|Costly conservationThe idea of “trophy hunting” being a weapon in the conservationists’ armoury to protect vulnerable species was supported by Peter Lindsey from the University of Zimbabwe.
“Realistically, for conservation to succeed, wildlife has to pay for itself in Africa,” Dr Lindsey told a recent meeting at London Zoo.
“If local people do not benefit, it is usually lost.”
Trophy hunting involves allowing high-paying guests to shoot in the company of a professional hunting guide. Each hunter pays, on average, 10-20 times more than most eco-tourists would for their holiday.
He said that it could encourage landowners to accommodate and protect threatened wildlife in areas that do not appeal to most eco-tourists because they are politically unstable, too remote, or simply less scenic.
In South Africa, landowners were given permission to allow shooting of excess male white rhinos once the species began to recover after a sharp decline.
This gave landowners an incentive to buy and provide land for the rhinos, and this is thought to have significantly accelerated their recovery.
Dr Lindsey, who is not a hunter, carried out research to assess both the positive and negative effects of hunting on conservation.
He found that the industry is not without setbacks. Estimates of how many animals can be shot without threatening the population are sometimes based on guesswork, because no research data is available.
Irresponsible lodge owners, who allowed illegal and unethical practises, such as hunting caged animals or shooting from cars, posed a severe threat to the industry’s prospects.
Hunters also needed to find ways to make sure that the money from rich tourists did not end up in overseas bank accounts, but reached local communities, he added.
These concerns were shared by animal welfare groups. International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) spokeswoman Rosa Hill called the idea of shooting elephants and rhinos “morally unjustifiable”.
“There is very little evidence that the funds raised from killing wildlife are ploughed back into conservation,” she said.
“There are also biological reasons why trophy hunting is not a good idea. Generally, hunters want to kill the biggest, strongest and fittest animals and this can have disastrous implications for the species.
Ms Hill said a lack of knowledge about how many animals there were and how the creatures behaved could result in a sudden population crash.
“Trophy hunting quotas are not set with proper knowledge of true population sizes, so it can be difficult to measure a species’ decline,” she explained.
But Dr Lindsey believed that the overall shortfalls did not outweigh the conservation benefits.
He said: “The industry’s not perfect, and we have to work on the problems; but there is no question in my mind that if hunting were to be banned, the conservation consequences in Africa would be dire.”
It is evident from this article that extreme conservationists and ‘the professional hunting fraternity’ still do not see eye to eye on this matter.
What puzzle’s me most is the ignorance of Ms Hill, and her belief that we as ‘professional hunters’ are just in it for the killing of the biggest and the best!
I cannot however share her doubt, that there still are several un-ethical and inexprienced operators in the industry. In perhaps any industry, there are and always will be fly by nights, not to mention even in conservation cirlces.
The fact however, is that conservation and breeding sustainable animal populations are even more important to us, than to Ms Hill perhaps. Our very lively hood depends on how we manage our wildlife and resources, and we thus cannot afford to kill every big thing that comes across our sights. Contrary to what Ms Hill may believe it is also not always the biggest animals who have the best genes, and do the best job in nature. Perhaps Ms Hill will be pleasantly surprised to find that there are companies like Real Africa Safari Holdings, which takes pride in our operations, and take conservation very seriously.
If we don’t breed and see to it that we protect our gene pool’s, we won’t have any trophy hunters knocking on our doors soon!
We believe and maintain that conservationists and hunters can find an amicable solution and strategy together, for the benefit of conservation and wildlife.
On a one on one basis, our customers and ourselves, out spend almost any conservationist’s annual budget in developing our own wildlife resources.
Why should we as ethical and professional hunters, thus always put up with the grunt and disdain of some conservationists. We are proud of our sport and proud of the fact that we invest more than we harvest!
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