Trophy hunting won’t end wildlife conservation setbacks

For decades, the public has been made to belive the myth that trophy hunting is necessary for sustainable conservation in Africa. Trophy hunting is therefore, currently the subject of debate and polarised positions, with controversy and concern over the practice, its ethical basis, and its impacts. It is therefore, clear that there have been, and continue to be, cases of poorly conducted and poorly regulated hunting, with the killing of “Cecil the Lion” four years ago by an American tourist in Zimbabwe which sparked international uproar.

The rationale is that trophy hunting contributes a significant amount of revenue, which African countries rely on for funding wildlife conservation. The argument is: a few animals are sacrificed through regulated quotas for the greater good of the species. This opens the door for Western tourists to shoot charismatic mega-fauna and make a virtue of it. And it brings much fury to conservationists all over the world that, Botswana, home to the world’s largest elephant population, on Friday was set to hold a major auction for big game hunters to kill 70 elephants, the first since scrapping a hunting ban last year.

And it is with much sorrow that Africa’s elephant population is declining due to poaching but on the contrary, Botswana has seen elephant numbers grow to 130,000 from 80,000 in the late 1990s. In support of the argument, officials in Botswana say hunting is necessary to ease human-wildlife conflict.

Looking into the environmental outrage, Audrey Delsink, Africa’s wildlife director for the global conservation lobby charity Humane Society International, told the Daily Mail that the hunting auctions were “deeply concerning and questionable.”

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Could trophy hunting be justified? Trophy hunters on the other hand, often claim that they kill animals because they love animals. They argue that trophy hunting allows broader animal populations to be conserved. The idea that trophy hunting brings a conservation incentive to local people to save a species is completely counter-intuitive.

Trophy hunting revenues make up a very small percentage of tourism revenues in Africa, or most countries with an active trophy hunting industry, among them South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia, the industry generates only between 0.3 per cent and 5 per cent of total tourism revenues.

And therefore, with these statistics and facts, I would like to request the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, to consider relocating the elephants to neighboring countries which have a decline in elephants to boost tourism which brings revenue that plays role in conserving the African wildlife.

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There is absolutely no doubt that the future of African wildlife is bleak. Habitat loss threatens to destroy biodiversity, while unselective and indiscriminate illegal poaching adds to it.

Governments take better actions to reflect the conservation and animal welfare values by stopping trophy imports of critically endangered species like the black rhino and lions

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For instance, Australia banned the import of trophy hunted lions, while European Union adopted stronger restrictions on trophy imports while the US stopped trophy imports of elephants. It would be safe to say that these governments seemed to have caught on to what the rest of the world already knows that killing animals to save them is not conservation, it is just wrong.

Regarding this, African countries should follow suit and ban trophy hunting like Kenya who implemented the ban in 1977.

There are major drawbacks to trophy hunting as a conservation tool which are, a) Evolution: By targeting the biggest and most impressive specimens for their trophies, hunters can act as a force like natural selection on small populations to the detriment of the species. b) Ethical concerns: Some forms of trophy hunting raise more ethical issues. The common practices of shooting from vehicles, using dogs to aid in hunts, luring animals from protected areas (as was done with Cecil), and releasing animals immediately prior to hunts are causes for concern. c) Genetics: Genetic diversity is very important for the viability of a species.

True conservation activities however, should involve the local community in a way that is sustainable, and trophy hunting does not accomplish this ideal.

In conclusion, “trophy hunting is not the solution to Africa’s wildlife conservation challenges. Proper governance, characterised by accountability, rigorous, evidence-based policies and actions, and driven by a genuine appreciation of the intrinsic not just economic value of Africa’s majestic fauna, is.”

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The future generations must see wildlife in nature and continue to protect our heritage and elephants remain most important not to be killed but to be shared with the world, as a magnificent gift from God.

- The writer is a Conservationist & Business Leader

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