By Paul Babaz
Public discussion of how trophy hunting fits into the wildlife situation in Africa has been triggered again with an editorial in Africa Geographic entitled: “Trophy hunting in Africa is in decline, and no longer pays its way.”
Such a suggestion is misleading at best. It does, however, demonstrate the need for a more complete understanding of the entire picture so that precious wildlife resources can be sustained in wild places now and into the future.
Wildlife in Africa has suffered tremendously and illegal criminal enterprises that commit poaching have benefitted greatly from the misguided efforts of anti-hunting eco-imperialists in other parts of the world.
In a speech to European officials, Michel Leonidas Mantheakis, Chairman of the Tanzania Hunting Operators Association, summed up the overall situation: “It is ironic that anti-hunting pressure resulted in the deaths by poaching of more elephants, lions and other wildlife than safari hunting ever has….A decision taken on wrong information can never be right. When emotion prevails you are bound to come to the wrong conclusions even if the information is right.”
Hunters, as conservationists, practice the sustainable use of wildlife resources. It hasn’t been until recently that our message is being disseminated more broadly so that those interested in true conservation and effective wildlife management can understand the totality of the very complex issues involved.
Well-regulated trophy hunting helps wildlife and local economies, while attacks on hunting result in harm to the very animals that we all want to save.
Any decline of hunting in Africa is at least in part due to importation restrictions imposed by foreign governments. There are significant differences in conservation and economic benefits between countries like South Africa and Namibia that have strong hunting programs versus countries like Kenya and Botswana that currently lack strong hunting programs.
For example, a prominent study titled “The Conservation Equation in Africa” concluded that between the years 2012 and 2014, hunting for conservation contributed a staggering $426 million to the GDP of Botswana, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Moreover, direct spending by foreign hunters injected an additional $326 million into these Southeastern African economies while also supporting over 53,000 jobs for local residents. The hunting that takes place on these lands and the subsequent economic benefit that hunting provides have no viable replacement.
Additionally, trophy hunting plays a vital and irreplaceable role in not only land but also wildlife conservation. The millions of dollars that hunters bring to these African nations offer powerful incentives to both governments and private land holders to preserve land for wildlife. Properly incentivized by the cash injections brought by hunters every year, local populations are more proactive about managing real threats to wild life such as indiscriminate poaching and agricultural land development.
For example, several African species’ conservation status have been improved by hunting programs. A report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) shows:
- Black rhino recovered from approximately 1,000 in the 1890s to more than 3,500 today;
- Cape buffalo herds were decimated in the early 1900s. There are more than 1 million today;
- White rhino population was less than 100 in 1895. There are between 19,600 and 21,000 white rhinos in existence today;
- Bontebok population was 126 in 1925. The population is over 8,000 today.
Without conservation hunting, these African nations will undoubtedly see human-wildlife conflict increase, a rapid loss of animal habitat to human activities, and an irreplaceable loss of economic support for the local communities. If hunting is declining, efforts should be made to improve or revitalize hunting so that additional conservation successes can be achieved.
To view videos of wildlife officials and others from Africa discussing the real situations in their countries, go to: