freedom
        issues notwithstanding.

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights: Stalk Softly and Carry a Big Stack (of Cash)

        We’ve
        established that sportsmen’s dollars are the engine driving wildlife
        conservation, habitat protection and expansion, and public use lands.
        But this really only scratches the surface of how important hunting is
        to the American way of life. A lot of people probably don’t realize
        exactly how vital sport hunting is to the U.S. economy (animal rights
        groups know it, they just don’t want YOU to). Here are just a few
        examples:

        ** $24.7
        billion — Amount of money hunters spend every year on their sport at
        the retail level. This money reaches all retail segments, including hard
        goods, travel, gas, trips, food and drink, supplies, vehicles, leases,
        lodging, and guide services

        ** $955.4 million — Annual amount of sales and fuel tax revenue directly attributable to hunting in the U.S.

        ** 575,000 — Number of American jobs sustained entirely by hunting

        ** $16.7 billion — Total annual salaries and wages paid to those who hold hunting-related jobs in the U.S.

        ** $2.25
        billion — Dollar amount of combined state and federal income tax
        revenue generated by hunted-related employment in the United States
        every year.

        How do these numbers
        compare with other high-participation outdoor sports? For some
        perspective, compare hunting with another popular gear- and
        travel-intensive sport, skiing. According to the Census Bureau’s
        Statistics of U.S. Businesses and other sources, the skiing industry
        annually:

        ** Employs approximately 127,000 people (less than a quarter as many as hunting)

        ** Pays gross salaries of around $1 billion (about 6% of what hunting pays)

        ** Yields just over $500 million in ski equipment sales (hunters spend more than this on their DOGS).

        See
        what I mean? Hunting is big business in the United States. So big that
        animal rights groups could never even come close to matching, dollar for
        dollar, the positive impact sportsmen have on America’s bottom line.

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights: Tyranny of the Majority Cuts Both Ways

        Animal
        rights organizations are quick to sling the word “majority” around in
        making their case against the blood sports. They make the absurd leap
        that since the majority of Americans don’t hunt, that the will of the
        people is that hunting should be outlawed. Let’s examine this kind of
        logic for a second…

        More Americans
        don’t ski than do hit the slopes every winter. More of us don’t own cats
        than do. Fewer Americans ride motorcycles than do, and more Americans
        have cell phones than don’t. Does this mean that skiing should be
        illegal, cat ownership abolished, motorcycles outlawed, and cell phones
        made mandatory?

        Of course not. If the
        “majority rule” model applied to matters of personal freedom instead of
        solely to matters legislative and elective, NOTHING would be allowed,
        and no new technologies or activities would ever flourish or even take
        hold. Imagine how that would affect the economy. Beyond that, the whole
        point of personal freedoms is to be able to resist the tyranny of the
        majority if you’re so inclined.

        And
        what’s really ironic is that if the majority in America really did wield
        the power in all things, animal rights organizations themselves would
        not be allowed. Far, far more people don’t belong to or support the
        goals of animal rights activists than do. But despite what PETA and
        friends say, the same cannot be said of hunting…

        An
        independent polling organization (Roper and Starch) found in 2000 that
        85% of American adults feel that hunting has a legitimate place in
        modern society. A full 62% agreed that hunters are the world’s leading
        conservationists.

        And they’re right.

        Right to Hunt vs. Animal Rights: The Talking Heads are out for Blood

        What’s
        really lamentable to me is the fact that the left-leaning media have so
        skewed their portrayal of hunting that I feel compelled to write an
        article like this to defend it.

        Seriously,
        do the media ever write or broadcast stories about the economic
        benefits of hunting or the billions of dollars hunters contribute to
        conservation efforts? PETA gets tens of thousands of mentions and plugs
        in the mainstream media — how many does the Rocky Mountain Elk
        Foundation or Ducks Unlimited get?

        And
        how about the hundreds of tons of meat donated every year by hunters to
        the homeless and impoverished — do you hear about that on the evening
        news? Last season, in Virginia alone, over a third of a million pounds
        of lean, high-quality venison was given by hunters to those less
        fortunate. I wonder how many tons of vegetarian food the animal rights
        crowd gave to these same folks? I’ll bet not one ounce (if they had, it
        would have been front-page news)….

        The
        bottom line is this: Like it or not, sport hunting is an incredible
        boon to American society on multiple levels. But even if it weren’t,
        every true American should be in support of it (thankfully, most are —
        not that you’d ever discover this from the meat-hating media). Why?
        Because it’s perhaps the most vivid example in our culture of the
        exercise of multiple personal freedoms: to carry a gun on public land,
        to kill within the law, and to consume meat without interference from
        the USDA or FDA. That’s awhole lot of freedom bundled up in one
        activity.

        Bottom line: Whether you
        agree with hunting or not, you should support it on principle. After
        all, how would you feel if the government outlawed something YOU love to
        do because some PR-savvy fringe group managed to spread enough lies
        about it through an activist media to make you a minority in the
        public’s eye?

        So the next time you see
        a hunter by the side of the road unloading his gear or loading up his
        kill, give him a honk and a wave out of basic respect for exercising his
        freedom and paying for the out-of-doors areas we all enjoy. And if
        you’re an animal rights activist, pull over, park and give him a great
        big kiss, because he’s doing more to help animals than you ever will.

        Better
        yet, buy a gun, some gear, a truck, and a hunting license and start
        really contributing to animal welfare — and your economy….

        Always hunting for the endangered species of reason and fairness,Jim Amrhein

        • Phillip L

          Yeah, I heard all this before. It is the staple hunting advocacy stub speech. Its comparisons are not what I referred to. Your post above contrasts hunting benefits to conservation and economy with that of animals rights activists, which is unhelpful because many, if not most, of these activists have their own independent careers (doctors, teachers, accountants, scientists…) where they contribute to society and the economy. They advocate in their spare time for animals’ rights and raise awareness on conservation issues, ethics and abuses – an important function to ensure accountability and investment in the sector. I compared numbers you provided (twice, it seems) for the hunting industry to those of a successful and sustainable photographic tourism operation, which suggest that the latter is more beneficial. I was not talking about other sports or about NGOs or any of the other things in your post above, but about a real and more advantageous form of wildlife management. Please pay better attention to what is written in posts – if we are going to take the time to engage on issues here, let us engage on the same page, shall we?

          • Jd Creager

            Why is it that Aint hunters only donate to so called anti funds, ever notice how the funds never get put forward to manage the wildlife? study it close its not about antis saving wildlife its about fudning some big shots life style.

      • Jd Creager

        Remember the recent story we posted about how hunters are contributing $1.1 billion to U.S. wildlife conservation in 2016 alone?

        Our
        collective economic impact doesn’t end there. The latest scoop on what
        visiting hunters spend in Africa is $426 million annually according to a
        new study from market research firm Southwick Associates (SA). The
        report—“The Economic Contributions of Hunting-Related Tourism in Eastern
        and Southern Africa”—researched hunters’ total economic contributions
        between 2012 and 2014 in the top eight African hunting destinations:
        South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique,
        Tanzania and Zambia. The findings? For starters, American hunters led
        the charge with the total number of visiting hunters worldwide exceeding
        18,000 accounting for 53,000-plus jobs. Once again, hunting takes
        center stage as a driving force in wildlife conservation and in the
        growth of local economies.

        For more on the study, which is so
        impressive that Bloomberg Economics covered it earlier this month, check
        out these five facts:

        The United States accounted for the
        greatest number of visiting hunters—74 percent—with Europe a distant
        second at 16 percent.

        Hunters spent an average of 14 days in Africa—11 of them hunting.

        Hunting parties averaged two hunters with one observer who provided additional economic benefits.
        The top three countries visited were South Africa (8,387), Namibia (7,076) and Zimbabwe (1,361).
        Average hunter spending was estimated at $26,000.

        Commenting
        on the study, which was conducted on behalf of the Safari Club
        International (SCI) Foundation, Rob Southwick, president of SA, said,
        “Our
        results show that a substantial number of jobs and income are created
        by each hunter who visits Africa, and when you add them all together,
        hunting becomes a critical sector of the region’s economy. Considering
        that hunting occurs in regions where photographic safari operations and
        agriculture are often limited, the economic benefits of hunting are
        critical.”

        This brings up an important point that emerged during
        the live “Hunters Conserve Wildlife” debate in New York City on May 4
        when pro-hunting debater Catherine Semcer of H.O.P.E. (Humanitarian
        Operations Protecting Elephants) explained how photographic tourism and
        agriculture simply aren’t feasible in many remote areas of Africa where
        hunting is the only viable method of providing economic opportunities
        and wildlife conservation incentives.

  • Janine Olivier Scorer

    Hunters do not contribute to conservation as they always want to hunt the biggest and the best of the species and this dilutes and removes the strongest and best genes from the gene pool this we can already see with many of our Elephant in SA which now have very thin narrow tusks. Also a distinct reduction in the very large black and golden mane lions ….

  • DC

    The author is gravely mistaken. Hunting raises legitimate moral questions, but its potential role in conservation cannot be assessed solely in moral terms. For one thing, the people in Africa who stand to benefit (or not) from safari hunting have utterly different and often irreconcilable attitudes toward hunting than their Western opponents. The challenge for conservationists is to formulate a baseline for judging if and when hunting can contribute to conservation. Who controls the land and resources that support game animals? Who benefits from those resources, and can they be distributed in ways that that help conservation efforts?

    Science plays an crucial role in answering these questions, but the debate goes far beyond science to issues of human rights, political ecology, criminology, public health, and economics. The most successful efforts to bring safari hunting and conservation together are not based on either moral or scientific judgements alone, but rather on the principal of self-determination, communities choosing how to use land to which they claim some degree of ownership.

    Neither trophy hunting nor community-based natural resource management can be tied directly to many dramatic conservation successes. Neither remotely resemble panaceas for Africa’s myriad ills. Yet both remain part of the debate because, when done right, they stem from the same powerful dynamic: the shift of power from the center to the periphery, from national governments still burdened by corruption or postcolonial bureaucracies, or both, to the rural communities at the frontline of conservation. If people who share their land with Africa’s wild animals can benefit directly from conserving them, the results can be impressive, and trophy hunting has been at the center of some of CBNRM’s most notable successes.

    The experience in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, while far from uniform, demonstrates both how trophy hunting can contribute to conservation but also the many conditions that must be met and how fragile the balance among conflicting goals and ideals can be. While a movement from the center to the periphery is critical, for example, central government still plays an important role and the reality is that for CBNRM approaches to work it must fulfill criteria at a variety of scales, from rural communities all the way to central government and at times internationally.

    II.

    Wealthy hunters will pay huge sums to hunt Africa’s most famous game species, the so-called big five — elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, and leopards. Many populations of these animals live in areas of desperate human poverty. But the juxtaposition of poor people and a potentially valuable wild resource does not mean that the exploitation of one will necessarily lead to the betterment of the other. With appropriate scientific guidance, shooting a small number of animals will not do lasting ecological damage. But that is not enough. What are the institutional arrangements that would make trophy hunting viable as a conservation strategy?

    Namibia offers one illustration. In 1996, Namibia enacted landmark legislation that gave tribal communities — who previously had limited rights to resources on communal lands — the ability manage and directly benefit from their wildlife. The rationale was straightforward: poverty and the lack of human development in the country meant that a conservation approach based on protected areas, law enforcement, and non-utilization principles would not work, or would be too expensive to sustain in the long-term.

    Conservancies in Namibia quickly began striking deals with tourism companies. Many conservancies allow trophy hunting because it is far easier to get a hunting concession running than to build the lodges and other infrastructure needed for photo safaris. The fees paid by the operators go directly to the communities. The early returns prompted other communities to create conservancies, and there are now 79 conservancies that cover nearly 58,000 square miles, about the size of Georgia. Total land under some form of conservation management has increased to more than 42 percent of the country’s land area, three times that of the United States and one of the highest percentages in the world. Thirty-two of the communal conservancies are adjacent to or in key corridors between national parks, thus strengthening Namibia’s protected area network.

    In 2012, the conservancies generated over $4 million in cash income and an additional $1 million in in-kind benefits (such as the distribution of harvested game meat). This amounts to more than $300 per person, a substantial amount in a country where over 60 percent of the population, most in the rural areas where conservancies operate, live on less than $1 per day.

    One element in the success of conservancies in Namibia is that fact that in much of the country the opportunity costs of conservation are low, as the arid lands do not support much beyond subsistence agriculture. Wildlife is far better adapted to the conditions and may represent the highest economic return. But even in the northeastern part of the country, which is much like the rest of east and southern Africa with its treed savannas and decent rain, conservancies have taken hold. The approach has even spread beyond communal areas, as some private landowners in so-called commercial conservancies are taking down fences to make larger landscapes and switching from cattle to wildlife.

    Even though trophy hunting is a key revenue source for many conservancies, wildlife population trends have proven to be stable or increasing across regions where conservancies are operating. Until quite recently the trend even held for black rhino, which increased in Namibia while in decline almost everywhere else on the continent. The recent spike in demand for rhino horn, however, has driven the price so high that not even the financial incentives provided by the conservancies are enough to protect them, and poaching has been on the increase, especially in the northeast.

    Despite the worrisome uptick in poaching, it is clear that people in rural Namibia see the value in sharing their land with wildlife, even the occasional crop-raiding elephant, because they make the decisions. They can sell a hunting permit for that elephant for $10,000, set the quotas and choose who to sell them to, and eat the meat. The conservancies thus address a key threat to wildlife: a political ecology in which benefits from wildlife accrue to people who bear none of the costs. While CBNRM is far from a universal success, where it has made a difference for both people and wildlife is has done so by redressing this imbalance.

    There are still other conditions that must be met before trophy hunting can reliably contribute to conservation: good governance with transparency in laws, regulations, and enforcement; citizens with respect for those laws; an army of biological scientists and enforcement officers; and a public demand for conservation. Where trophy hunting fails to contribute to conservation the proprietary rights of landholders are weak and benefits are captured by other stakeholders through bureaucracy, excessive fees, and corruption.

    While the idea of devolving authority over wildlife — including the right to allow trophy hunting — to landowners, including communal landowners, has spread in Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia, a very different approach is firmly in place elsewhere in Africa, most notably in Kenya. Kenya banned all consumptive use of wild species in 1977: no sport hunting, cropping, ranching, live capture and sale, taxidermy, trophies, or souvenirs. The country used the hunting ban to build its brand as the destination for wildlife tourism in Africa, and it developed a thriving industry that brings in millions of dollars each year.

    Such a tourist industry requires a vast and expensive infrastructure, including airports, roads, and hotels. It also requires political stability, a pleasant climate, and large numbers of readily findable animals. Few places on Earth, let alone Africa, have that combination. Kenya’s high savannas are perfect; Tanzania’s miombo woodland, Zimbabwe’s thornscrub, and Namibia’s desert are not. Hunters will put up with the tougher conditions of those habitats so long as the game are present, but it is nearly impossible to create a luxury photo tourism industry there.

    Since hunting was banned in Kenya wildlife populations have dropped by 80 percent. There are far too many confounding factors to attribute direct cause and effect of either banning or promoting trophy hunting to the fate of wildlife populations in Kenya and any country in southern Africa, but the dynamic is at least sufficient to give one pause when making the claim that hunting is per se bad for Africa’s wildlife. Yet that is precisely the claim that is often made.

    Blame for the drop in wildlife in Kenya and across Africa cannot at this point by lain at the doorstep of trophy hunters. The leading causes are habitat loss caused by expanding human settlement, agriculture, and other kinds of land use incompatible with wildlife, followed by uncontrolled hunting, usually for bushmeat. In short, uncompetitive returns from wildlife compared with those from livestock or agriculture create incentives for landowners to convert any rangeland with agricultural potential to cultivation.

    As habitat disappears, the risk of conflict between people and large and dangerous animals increases. Such conflicts are rarely resolved in favor of wildlife, unless people have exceptionally strong incentives to do so. The challenge of creating such incentives are so significant that some conservationists believe it may be time to abandon the ideal of coexistence and instead admit that the only solution is to separate people and wildlife altogether, with fences.

    Fences are as hot-button an issue as hunting. They symbolize the loss of wilderness, not its salvation. Private, fenced ranches in South Africa have done well in restoring some game populations and converting farmland back to something more closely resembling its wild state, though the extent to which that is the case is subject to debate. The idea of putting up fences on the East Africa savannas will generate intense opposition, but Craig Packer, a leading researcher on lions and long-time resident of Tanzania, makes just such an argument. Fenced reserves are cheaper and more effective at conserving lions; nearly half the unfenced lion populations may decline to near extinction in the next 20 to 40 years, Packer argues.

    Packer is neither a reflexive supporter nor opponent of hunting. For one thing, he points out that the $10,000 fee to hunt a lion in Tanzania is far too low and, in any event, little of that money gets back to the local community. After analyzing data on harvest trends across Tanzania’s hunting blocks Packer and colleagues found that the intensity of trophy hunting was the factor most responsible for lion declines. Yet even so Packer does not rule out the possibility that hunting may be beneficial in some circumstance and his recommendation was not to ban hunting but to lower the quotas.

    The fact is that any species can be hunted sustainably, outside of the extreme case of removing the last reproductively viable male or female, if the science and enforcement are good enough. But there is ecological sustainability and there is economic sustainability, and they don’t necessarily overlap. With rare species, the level of ecologically sustainable hunting would be too low by themselves to keep an outfitter in business and contributing to local economies, The exception may be those few species that command extraordinary fees. So the $350,000 paid for the rhino in Namibia, while it stoked massive outrage, could be appropriate if most of that money made it back to the communities in whose hands the future rhinos and their habitat ultimately lies.

    Few places other than a handful of locations in Africa have animals that are as desirable for hunters. It may be the case that trophy hunting is only viable where there are healthy populations of elephants and rhinos, or perhaps with particularly rare and valuable sheep like markhor, a species of mountain goat native to the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Permits for markhor can go for $150,000 each and there are efforts to set up conservancies akin to those in Namibia to direct most of that money to local communities.

    III.

    The debate we should be having is not whether trophy hunting is moral or immoral, but whether it can be justified on scientific and conservation grounds, who ultimately benefits from it, and what kind of conservation it can support. But that is not how the debate plays out in the Western media, and, in some cases, within African governments themselves. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and others have sophisticated lobbying and fundraising efforts and they now wield enormous influence. Unfortunately, that influence often rests on painting Africa, Africans, and hunters with such a broad brush that it obscures rather than clarifies the fundamental questions.

    In 2006, the Kenyan government announced a major review of conservation policy. The Humane Society, IFAW, and others feared this was the first step toward reintroducing trophy hunting and mobilized to stop it. Animal welfare groups paid activists to disrupt public meeting on the new policy, orchestrated an anti-sport hunting media campaign on television, radio and in the press, with anti-hunting posters in the streets and at Nairobi’s international airport, prevented mainstream conservation organizations from presenting their views, and funded the creation of local, anti-hunting NGOs. A proposal to allow more use of wildlife, even though it delayed reconsideration of the hunting ban itself, was withdrawn.

    Botswana for many years allowed trophy hunting and had had among the healthiest game populations on the continent. In 2014, however, Botswana banned all hunting on public land. Among the most prominent voices advocating for the ban were filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, who have close ties to both the President of Botswana, Ian Khama, and animal welfare organizations, including IFAW.

    Hunters are losing or have already lost their social license to operate in many places. If hunting is to make a meaningful contribution to conservation they need to get it back. This is not a question of mustering scientific evidence about sustainability; it is as much, or more, about perception and emotion, and hunters have been strangely slow to understand the terms of fight they are now in. The way in which hunters respond to the deeply felt belief among a growing number of people that killing wild creatures for sport is always and in every circumstance wrong may determine whether is has a future, regardless of scientific evidence regarding sustainability. Hunters need to accept this as a legitimate concern; the failure to do so is what leads to the in-your-face trophy shots. Hunters need to demonstrate high ethical standards, clear connections to broader conservation, and local empowerment. Even then, hunters and conservationist need to recognize that what works in one place will not necessarily work in another.

    Given the long history of hunting on Africa, and the place it holds in the Western imagination, it is easy to forget that the current model of commercial recreational hunting in southern Africa is just 30 years old. It continues to evolve to fit changing circumstances. It would be foolish in the extreme to decide now that it has no place in future conservation, just as it would be foolish to assume that hunting by itself will be integral to both conservation and development.

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