Questions about trophy hunting remain unanswered
Trophy hunting is a source of foreign currency for many African communities. But hunting also has a downside. Should we ban hunting in an economic crisis?
By Leon Louw founder and editor of WhyAfrica.
Trophy hunting is a controversial issue around the world. In Africa, it is an important source of income for many rural communities. In countries with exemplary conservation standards like Namibia and Botswana, the proceeds have been used to fund conservation efforts.
In South Africa, it has resulted in a proliferation of game farms and the protection of natural areas and indigenous vegetation. Before Covid-19, trophy hunting has also been a substantial earner of foreign exchange in a country struggling to kickstart its lacklustre economy.
According to an article by Melville Saayman, Petrus van der Merwe and Andrea Saayman, titled: The economic impact of trophy hunting in the South African wildlife industry ( https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989418302336) trophy hunters spent more than USD250-million in South Africa in 2018. “Using multiplier analysis based on the Social Account Matrix (SAM) of South Africa, the research revealed that trophy hunting annually contributes more than USD341-million to the South African economy and that it supports more than 17 000 employment opportunities.”
Botswana lifted its five-year hunting moratorium, introduced by previous President Ian Khama, in the country in 2019 because of lost revenue. This resulted in an outpouring of pro versus anti-hunting rhetoric.
The downside of hunting
But hunting has a downside. As much as its impact has been positive, it has often resulted in un-ethical behaviour and has opened the door to dubious operations hiding behind the fact that hunting is “good” for conservation and for the economy. It has directly resulted in “canned hunting”, which is the killing of captive bred animals in small enclosures. The South African banned this practice in 2021.
Trophy hunting remains a hot topic though, and the debate has not died down. The recent proposed UK ban on trophy hunting imports has reignited the conversation.
UK MPs will vote on a private member’s bill to ban trophy hunting imports while, separately, the government is preparing legislation to ban hunting trophies from thousands of species, including lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and polar bears.
According to an article in the Guardian, a group of more than 100 scientists, conservationists, and African community leaders, said in a statement that the proposed UK ban on trophy hunting imports risks undermining the conservation of rhinos, elephants, and other endangered wildlife. The group said that African perspectives have been ignored by government and threatened the livelihoods of rural communities across sub-Sharan Africa.
Calls for a smart ban
According to the article, the group urged the UK government to implement a smart ban that incentivises good practice by prohibiting trophies from “canned” hunting operations, where captive-bred animals are shot at close range, or those that fail to share revenues with local communities.
“We understand (and many of us share) the public’s instinctive dislike of trophy hunting. However, the reality is that no alternative land use has yet been developed which equally protects the wildlife and habitats found in these vital landscapes while also generating valuable revenues for local communities. Indeed, where trophy hunting has been subjected to bans, wildlife has often suffered, and conflict with communities has increased,” the letter states.
“This is not to claim that trophy hunting is perfect. It is beset with a variety of problems, including but not limited to the inequitable sharing of hunting revenues, inappropriate or poorly observed quotas, corruption, and inadequate regulation. But tourism is not a perfect industry either,” the letter states.
Despite the controversies surrounding the hunting of wild animals, its economic benefits should not be ignored. However, the issue will remain a hot topic for many years to come. As African economies, and rural communities, attempt to recover after the devastation of Covid-19, the hunting of wild animals (which are regarded a menace by many local farmers) will remain a means of additional income. Economic recovery after Covid-19 is of the utmost importance. However, it requires balanced arguments and well-intentioned policies that will benefit Africa, and not ignore the needs of local communities in rural areas.
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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