Klaserie River Sands

Trophy hunting may cause extinction in a changing environment

African male lion

Sourced from third-party site: Independent, written by Josh Gabbatiss

Male animals with the biggest antlers, horns and tusks have ‘high quality genes’, so removing them from populations can be disastrous. When hunters kill animals for trophies, they often target the biggest and the best individuals.

Unfortunately, according to a new study these individuals are not only valuable to those who want their heads on walls. The importance of such animals to the wider population calls into question some of the hunting carried out under the banner of “conservation”.

“Large antlers or other ornaments are correlated with the genetic quality of the individual carrying them,” said Dr Robert Knell, an evolutionary ecologist at Queen Mary, University of London.

A big pair of tusks on an elephant, or a large, dark mane on a lion don’t only imply status, they also indicate that those animals are “able to acquire resources, to grow well and to be healthy, and for that they need to have a high quality genome,” said Dr Knell.

It is often assumed that “selective harvesting” in the form of trophy hunting doesn’t seriously harm populations, as it only involves removing a few individuals and only targets males. Males tend to have the desirable features for hunters, and it is generally thought that females will always be able to find willing mates.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Dr Knell set out to investigate whether these assumptions held true, or whether a decline in genetic quality could be serious problem.

“What we said was, why don’t we put that into our big fat mathematical simulation model and see what happens,” he said.

Dr Knell and his collaborator Carlos Martinez Ruiz found selective harvesting can be a particular problem when animals are experiencing environmental stress. When a population is forced to adapt in response to a changing environment, then the removal of the highest quality individuals had catastrophic results. Populations were unable to adapt and were far more likely to go extinct.

Habitats like the African savannah, where a lot of trophy hunting takes place, are also highly susceptible to climate change. This makes the findings of this study all the more worrying.

“If we get the 2°C change that now looks like the minimum we are going to get , that’s going to put a lot of stress on a lot of these populations,” said Dr Knell.

“Africa is already hot, and it’s going to get quite a bit hotter.”

Trophy hunting is increasingly being presented as a viable conservation strategy, with a greater area of land being conserved for hunting in Sub-Saharan Africa than is set aside for national parks.

Many conservation groups support the practice, with WWF stating that “in certain limited and rigorously controlled cases, including for threatened species, scientific evidence has shown that trophy hunting can be an effective conservation tool as part of a broad mix of strategies”.

“I think there is a very good case that when you have very well managed trophy hunting, it is largely beneficial in terms of conservation,” said Dr Knell.

However, he warns that an unfortunate focus by organisations such as Safari Club International on the size of horns and other appendages may prevent such practices being classified as “well managed”.

“The more you find out about this, the more you understand that these guys are very focused on the animals with the biggest horns or antlers, or the lions with the big black dark manes,” he said.

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  • Peter Apps

    This has limited relevance to real life – it is a computer simulation, and the changes that it models happen on an evolutionary timescale of hundreds or thousands of generations. Habitat loss, poaching and human-wildlife conflict are eliminating huge swathes of wildlife habitat on a time scale of less than a generation, rendering evolutionary change irrelevant. Trophy hunting, along with harvest of wild resources, is one of the few ways for the large areas of wildlife habitat that are useless for photographic tourism to generate economic value, and as human populations inexorably increase, wildlife areas that do not have economic value are taken over by land uses that have; mining, urban and industrial development and agriculture, which wipe out not only the big charismatic trophy species but also all the other species that their habitat supports.

    • Phillip L

      I am generally dismissive of relatively frequently uttered reservations about ‘computer models’, since they are too often misunderstood as random number pushing. Essentially, models are benchmarked rigorously against empirical data, and are really based on accurate mathematical descriptions of fundamental science, with a computer merely used to calculate the math that would take a small army of humans many years to do. I am sure you would not be partial to that misconception, but nevertheless, I cannot stress enough that the numerical models I have worked with are remarkably robust, and their shortcomings well-known so that wrong inferences can be avoided. It is a useful tool that modern technology has afforded us to conduct experiments virtually, whereas the physical equivalents of those experiments would have been too expensive, logistically tedious (if not impossible), in some cases unethical, and ‘control experiments’ seldom implementable.

      • Peter Apps

        I am sure that you will agree that how realistic a model’s outputs are depends on the quality of the data that you feed into it. Whenever anyone tries to model the effects of anything in the natural world on anything else in the natural world they run into two major problems; first, the natural world is so complex that all models are drastic simplifications, second that there are no good estimates for many of the critical parameters.

        This model of evolution under selective hunting simplifies the relationship between trophy quality and genetic quality by assuming that they are positively related. This is not necessarily true; the big tough males that father the most offspring typically do so because they are good at one thing; outcompeting other males, and they very often pay a price for that in terms of reduced lifespan. The very concept of sexual selection is an attempt to explain why males have features that actually compromise their survival – exactly the opposite to what would be expected under simple natural selection.

        In any modelling of species under threat there are two important parameters for which no good values are available to feed into the models; mortality due to poaching, and mortality due to human-wildlife conflict. For both African elephants and lions both of these are at least an order of magnitude higher than trophy offtakes (for elephants poaching alone takes 60 times as many as trophy hunting) and so any inaccuracy in these parameters have huge impacts on the outputs.

        • Phillip L

          “This model of evolution under selective hunting simplifies the relationship between trophy quality and genetic quality by assuming that they are positively related. This is not necessarily true” Not necessarily, but neither is it inconceivable. Genetic viability entails gene propagation and survival of descendants – an inability to compete with other males, also diminishes all probability of descendants and gene propagation. If a dominant male is hence artificially removed, and a less-dominant male is allowed to take up the vacant role, would the weaker male’s offspring be able to compete? “Very often pay a price for that in terms of reduced lifespan” Do they? Based on what? Dominant males have lionesses that hunt for them, can protect their offspring against rival males and other predators … the best chance of survival for a male lion is to be head of a pride, yet your argument seems to suggest that dominant ‘good trophy lions’ are less genetically viable? Less resilient to disease? There is no causal relation there.

          Point is, trophy hunting criteria is essentially based on phenotypical features and makes no inquiry into genotypical attributes, and hence cannot replicate natural selection. On the other hand, dominant males have had their genetic material propagated for tens to hundreds of millennia, far pre-dating contemporary scales of human intervention. Disrupting this process seems to be working quite contrary to natural selection.

          • Peter Apps

            Forgive me if I paint with a rather broad brush and do not cite chapter and verse because time presses. A literature search on “sexual selection” will get you plenty to ponder.

            The model does not apply only to lions. In general across the animal kingdom males have shorter lifespans than females, high
            testosterone levels are associated with compromised immune function, usually it is males that disperse rather than females, and dispersal is risky. Males fight more than females, and chose for their opponents the biggest and strongest opponents they can find. None of these things enhance survival – they are not signs of generally “good” genes but they are signs of genes “for” being good at one particular thing; outcompeting other males for access to breeding females. All the disadvantages that you list of being a subordinate male are inflicted by dominant males – if you take the dominants out then the subordinates take their places, and are just as dominant relative to the rest of the males as the original dominants were and will father just as many offspring; their genetic fitness was unrealised simply because they had no access to females.

            No animal is dominant in and of itself – its dominance depends on its interactions with other individuals. In contrast an animal can be strong, clever, persistent, sneaky, thickly-furred, – all survival traits – without reference to other individuals. These survival traits are heritable, as are the traits that tend to confer dominance; if you wanted to enhance a population’s adaptation to changing conditions taking out the dominants to reduce the frequency of their sexually selected genes and traits would increase the frequency of survival traits and achieve your aim.

            Natural selection makes no enquiry into genotypical attributes either; organisms survive and breed or not as the case may be depending on their phenotype, the genotype itself is invisible except insofar as it influences phenotype. If trophy hunting has a selective effect it is to increase the costs of being a trophy male, and reduce the frequency of genes for “trophyness”. This reduces the trophy quality in the population (to the discomfort of trophy hunters) but since trophyness impairs survival even in the absence of trophy hunting the survival traits of the population as a whole are enhanced. The natural process which trophy hunting roughly approximates (if it is optimally managed) is the violent overthrow and exile of old dominant males by younger challengers.

          • Phillip L

            And trophy hunting can preempt whether and at which point either the incumbent or the challenger would emerge the victor? Having one animal supplant the other is an inevitability – artificial removal is hardly necessary, if not damaging or premature. When a breeding lion is hunted, its offspring are duly killed by competitors – it has cascading effects. Moreover, in natural selection there must be some dependence on ‘what’s under the hood’, since e.g. resilience to disease may be carried over to offspring, even if not in the current generation’s phenotype? Trophy hunting has no mechanism to make such discernment. Just so, a hunter’s sensibilities about what makes a good trophy, and hence ‘trophiness’, has no bearing on genetic health and viability, and these traits cannot in natural conditions pose a threat to the individual.

          • Peter Apps

            You are trying to turn this into a discussion about the desirability or otherwise of trophy hunting, which turns on much more complex questions than whether or not computer modelling (and this model in particular) is much use for predicting the behaviour of complex natural systems, which is where you started. This has led you to contradict the findings of the model in your final sentence; if “trophiness has no bearing on genetic health and viability” as you say, then trophy hunting can have no effects on adaptation and evolution.

          • Phillip L

            I started with 3 points addressing parts of your comment, actually. You’ve since made the argument that being what is typically considered a trophy animal somehow impairs it’s survival in natural conditions (in the absence of human takeoffs) ?? – I disagree. With “trophiness has no bearing on genetic health and viability” I concede that the trophy lion may not necessarily be genetically superior, but the flipside to that is: “how does the hunter know?”. I question whether any selection through hunting could adequately replicate natural selection, especially considering the industry’s affinity for picking off breeding males – which have not yet been naturally selected to die. It will happen eventually and way will be made for others. Why force this, perhaps prematurely? It seems self-evident that ongoing bias in selection that disrupts long-standing natural reproductive patterns will spell trouble down the line on evolutionary time scales (exactly as the article says). In addition to possible premature loss of their genetic material, repeated loss of all the ousted male’s juvenile offspring (future contenders), and the accompanying social social stress, each round someone shoots the breeding male, cannot be sustainable either. So it leads inevitably to the question whether trophy hunting is desirable…

          • Peter Apps

            Who ever said that trophy hunting replicates natural selection ?, not me, and not the article about the computer model, so where do you get it from ? Is your disagreement that trophy quality prime males are burdened (handicapped is the term used in one influential model of sexual selection) based on any reading about sexual selection, or is it just a gut feeling on your part ? It is certainly true that systematic removal of any sector of a population (purple ones, shaggy ones, ones with big horns etc etc) will have evolutionary effects sooner or later, but the time scales are so long that the effects are irrelevant to current conservation challenges, in which habitats and their flora and fauna are being lost over time scales of less than a generation; time scales over which evolutionary change cannot possible be relevant. Let me be absolutely clear; I am not going to engage with you here about the desirability or otherwise of trophy hunting.

          • Phillip L

            To be perfectly honest, I simply do not understand how ‘males showing traits attractive to hunters’ can be considered ‘burdened’ to the point where their survival is threatened (in a natural devoid-of-human intervention scenario).

            If you acknowledge ” that systematic removal of any sector of a population (…) will have evolutionary effects sooner or later,” then you and I and the model are actually on the same page. We even agree on the timescale. Although to dismiss the work as irrelevant based on its long timescale seems akin to dismissing seasonal average temperature variations as a myth just because the typical day-night variation is larger. I think the takeaway is that in the event that poaching, conflict, habitat-loss is stopped tomorrow, we should have a care that our mode of utilisation does not leave us with the same problem next week. Considering how small populations are (and how few populations), the effects of biased selection in takeoffs could manifest sooner than expected.

          • Peter Apps

            If you can’t be bothered to do some Googling to help your understanding then maybe a concrete example will help you. Male dear grow antlers, hunters like big antlers, antlers are bone, growing antlers every year inflicts a metabolic cost on males, carrying them around inflicts an energetic cost on males, using them as weapons against other males leads to deaths and injuries.

            Your use of temperature fluctuations as an analogy shows that you are confused about what the problem is. Evolutionary change is not fluctuation about a mean, it is a long term trend. The loss of wildlife habitat, individual animals, populations and species to land use change, poaching and human-wildlife conflict also does not fluctuate like daily temperature; it is an inexorable trend. The trend in wildlife loss is thousands (or more likely millions) of times faster than evolutionary trends. Basing an argument on “poaching. conflict, habitat-loss is stopped tomorrow” is what the philosophers call an if your auntie had balls she would be your uncle argument – it requires a fundamental change in circumstances that simply does not reflect reality.

            Let me also try an analogy to help your understanding of why we do not need to worry, now, about changes over evolutionary time. Suppose that the house you live in has rot in the woodwork – that is the slow, evolutionary timescale problem that the model deals with and you are harping on and on about – it also has a fire in the kitchen – this is the current impacts on wildlife. Your argument is that you should not use water to put out the fire because wet wood rots faster.

          • Phillip L

            Well, I’m sorry you are losing your patience now. I gathered since you are taking the time to reply to me, you’d not mind elaborating when asked. Sorry for asking. I do follow your meaning now, anyhow, so thank you. I find it curious still that these ‘trophy’ traits have been propagated despite the handicap they inflict – may it be not that much of a significant tax on their survival? Well, you don’t have to bother – I’ll Google it 🙂

            I remain entirely unconvinced regarding the timescale issue. You got distracted by the details in my analogy, so you missed the gist of it – I could have compared any two events on different time scales to make my point. Basing an argument on “poaching. conflict, habitat-loss is stopped tomorrow” is contracting a time scale for illustration. I guess you are too annoyed to appreciate the subtleties. Of course, one would address immediate risks (‘put out the fire’), but it will be foolish to ignore ‘the rot in the woodwork’, as you’ve put it. The building will eventually collapse. We should not just ‘not worry about it’. It is like ignoring long-term climate change because you are preoccupied with surviving the storm, not grasping that the severity of future storms will be exasperated if the long-term issue is not addressed. Actually, it is your argument that insists that we ignore one problem as if the solution to other depends on it.

            At any rate, I agree with the authors’ conclusions, essentially that trophy hunting, as it is practiced, may lead to extinction especially compounded with future challenges posed by the changing environment and climate, even if the other challenges are overcome. You failed to convince me otherwise.

          • Phillip L

            Well, I’m sorry you are losing your patience now. I gathered since you are taking the time to reply to me, you’d not mind elaborating when asked. Sorry for asking. I do follow your meaning now, anyhow, so thank you. I find it curious still that these ‘trophy’ traits have been propagated despite the handicap they inflict – may it be not that much of a significant tax on their survival? Well, you don’t have to bother – I’ll Google it 🙂

          • Phillip L

            I remain entirely unconvinced regarding the timescale issue. You got distracted by the details in my analogy, so you missed the gist of it – I could have compared any two events on different time scales to make my point. Basing an argument on “poaching. conflict, habitat-loss is stopped tomorrow” is contracting a time scale for illustration. I guess you are too annoyed to appreciate the subtleties. Of course, one would address immediate risks (‘put out the fire’), but it will be foolish to ignore ‘the rot in the woodwork’, as you’ve put it. The building will eventually collapse. We should not just ‘not worry about it’. It is like ignoring long-term climate change because you are preoccupied with surviving the storm, not grasping that the severity of future storms will be exasperated if the long-term issue is not addressed. Actually, it is your argument that insists that we ignore one problem as if the solution to the other depends on it.

            At any rate, I agree with the authors’ conclusions, essentially that trophy hunting, as it is practiced, may lead to extinction especially compounded with future challenges posed by the changing environment and climate, even if the other challenges are overcome. You failed to convince me otherwise.

          • Peter Apps

            Let me refine my fire and rot analogy to make it clearer where the problem is. You have rot in your woodwork and fire in your kitchen. You have three buckets to carry water – these are the main potential income streams for more or less intact wildlife areas; tourism, hunting, and direct use of natural resources by local people. The tourism bucket is already full, the direct harvest holds only about a pint and the hunting bucket is full of fungicide to treat the rot in the roof. Do you fight the fire with only one bucket and an pint pot, or do you put your rot treatment on hold and use both buckets to fight the fire ?

          • Phillip L

            I am merely suggesting that we not dismiss findings that would seek to moderate hunting by showing out potential pitfalls in e.g. their selection habits. You wont have that, it seems, hence my reference to ‘unfettered’ hunting. And as mentioned before, unexploited tourism opportunities yet exist, so I maintain that we should continue to develop that product.

          • Peter Apps

            Trophy hunting is already moderated by CITES quotas and various bag limits, and the whole idea of a trophy is that it is exceptional – the bulk of any animal population is completely safe from trophy hunting simply because it is ordinary. These do not always work as well as expected, but they are a lot better than the indiscriminate free-for-all of commodity poaching and bushmeat harvest that you seem determined to ignore.

            And that is not what you are “merely suggesting”; you have asserted that tourism should replace trophy hunting. So far you have evaded presenting details of where and how this tourism is to happen, details that I sure the tourism companies would welcome as a way for them to make even more money out of natural areas.

            I have posed several questions that you have not yet answered – maybe you could review the thread and get to them as a way of moving the discussion forward.

          • Phillip L

            “These do not always work as well as expected, but they are a lot better than the indiscriminate free-for-all of commodity poaching and bushmeat harvest that you seem determined to ignore.” It is not like I am advocating for poaching at the expense of hunting, as your continued misdirection seems to suggest. I am encouraging reflection on the paradigms prevalent in hunting. I am indeed in favor of developing varied and inclusive tourism though. I have furnished details above.

          • Peter Apps

            You should probably give up trying to put words into my mouth because it is not working and will not work. I have not claimed that you are advocating poaching; I have stated that poaching is way worse than hunting both in the number of animals that it kills and the suffering that it inflicts on them, and that if you claim to be concerned about animals (rather than just about hunters) you should logically be directing your energies at stopping poaching.

            Are the details about tourism that you claim to have posted your couple of sentences about budget, rustic trips for millennials. That’s not much of a business plan if you don’t mind me saying so.

        • Phillip L

          “… how realistic a model’s outputs are depends on the quality of the data that you feed into it”… indeed. However, it is the distinct advantage of a model to investigate the effect of one parameter in isolation as the first step to disentangle nonlinear systems. This is one such exercise, and is standard (and healthy) systematic scientific procedure. This work does not claim that this particular selection method will yield the reported outcome with greater significance than the consequences of other factors… it merely gives an indication of adverse effects in the long-term if the current selection method continues, even if all other conditions are favourable. How this compares to off-takes due to poaching or whatever other factor is not within the domain of this particular research question.

          As for the second point, “there are no good estimates for many of the critical parameters”, ” no good values are available to feed into the models”. This is an exaggeration. There is an immense amount of data available today, and at any rate the parameters fed into THIS model has doubtlessly been researched, and not just eye-balled. In the case of the critical parameters you mention, lower limits, at the very least, can be inferred (through seizures of contraband, customs reports, criminal dockets, …, in the case of poaching). Of course, as mentioned, these parameters are not relevant to this research question. On the point of available data, what is the estimate of “an order of magnitude higher than trophy offtakes” based on if poaching and conflict mortality are unknown to the extent you suggest?

          • Peter Apps

            “How this compares to off-takes due to poaching or whatever other factor is not within the domain of this particular research question.”

            And that is why it is irrelevant to real conservation where these offtakes are the central problem. The paper itself acknowledges the shortcomings of the model – have you bothered to read it ?

    • Phillip L

      As for questioning the relevance of the above work based on the time-scale, I disagree. Selective take offs impact on the genetic level of the population, and the effects thereof manifest in turn on evolutionary time scales. Essentially, the article says that the survival of these animals is already threatened in the long term by current common practice in hunting management, without factoring in any threats other than a changing climate and whatever that may portend. Add to it the other threats, the picture worsens drastically, of course, but hunting mismanagement is a credible threat on its own, with perhaps not imminent, but inevitable results.

      • Peter Apps

        See my analogy about rot and fire in your house below. To elaborate on it somewhat; your blinkered focus on trying to stop hunting because you object to it on ethical grounds deprives professional conservationists on the ground where habitat loss. HWC and poaching are daily realities of a bucket to put the water in to fight the fires with. Defending a computer model because it generates results that support an ethical position is a bizarre reversal of drawing conclusions based on evidence – you are creating evidence to suit your conclusions.

        • Phillip L

          … and you’ll attack credible peer-reviewed work, deny the whole of modelling methodology, and stifle scientific enquiry, because they do not corroborate your own ideological predisposition that would insinuate man into natural processes that predate his interventions. You dismiss findings as irrelevant on an impulse to defend a bloodsport. You are party to a mindset that insists on a blood price for conservation and denies the successes of non-fatal management….

          You see, if you are going to venture into the ad hominem, I can take a stroll there too. My concern not to have our mode of utilization be harmful appears to you to be a blinkered attempt to stop hunting, while from my perspective yours seems to be to perpetuate unfettered hunting heedless of its dangers. We are at an impasse, clearly, and wasting each other’s time.

          • Peter Apps

            I am not pointing out any shortcomings with the model that the authors themselves do not acknowledge in the paper – as you would know if you had taken the trouble to read it before fawning all over the click-bait version of its conclusions.

            Your use here of the phrase “unfettered hunting” is the first time that it has appeared in this discussion, or in the paper or any of its internet derivatives that I have seen. Nobody is talking about unfettered hunting, the discussion is about trophy hunting that takes a small fraction of the adult males in a population, it is extremely fettered indeed.

            If you want to see your “unfettered hunting” straw man in action then turn your attention to poaching and human-wildlife conflict. Check out the rhino horn poachers who shoot a breeding female, and then shoot her calf so that it does not get in the way while they hack its mothers face off, study the ivory poachers who gun down whole breeding herds, the cattle owners who poison the carcase of a cow and kill a whole pride of lions along with hyaenas, jackals and scavenging birds by the dozen, the bushmeat harvesters who string thousands of snares that wreak indiscriminate carnage without regard even to the species that they catch – those that strangle to death in a few minutes are the lucky ones, the rest lie there for days until they die of thirst or being eaten alive by predators, or break free and die later of gangrene from where the snare wire eats into their flesh. What are you doing about that ?

          • Phillip L

            At the start of the exchange I mentioned that models’ “shortcomings (are made) well-known so that wrong inferences can be avoided”, didn’t I? We just made different inferences as to the overall relevance of the work. I think there is reason to be believe, as you also acknowledged, that systematic offtakes of individuals with certain traits will eventually have consequences. I mentioned ‘unfettered’, because of your vehement reluctance to accept any semblance of criticism on how hunting is conducted. As for your graphic exposition, I would ask whether any of these ‘whataboutisms’ that you keep referring to were particularly kept at bay by hunting? Is the inclusion of this one activity so essential when prime hunting destinations such as Zimbabwe suffer major losses due to poaching (cyanide poisoning, no less) or Tanzania loses 60% of its elephants to the ivory trade in 5 years? Has the very active hunting community in Namibia protected Rosewood forests being plundered or stopped poaching incursions into Botswana from the Caprivi strip? I never suggested that these challenges should not be addressed- that was misdirection on your part – while you became squeamish at the suggestion that a habit prevalent in commercial hunting could have adverse effects.

          • Peter Apps

            I am quite happy to look at criticisms of how hunting (or anything else) is conducted, and having looked at them to judge their relevance to current conservation practice. Being a scientist I am convinced more by evidence than by assertion, and by facts more than by what people feel. I have read the original paper about the computer model under discussion (and you have yet to confirm that you have read it) and I judge based on that reading that it is not relevant to current practise. That judgement is based on an understanding of how sexual selection and evolution operate, and a knowledge of the current threats to wildlife. To re-iterate; the output of the computer model is irrelevant to current conservation practice. There are legitimate criticisms of trophy hunting, but this computer model’s outputs is not among them. Less hunting for the same total income to local economies is a sensible goal, no hunting at all because hunting offends the sensibilities of city dwellers in developed economies is not.

            If by “whataboutisms” you refer to habitat loss, poaching and HWC then no, they are not kept at bay by hunting, and nor are they kept at bay by tourism or by posting on the internet by first world urbanites. If they were they would not be problems any more. A combination of tourism, hunting, sustainable local harvest, involvement by local people and enforcement of national and international law by the authorities could turn the tide. Different circumstances will require different combinations of measures, taking trophy hunting off the table because a computer model shows that it could cause problems over timescales of thousands of years is a luxury that we cannot afford, no matter how desirable it might be.

            Is your question deliberate hyperbole, or do you honestly expect trophy hunters to take over the whole of wildlife law enforcement in every country they operate in, and their neighbouring countries ? Why not expect tourism to do it ?, or your fellow keyboard warriors ? Your example of hunters in Namibia not stopping cross-border poaching in northern Botswana is particularly illuminating since (as I would have thought you would have known) in Botswana where the cross-boarder poachers operate, hunting is banned, but bushmeat is poached in the prime tourism areas at an unsustainable rate.

            I agree that you never suggested that the main causes of wildlife losses should not be addressed – in fact you have suggested nothing concrete at all beyond vague assertions that tourism can be developed in areas where it is not now profitable enough to attract tourism operators. I have asked you to be specific, and to present evidence, you have done neither.

    • Phillip L

      As an aside, at the risk of digressing, I am also unconvinced that any land where wildlife are able to exist can be devoid of tourism potential, and hence if utilized and developed as such, does have economic value, keeping other land uses at bay. Adventure tourism, in contrast to the often more luxurious ‘photographic tourism’, is an under-utilized opportunity, because too often vendors shy away from offering budget, or ‘rustic’, amenities in ‘marginal areas’ – this is the product attractive (and affordable) to the emerging millennial market.

      • Peter Apps

        This is an old chestnut. If there is tourism potential in an area the tourism companies snap it up. The simple fact that experts in tourism, who make their livings and dividends for shareholders out of tourism are not interested in areas with nothing but scrub and rocky soil punctuated with desperately poor villages and skinny livestock, with daytime temperature in the 40s, is that they know very well that the demand for any kind of tourism in that area is too small to make it financially viable. Budget rates do not cover the costs. There is nothing at all stopping the animal rights, anti-hunting lobby from investing in these marginal areas in order to cover their losses as tourist destinations by pouring cash into them every year – but that never happens. Why ? Have you ever been to a communal livestock area in Africa ? If you have how long did you stay there and how much per day did you pay ? Would you recommend it to your friends ? If you can round up some of your millennial pals I’ll put you in touch with friends of mine who run mobile safaris here in Botswana – they can do you a special package in the communal cattle ranching areas just to see how much they like it.

        • Phillip L

          .. the conditions you describe seem not too dissimilar in hostility from the regions I frequent, where tourism more than suffices, cattle notwithstanding. But if you would have it no other way than insinuate bullets into conservation and trust unconditionally in the judgement of commercial hunters to do nature’s work, then I suppose you are entitled to your opinion. I, and legion others, do not buy it.

          • Peter Apps

            Which regions are they then ?, don’t be coy. What type of tourism goes on there and how much intact wildlife habitat is there ? What losses of wildlife to HWC and illegal offtake ?

          • Phillip L

            One region I am fond of is the Swaziland / Barberton Mountainlands transfrontier region, for example. Ecologically important (in-tact) areas interspersed with pastoral regions and commercial forestry, there is a fair amount of HWC (naturally, given the mixed land use), and some bushmeat poaching. Local people are increasingly being drawn into tourism projects though. Much of the land was entrusted to traditional communities via land claims. In part based on its ecological merit and tourism potential, mining bids were turned away quite recently, despite the area being mineral rich. It is not exceedingly well developed, is malaria-prone in low-lying areas, humid and hot most of the year. Marginal enough, with more attractive (popular) big-game destinations in the close surrounds. Nonetheless, a varied tourism product (wildlife, botany, birding, geology, culture, history, hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, horse-riding, …) keeps the region viable for conservation. Sure, the beauty of the place dissuades one from referring to it as marginal, but then the type of landscape one appreciates is subject to taste – many prefer a drier, more desolate landscape, like Richtersveld or the Kalahari.

          • Peter Apps

            Not a very convincing model for the Kalahari or Namib then, just to stick with southern Africa.

          • Peter Apps

            “many prefer a drier, more desolate landscape, like Richtersveld or the Kalahari.”

            Bit sneaky that, Phillip L, editing your post after I commented on it. The last resort of someone who has run out of arguments perhaps ?

          • Phillip L

            PS> edits are approved after some time by the moderators, it seems. The link to the article below might not yet work by the time you get to it, so just remove the parentheses at the end of the url… cheers!

          • Phillip L

            I edited it moments after posting it, Peter. As you might have noticed I had left you alone here since yesterday morning, but then 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning a notification pops up that you are at it again. Are you obsessed or in a different time zone? I hope it is the latter. Look, you ask for specific answers and evidence, but you are selectively permeable to the answers I give. I am wasting my time reiterating the answers you ignore, and you must, as you want done unto yourself, forgive me for using broad brush strokes myself – my own science itches for my time. So here, I did not read this article because I am not subscribed to that journal, but will peruse this seemingly related one — “Sexual selection can both increase and decrease extinction probability: reconciling demographic and evolutionary factors”
            Authors: Carlos Martínez-Ruiz, Robert J. Knell
            — when time allows. From what I noticed so far, sexual selection can go both ways in terms of long-term population trends, and the direction of its effects also depends on population size. Maybe we can discuss this again, when I’m done, hmm? I gather we mightn’t agree on management mode, but I’d be disappointed if an exchange with an established scientist like yourself ends without deepening of insight. I will be travelling to conference soon, so I might be off the comms for a while. I hope you do not suffer withdrawal from our banter. We’ll chat again.

          • Peter Apps

            Yes, a different time zone, Botswana vs I would guess the UK, and Disqus notifications take some time to filter through to e-mail.

            So you have been defending a paper you have not read, and you accuse me of wasting your time !. I am not subscribed to the journal either, but we scientists have ways of accessing the literature if we really want to read it. There is a link here for instance; https://theconversation.com/trophy-hunting-could-cause-extinction-in-stressed-populations-new-research-87966 in Rob Knell’s first comment, and you could have just Googled him to reach the same link.

          • Phillip L

            The presumptions are strong with you. Same timezone actually… I’m South African, born and bred, from Mbombela. In my field, scientists converse on topics regardless of whether having read specific papers out of the many related papers that exist, and we must adhere to our institutions’ prescriptions on accessing copyrighted materials. Thanks for the link though.
            PS I bought that cool kids book of yours on SA mammals for my niece. She loved it. 🙂

          • Peter Apps

            Since you were so coy about where you are from, you do not use your full name, and your Disqus profile is private what am I supposed to do but guess.

            You tried specifically to defend a paper you did not read, purely on the basis of agreeing with its conclusions, now you try to dress that up as “converse on topics”. Good try.

            Also, you can come down off you moral high horse about accessing copyrighted material – one of the authors of the paper gives a link to the full text accepted version, which is not covered by the journal’s copyright, and he was good enough to send me a reprint, which are freely shared by scientists as professional collaborators – or do they not do that in your field ?.

            What is your field by the way ?, or should I guess that as well ?

          • Peter Apps
          • Garrick Cormack

            hear hear

      • Garrick Cormack

        and who sir, in their right mind, is going got schlep off to a remote area, for a short space of time, to see very few animals. It just does not work! Hunting DOES, esp in these marginal areas.

        • Phillip L

          If there are ‘very few animals’ how could hunting them be sustainable?

  • daktari40

    It’s a very balanced article, starting with the title. Mr. Josh Gabbatiss formats his text in order to evidence that trophy hunting is an aggravating. There is no denying that the “model” of animals desired by this industry is co-related with genes, phenotypes, which ground better physical characteristics which, par excellence, is also co-related to survival aptitude. Dr Knell, here, speaks only of the issue of selective harvesting and its direct result for maintenance and survival in a changing environment, in this case, directly related to climate change. In the case of lions, the unique genes among lions that inhabit West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and South Africa are well known, but the functionality of each of these unique genes is not yet known. Everything has a function and in changing environments such unique genes must necessarily be related to a geographical aptitude.

    If we look at the site: http://www.africahunting.com or http://www.safariclub.org, we understand that the world around the trophy hunting is made of unique specimens, the rarer the animal the greater the score of the hunter participating in these Confraternities. One must understand the “hunting world” to realize that trophy hunting is not a conservation activity. In remote areas, without photographic tourist flow, it is used to curb the evils that the human invasion will bring, compensating for the absence of public policies, trophy hunting is the only option, not the best. The sale of guns moves billions of dollars a year. For noble readers to have an idea: to become a “diamond level” hunter you must kill 330 animals of different species and subspecies. Large hunting clubs have long realized that large and valuable specimens are in extinction and the SA wild animal husbandry industry is heavily embedded in selective processes with involved geneticists to supply large specimens and their variants of colors. Earlier this year a buffalo was sold at auction for nearly $ 2 million to serve as the breeding selective. The hunting lobby is everywhere, including in the internet discussions. It has real employees working to scour any criticism or opposing position. They have a great capacity for rhetoric, reverses and repositions many of the thoughts of others, deductions on facts, demerit expert arguments, and in the end always seek to have the latter argument.

    • Peter Apps

      “The hunting lobby is everywhere, including in the internet discussions. It has real employees working to scour any criticism or opposing position.” Really ? You have evidence for this ? The contributors on the internet discsussions that I see, including this one, tend to be animal rightists spouting opinions on one side and professional conservationists armed with facts and evidence on the other.

      • Phillip L

        Peter Apps: “Let me be absolutely clear; I am not going to engage with you here about the desirability or otherwise of trophy hunting.” Guess what, you have engaged in a discussion on the desirability of trophy hunting.

        • Peter Apps

          But not with you, and not about the desirability of hunting. I am merely indulging in my inconvenient habit of asking for evidence when internet posters make claims that should be backed up.

      • Garrick Cormack

        hear bloody hear Peter

    • Phillip L

      Very well said… your first paragraph expresses my own thoughts on the matter remarkably well. Thank you.

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