Furious debate around the role of trophy hunting in preservation raged in 2015, after the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, and a critically endangered black rhino in Namibia. Together, these two incidents triggered vocal appeals to ban trophy hunting throughout Africa.
While to most people( including us) this might seem like an abhorrent style to generate money, we argue in a new newspaper that trophy hunting, if done sustainably, can be an important tool in the conservationists toolbox.
In July 2015 American dentist Walter James Palmer shot and killed a male lion called Cecil with a hunting bow and arrow, triggering a storm of outrage. Cecil was a favourite of tourists visiting Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Likewise in May 2015, a Texan legally shot a critically endangered black rhino in Namibia, which also produced considerable online ire. The backlash ensued even though the male rhino was considered surplus to Namibias black rhino populations, and the US $350,000 generated from the managed hunting was to be re-invested in preservation. The US government has endorsed hunting of black rhinos by allowing a limited import of rhino trophies.
These highly politicised events are but a small component of a large industry in Africa worth more than US $215 million per year, selling iconic animals to( principally foreign) hunters as a means of generating otherwise scarce funds.
Its Mostly About The Money
Conserving biodiversity can be expensive. Generating money has become a central preoccupation of many environmental charities, conservation-minded someones, government agencies and scientists. Attaining money for conservation in Africa is even more challenging, so we argue that trophy hunting should and could fill some of that gap.
The question of whether trophy hunting is ethically justifiable is a separate issue. While animal suffering can be minimised with good practise, the moral suit for or against trophy hunting is a choice we must make as a society.
Beyond the ethical or moral issues, there are still many concerns about trophy hunting that are now limit its use as a conservation tool. One of the biggest problems is that the revenue it generates often goes to the private sector rather than distributing benefits to preservation and local communities.
It can also be difficult( but not impossible) to determine just how many animals can be sustainably killed. Some forms of trophy hunting have debatable value for conservation. For instance, canned lion hunting, where lions are bred and raised in captivity merely to be shooting in specially made enclosings, provides no incentive for conserving lions in the wild.
At the same time, opposing sustainable trophy hunting could end up being worse for species preservation. While revenue from wildlife sightseeing is good, in most cases effective preservation involves much more. Without more funding generating incentives to conserve wildlife, many natural habitats will be converted to farmland, which is generally much worse for native wildlife and the entire ecosystem.
Trophy hunting can also have a smaller carbon and infrastructure footprint than ecotourism because it requires fewer paying clients for the same amount of revenue. Trophy hunting can even produce higher revenue than the most successful ecotourism enterprises.
Hunting can lead to larger wildlife populations because they are specifically managed to keep numbers higher. Larger animal populations are more resilient to extinction, and hunters have an interest in their protection. This contrasts with ecotourism where the presence of merely a few individual animals is sufficient to ensure that the high expectations of many paying tourists are met.
Making Trophy Hunting Work
To address some of the concerns about trophy hunting and to enhance its contribution to biodiversity conservation and the benefit to local people, we propose twelve minimum rules 😛 TAGEND
Mandatory levies should be imposed on trophy hunting operators by governments. These can be invested immediately into trust funds for conservation and management.
Trophies from areas that help preservation and respect animal welfare should be certified and labelled.
Populations must be analysed to ensure that killing wildlife does not cause their numbers to fall.
Post-hunt sales of any part of the animals should be banned to minimise illegal wildlife trade.
Priority should be given to trophy hunting enterprises run( or leased) by local communities.
Trusts should be created to share benefits with local communities and promote long-term economic sustainability.
Mandatory scientific sampling of animals killed, including tissue for genetic analysis and teeth for age analysis, should be enforced.
Mandatory five-year( or more frequent) reviews of all animals hunted and detailed preservation plans should be submitted to government legislators before permits are extended.
There should be full public disclosure of all data collected.
Independent government observers should be placed randomly and without forewarning on trophy hunts as they happen.
Trophies must be confiscated and permits rescinded when illegal practices are discovered.
Backup professional shooters and trackers should be present for all hunts to minimise welfare concerns.