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Unlike the campaign by animal rights organizations and celebrities launched to promote the subject, trophy hunting is known to be able to provide a variety of important conservation and economic benefits.
The government’s proposals to ban the importation of hunting trophies have been criticized by many in the scientific community.
A letter signed by a growing number of prominent conservation practitioners described the proposals as “ill-conceived” and “unlikely to deliver any of the claimed conservation benefits”. He continues, “it threatens to reverse many conservation gains while undermining the livelihoods, rights and autonomy of rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.”
Where trophy hunting has ceased, human-wildlife conflicts are increasing, often to the detriment of wildlife
The act of hunting, let alone trophy hunting, may not be to everyone’s liking. However, it can benefit both the environment and the community in a sustainable way. Where trophy hunting has ceased, human-wildlife conflicts are increasing, often to the detriment of wildlife.
More recently, Pakistan’s Wildlife Department sold four hunting licenses for the endangered markhor, raising $ 575,000. Local governments received 80 percent of the license fees, with the remainder going to the government. The incentive offered by the trophy hunting program has spawned new ethical standards among local communities, who now protect their wild game species as an economic asset. Without trophy hunting, this species would be extinct.
Trophy hunting has an equally positive impact in sub-Saharan Africa. So much so that four of the five best performing countries in the world in megafauna conservation are in the region. Their connection is that they all use trophy hunting as part of their conservation strategy.
In the 1970s, Kenya enacted a trophy hunting ban on its roughly 1.5 million game heads. Over the next four decades, their wildlife numbers were reduced to around 80% of their 1970s level. Simultaneously, South Africa made the decision to embrace the use of wildlife and support trophy hunting. Game populations have flourished and now exceed 20 million heads.
The southern white rhino is a well-known hit. South Africa is home to 90 percent of the world’s population, mainly through the conservation efforts of those with hunting interests. Kenya’s numbers have plummeted due to poaching. The failure to conserve the species has led the country to import animals from South Africa.
Poaching is listed as a main factor in the imminent extinction of some species. The same cannot be said for trophy hunting.
Trophy hunting, contrary to many arguments, is a carefully regulated activity – the main purpose of which is to conserve species for their longevity. This is to state the obvious that where activity is undertaken in an unsustainable manner, it must be stopped. Fortunately, through national and international law, there are already countless measures to combat bad and illegal practices.
If the government is to propose legislation, it must be based on meaningful and impartial consultation with local governments, communities and individuals. It must respect known science, accept new science and in no way disrupt ongoing conservation projects around the world.
If the government wishes to have a real impact, it should investigate issues related to human-wildlife conflict, illegal trade and the devastating consequences of poaching. Tinkering around the edges with the gesture policy will have no noticeable benefit to the wildlife on the ground.
Dr Conor O’Gorman is the campaign and policy leader for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.
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