“Sport hunting is not poaching and can help conserve wildlife. ”
It is a discourse that we hear regularly on the African continent.
There was a huge increase of the recent interest in the problem of poaching, mostly from many African stories on macabre rhinos and elephants illegally killed for their horns and tusks. At the same time there has been a growing awareness about sport hunting, with pictures of hunters, even a few celebrities posing with their trophy, which led to a furious outcry. But the shortcut is a little too quick to consolidate the two cases. Although both will inevitably result in the death of an animal, they are quite different.
Poaching is the illegal killing of wildlife, for reasons that may include revenge, need meat for food or sale, respect for tradition or just for the money. The poachers, who are either poor or local adventurers from overseas, capitalizing on the lucrative illegal wildlife trade. However, sport hunting, trophy called, is slaughtering perfectly legal wildlife, often achieved by wealthy foreigners for sport and pleasure. In both cases, the result leads to a less animal in the wildlife population, but the similarity ends there.
Poaching is uncontrolled and unsupervised. With wildlife considered a financially attractive resource for poachers, the animals suffer from the tragedy of the commons (illegal) where poachers may feel that if they do not kill (and benefit from) the elephant, someone ‘other. The result is massive exploitation. The business model is based on a sharp rise in prices due to high demand and low supply means that the rarer an animal gets, the higher the price. Incentive drives poachers to kill as many animals as possible.
However, trophy hunting is usually a strictly controlled act, monitored and regulated where safari hunting territories require permits issued by the government imposing a number of animals that you want to hunt. If animals are to be driven out of the country, other permits are required for transport. So we get to have a very precise idea of the number of hunting animals slaughtered as trophies in the world. Given the fact that no company wants to see Stilt income stop, hunting grounds tend to perfectly manage their wildlife, which saw the number of species to increase significantly over the years.
For comparison, consider a typical farmer: he would not sell all his cattle on the market because it would have nothing to sell to the next trip. So it makes sense to sell a number, and in the meantime let grow his herd in order to have more animals for sale for the next trip. Safari organizations manage their wildlife in a similar way in order to increase the size of their herds. In fact, it has been shown repeatedly that the trophy hunting operations tend to increase wildlife populations rather than reduced.
As they are legally able to reap the economic benefits of wildlife in their care, safari territories are incentives to conserve these species. And some spillover benefits to the local community – such as job creation – which means that people are encouraged not to poach wildlife illegally because now they can benefit from its value in the legal economy.
This approach has worked wonders in Namibia through conservation model, the local communities living around wildlife protection are put in charge of fauna. They are able to offer safari hunting trophies to tourists, and so they are reaping the benefits. This has significantly reduced poaching and some species populations are booming thanks to this management model.
So the call to ban trophy hunting or prevent hunters bringing home trophies concern. For example, the recent ban on ivory imports from Tanzania and Zimbabwe to the United States may have a significantly negative effect on the elephant populations of the country. By taking away the opportunity for local communities to benefit from these land animals is likely to be given to agriculture.
Kenya has arrested trophy hunting in the 1970s, and the territories, which had been selected and reserved for wildlife, have been converted into livestock and crop areas. The result led to the decline of populations of all species, because most valued financially, only the crops and livestock now have more value. The consequences Botswana and Zambia, where some hunting trophies was recently banned, are pending and only the future will tell us if we did well!
All slaughter forms of wildlife are not the same, and we must be very careful to understand the differences. It is easy for Westerners to deduce conclusions on the management of wildlife and screaming in front of a picture of a dead lion accusing all forms of hunting. But if we take a step back and we look at the whole situation, think of these village communities, isolated, poor, who have to live with dangerous animals like elephants and lions. We must understand that the situation is much more complex. Indeed, as the example that Namibia has shown, the carefully managed trophy hunting can be a way of reducing poaching of wildlife.