Can African leaders PROVE that trophy hunting supports conservation?

The leaders of the African nations: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe believe that they can prove that trophy hunting supports the conservation of their iconic species. But can they? My research indicates that they can’t.

Trophy hunting in Africa. Walter Palmer the Minnesota dentist used a bow and arrow to try and kill Cecil a well-known African lion
Trophy hunting in Africa. Walter Palmer the Minnesota dentist used a bow and arrow to try and kill Cecil a well-known African lion. The image is free to use under a Creative Commons license. Click on it to see the original.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Note: there are vital negative aspects of trophy hunting as it is a form of artificial selection impacting evolution (natural selection) – see the last paragraph.

These leaders are up in arms about a new UK law passing through Parliament called the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill which would ban the importation of hunting trophies into the UK in order to improve the conservation of iconic and endangered species on the African continent.

These African nations want the Bill to be amended to allow imports if there was a proven conservation benefit. They are therefore confident that they can prove the benefits but I say they can’t prove it.

Below is my research on this. The high commissioners from the six countries have met Lord Benyon, a government minister, last week to make their demands as mentioned.

They argue that trophy hunting is “A vital part of the funding mix for conservation programs across South Africa, many of which are globally renowned for their success in protecting and enhancing biodiversity.”

They say that the ban on the importation of trophy hunting “poses a threat to the viability of these programs and undermines the economic and cultural security of marginalised communities who live alongside wilderness areas and drive incomes from hunting tourism.”

They’re going to discuss the problem at presidential level at a conservation summit next week. They might raise the issue at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October at which King Charles is due to attend.

The High Commissioner of Botswana to the UK said that, “Countries like Botswana preserve our wildlife not only for the benefit of our entire population but for the rest of humanity, the UK included. It would be unjust if the UK passes this bill without due consideration of our conservation success, exempting Botswana from the negative consequences of this bill.”

The government is intransigent. A spokesman for Defra said: “We are committed to delivering on our pledge to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals. We respect the right countries to offer trophy hunting as part of their wildlife management strategies and will continue to work with our international partners to deliver on our global commitments to restore nature and ensure sustainable livelihoods.”

Below is my research on studies to try and prove that trophy hunting supports conservation. And there is no hard proof. There are suggestions and possibilities that it might improve conservation. But I am seeking hard proof. There is none.

Lack of hard proof that trophy hunting improves conservation

Let’s focus on the evidence regarding trophy hunting and its conservation impact in Africa.

While it’s challenging to provide definitive “proof” due to the complexity of ecological systems and varying contexts, I can share some studies and findings that support the idea that well-regulated trophy hunting can contribute to conservation efforts:

  1. Economic Incentives for Conservation:
    • A study published in the journal Conservation Biology (2019) found that trophy hunting generates substantial revenue for African countries. This revenue is often reinvested in conservation programs, anti-poaching efforts, and habitat protection.
    • Another study in Ecological Economics (2017) highlighted that trophy hunting can provide economic incentives for local communities to protect wildlife and their habitats. When wildlife becomes valuable, communities are more likely to engage in conservation efforts.
  2. Species-Specific Benefits:
    • Some species benefit directly from trophy hunting. For instance, in Namibia, well-managed hunting programs have contributed to the recovery of populations like the black rhino and the desert-adapted elephant.
    • The reintroduction of white rhinos in South Africa was partly funded by revenue from trophy hunting licenses.
  3. Balancing Conservation and Livelihoods:
    • A study in Science Advances (2017) emphasized that sustainable trophy hunting can help maintain large, intact ecosystems. These ecosystems support a wide range of species beyond the targeted game species.
    • Proper regulation and community involvement are crucial to ensure conservation benefits while respecting local livelihoods.

In summary, while “proof” may be elusive (it does not exist), empirical evidence and case studies suggest that well-managed trophy hunting can contribute positively to conservation efforts in Africa. However, ongoing research and adaptive management are essential to refine these practices and maximize their impact.

Money

And let’s remember that a lot of money is involved and a lot of influential people weigh in on this matter. Any study carried out now might be biased. Money is the driving force behind the desire to maintain trophy hunting in these African nations. That’s my argument. And often, I allege, this money goes into the pockets of the authorities not in the conservation.

Side-effects – artificial selection

And a common sense basis, it is hard to reason that the killing of animals helps to preserve them. And finally, there are negative spin-offs to the killing of iconic species on the African continent such as weakening lions and elephants losing their tasks due to artificial selection. When you shoot wildlife like this for entertainment you impact evolution through artificial selection. This is a topic which is not discussed by the African leaders. They have failed to address this vital negative aspect of trophy hunting.

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