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Hunting Legends

“Sport hunting in the Southern African Development Community”

Sport hunting in the Southern African Development Community (SADC): An Overview


Most of the countries making up the South African Development Community (SADC) are classified as ‘developing’ nations and are characterised by high population growth, limited industrial and tertiary industry, high unemployment, and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita that is well below the poverty level. These countries are, however, blessed with an abundant natural resource base, including (in most cases) a dynamic wildlife sector. In fact, wildlife- based land use and industry offers real potential throughout the region as a viable development option, especially for rural communities with few other competitive advantages in today’s globalised world.

Traditionally, Africa’s natural resources were used to support the livelihoods of rural people throughout the region. Wildlife benefits accrued either directly in the form of meat and hides or, more recently, indirectly through eco-tourism ventures or photographic safaris. Unfortunately, the legacy of colonialism, which introduced socially unacceptable wildlife policy and land tenure regulations, still prevents many local people from benefiting from the natural resources around them, yet expects them to accept any negative consequences without question. Growing human populations and a host of development pressures, however, have resulted in many people resorting to methods considered illegal by the government when accessing the natural resource base around them.

Within the SADC region, governments have increasingly come to realise that without the support of local communities, conservation efforts are bound to fail. In the absence of benefits, people living in poverty are unwilling and unable to look after natural resources wisely. In some cases, governments have initiated processes to transfer ownership of wildlife, land use rights and decision-making responsibilities to local communities. The majority of such programmes have involved the integration of wildlife with other land use options, such as crop and livestock production. This strategy has allowed for multiple uses and the generation of maximum revenues. For example, the rights to utilize certain animals could firstly be ‘sold’ for photographic safaris or wildlife viewing, secondly to a hunter as a trophy or for biltong and, thirdly, its meat and/or hide could be sold or utilised by local communities. Significant successes have been achieved through such initiatives with multiplier effects, especially where sport hunting is a feature in the equation.

Sport hunting is the hunting of an animal, generally by a foreign tourist, for its trophy value. Throughout the region, such hunters typically come from the USA or Europe. As sport hunting is primarily motivated by the thrill of the hunt and the subsequent acquisition of a take-away trophy, it can be carried out on land that is less scenic than that demanded for wildlife tourism. Further, the standard of accommodation and other infrastructure offerings can usually be far more ‘rustic’ in keeping with the less intrusive requirements of a rugged ‘bush’ experience. This allows for a greater diversity of land to be set aside for wildlife-based industries.

Consequently, in 2000, southern Africa offered some 420,000 km2 of communal land, 188,000 km2 of commercial land, and 420,089 km2 of state land for sport hunting purposes. And finally, sport hunters are also less influenced by political events than other tourists, allowing for greater reliability in terms of sustaining constant revenue generation.

Although sport hunting has the potential to raise significant sums of foreign income for a country, like anything else that involves money, the industry can be subject to abuse, corruption and mismanagement. In Africa, the very low salaries paid to wildlife personnel and the lack of transparent and accountable oversight processes exacerbate this vulnerability. While individual countries strive to assume a competitive advantage and fulfil a unique niche in terms of the species on offer, competition within the industry can be intense. In fact, there are usually a large number of potential operators but a limited number of hunting concessions available. The demand for good quality trophies increases the pressure on hunting operators to secure productive hunting concessions. The methods used to secure such concessions and to hunt suitable trophy animals can go beyond what is considered ethical, for example so-called canned hunts have become common in South Africa raising concerns over the principle of fair-chase. Similarly the practice of breeding colour varieties, translocating game to areas outside of their natural distribution, and cross-breeding species is also practices by some game farm owners. On occasion, corrupt or unsustainable practices have led to the temporary or permanent closure of the industry in certain countries, for example Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia. Indeed, international and national critics of sport hunting, especially individuals or groups that are philosophically or fundamentally opposed to all forms of sport hunting, point to ethical lapses or corrupt practices to discredit the industry as a whole.

In 1999, TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa was contracted under the USAID-funded Network and Capacity Building Programme (NETCAB) to conduct an overview assessment of the sport hunting industry in the SADC region. The two- year project transpired at a time when many pressing issues were impacting on the industry, including the recent imposition of sport hunting bans in some countries, the withdrawal of predator quotas in others, experimentation with the transfer of management structures to community-based institutions, and continuing problems with monitoring, administration, quota setting and land tenure issues. The project aimed to document and assess the experiences of various countries with a view towards developing generic ‘best practice’ guidelines that could serve as a regional model to underpin and safeguard the industry in the future.

The project aims were achieved through a comprehensive assessment of the parameters, dynamics and status of the sport hunting industries in five SADC countries namely, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. These five target nations constitute the main sport hunting countries in the region, and all have long, if not unique, histories in terms of sport hunting policy and management experience. The study was underpinned by a comprehensive review of available literature and in-country field research and consultation with key stakeholders throughout the region.

To present the principal findings of this assessment and to provide a forum with which to share the management experiences of various countries, TRAFFIC organised a “Sport Hunting in the SADC Region” workshop in 2001. Attended by key stakeholders from government, industry and conservation organisations in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, a first attempt to develop ‘best practice’ guidelines for the sport hunting industry was attempted. It is worth noting that Mozambique and Zambia were not part of the TRAFFIC assessment, but both countries are now engaged in the development of sport hunting industries. This effort clearly benefited from the experiences, successes, failures and lessons learned from key players throughout the SADC region. The outputs of the workshop included:

– a summary of the main issues and constraints facing each of the seven countries with sport hunting industries;

– a discussion of key management themes such as monitoring, administration and quota setting;

– the first-cut development of “best practice” guidelines; and,

– a strategy for catalysing the implementation of country-specific action orientated solutions.

The importance of the game industry to the economies of some countries is phenomenal, particularly when non- consumptive (i.e. wildlife viewing) and consumptive (sport hunting, licensed resident hunting) are taken into account. For example, in the latter 1990s, Zimbabwe raised some USD254 million through sport hunting, followed by South Africa at USD140 million and Tanzania at USD100 million (Barnes, 1996; ZTA, 2001). In some instances, this contributed significantly to the GDP of certain countries, for example, sport hunting revenue in Zimbabwe contributed some 8% to the country’s GDP (ZCSO, 2000). In some countries, this income is expected to increase in the near future, possibly even double, even in the absence of government grants (Bond, 1997).

With annual revenues of USD29.9 million in Tanzania, USD28.4 million in South Africa, USD23.9 million in Zimbabwe, USD12.6 million in Botswana and USD11.5 million in Namibia during the late 1990s, sport hunting is responsible for a large component of economic growth. Initially, most sport hunting revenue accrued to government and private landowners, however, more recently, an increasing proportion of such revenues has been apportioned between these two sectors and local communities.

The anticipated growth of the sport hunting industry relies on several factors, namely the diversity of species on offer, the quality of trophy animals available and the quality of professional hunters and associated tourism services (Jackson, 1995). In 2001, South Africa was the only country that offered the ‘big five’ – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard – as huntable species, but Tanzania was regarded as the most scenically beautiful destination with record-winning lion, leopard and buffalo trophies. Alternatively, Namibia offered the most cost-effective hunting of plains game and some unique endemic species, while Botswana and Zimbabwe consistently supplied the best quality elephant trophies. Accordingly, each country had something unique to market to potential hunters from around the world.

To remain lucrative, the management of the sport hunting industry should focus upon realising maximum conservation, economic and social benefits from the hunting resource, while ensuring good governance and accountability. Management protocols vary from country to country with differing emphasis on private, community and governmental management structures. The function of these structures is to ensure that standards are maintained, and that monitoring and administrative systems are robust and operative so that informed management decisions can be consistently made. The following ‘best practice’ guidelines are suggested:

1. Maintaining Quality and Standards of the Sport Hunting Industry

  • Minimum trophy quality sizes and standards determined – The lack of long-term tenure security over many hunting concessions has prompted unsustainable over-hunting of certain lucrative species, resulting in inferior trophy quality animals, especially in State and communal land concession areas. Where they do not exist, trophy quality sizes and standards need to be established.
  • Wildlife hunting regulations enacted and enforced – The ability of countries to enforce regulations developed to maintain the sustainability of hunting, and to set standards for ethical hunting, differs widely. The use of community based natural resource management (CBNRM) programs which provide incentive for community game scouts to accompany hunting safaris should be encouraged. Canned and put-and-take hunting practices should be condemned.
  • Professional hunting associations formed – Each country should ensure that a national hunting association exists and is empowered to promote ethical hunting and professional standards of hunters in a standardised manner throughout the SADC region.
  • Professional hunting training courses held – Sport hunting training courses should be a feature in each country to provide opportunities to citizen hunters to gain the experience necessary to become professional hunters and improve individual hunting skills.
  • Professional hunter standards established – Conforming to a regional minimum standard, each country should establish professional hunter standards through comprehensive programmes offering both theoretical and practical examinations. Hunters that pass these examinations and successfully serve an apprenticeship should become registered with the national hunting association and government before being allowed to conduct hunts professionally.

2. Monitoring and Administration of the Sport Hunting Industry

  • Monitoring systems developed and implemented – The information and data generated through sport hunting needs to be part of an active monitoring system. Such a system should feature routine and effective analysis of available data to ensure that subsequent management decisions are informed, as well as provide timely feedback for adaptive management purposes.
  • Data collection forms standardised – To support the monitoring systems, data reporting formats should be simple, clear and streamlined to facilitate the collection of data from key stakeholders. These forms should include financial and biological information necessary for the effective management of the sport hunting industry at the national level. If possible, where different government departments have data collection requirements, an attempt should be made to streamline everything into a single, all encompassing form. Standardisation at the SADC level is an option that should be explored thoughtfully.
  • Hunt return registers submitted – Hunt return forms are an essential component of any effective monitoring system by providing data on a range of important issues, such as effort vs. success rates, the quality of trophies and off- take rates. An effective means to ensure that hunt return information is regularly submitted is to require proof of submission as the basis for applications for trophy export permits. Similarly, compliance with hunt return regulations should form part of the requirement for renewing hunting permits and licences.

3. Quota Setting

  • Quota setting processes and procedures established – The process and procedure for establishing annual hunting quotas should be clearly delineated, transparent and accountable. There may be different policies or procedures for different species or industry stakeholders (private landowners, communal land areas or government concessions), but in all cases quota setting requirements should be established according to a set procedure and under some kind of supervisory control by central government but involving key stakeholders.
  • Compliance with CITES demonstrated – CITES is the world’s leading policy instrument for international trade in wildlife. From time to time, through collaborative discussion and agreement at its Conference of Parties, quotas are established for certain species, including specific reference to sport hunted trophies. Compliance with these, and all other CITES requirements, should be implemented at the national level.
  • Management capacity demonstrated – There is a need to ensure that viable and demonstrable management capacity exists for each hunting concession area. This requirement is especially important in instances whereby private sector concession owners are allowed to set and approve their own quotas for hunted animals and have ownership rights over their own resources.
  • Information and data collected and analysed – To set quotas effectively, there is a need to use various sources of information and data, including indices such as population size, status and trends, sex ratios, frequency of sightings, problem animal control records, catch effort and trophy quality (i.e. size). Using information and data relevant to a specified hunting block or concession is a vital part of ensuring sustainability in the long-term, and realising critical engagement and buy-in from stakeholders.
  • Information sources agreed and standardised – The type of information and information sources required for quota setting should be standardised to the extent possible. For example, aerial or ground surveys, catch effort and trophy quality data, and anecdotal information may all be used to triangulate the most reliable indication of population trends and then be used adaptively to determine the quota.
  • Monitoring systems established – Monitoring systems should collate critical data and information necessary for effective quota setting. These data should include past hunting off-take records, aerial and/or ground population census data, trophy quality, and financial and biological indicators.
  • Trophy quality data recorded and analysed – Trophy quality is an excellent indicator of population status. It should be a requirement in the quota setting process that such data is available, analysed and used proactively in the context of adaptive management practices.
  • Quota approval necessary – Once management capacity is established, the responsibility to approve quotas should be clearly established. Where land use rights devolve wildlife management responsibilities to land holders in private and communal lands, government oversight and approval procedures need to be clearly established.

4. Maximising Economic and Social Benefits from the Sport Hunting Industry

  • Transparent mechanism for allocation of hunting concessions adopted – Failure to adopt a transparent and fully accountable process for the allocation of hunting concessions in government or communal land areas inevitably invites allegations of corruption, cronyism or mismanagement. Concession tender processes should allow for a high degree of competition between safari operators and be designed to ensure maximum financial benefit to public landowners, foreclosing on any potential for ‘back door’ arrangements or deals that end up rewarding individuals rather than government and/or communal stakeholders. Open tender processes and public auctions have been used successfully in different countries in the region and should be encouraged.
  • Screening criteria for hunting operators developed and used – To ensure that potential sport hunting operators are well-qualified to finance and conduct professional hunting operations, and that they will adhere to ethical hunting practices, a series of screening criteria should be applied to all applicants who seek allocation of a concession. Application of both technical and financial criteria would necessarily make certain players ineligible for consideration from time to time. Screening practices should ensure that individuals who have violated rules and regulations in the past no longer are eligible for licenses to operate.
  • Annual reporting and accounting of revenues practised – Good governance practises should require that financial transactions, especially those involving government and communal landowners and which become part of public sector budgets, be subject to appropriate audit oversight and public scrutiny to ensure accountability.
  • Hunting packages marketed effectively – The composition of species and the duration of each hunting package is instrumental in providing a balanced hunt that maximises revenues and client satisfaction.
  • Government hunting fees revised periodically – Fees should be established according to the open market value of trophy animals and revised from time to time to ensure maximum revenue.
  • Hunting tenures set – The length of time that individual hunting concessions are held and the security associated with such tenure has a direct bearing on the amount safari operators are willing to invest in the protection of the concession and the development of CBNRM programmes. Long-term tenure commitments should be encouraged to promote maximum investment in the resource base and local communities.
  • Revenue retention – The allocation of revenues to those who own the hunting resource should be promoted with a requirement that a proportion of revenue should be banked in-country.

The region’s sport hunting industry, and its ability to contribute to the development of local communities, is sensitive to a number of factors. For example, political instability, social unrest or crime can influence tourism negatively. In such situations, sport hunting suffers to a lesser extent than other forms of tourism, however, security concerns or debilitating annoyances such as chronic fuel shortages are nonetheless negative factors impacting on the industry. Events beyond the control of the region can also seriously impede the viability of sport hunting. For example, restrictive legislation in the country of residence of potential hunters can result in import bans on certain species, leading to major revenue losses in countries that offer the same species as part of managed sport hunting programme. Furthermore, adverse publicity from anti-hunting lobbies also affects the sport hunting industry and has the ability to retard the development of the industry.

In the ‘best case’ scenarios, sport hunting is an important industry that underpins the conservation of species and their habitats as viable land uses which contribute to the livelihoods of many people and the national economies of sport hunting countries. Benefits from this industry are increasingly being distributed to rural poor through CBNRM programmes and those communities are showing a greater commitment to the conservation of wildlife. On the other hand, the management of the industry is, in some cases, still poor and open to abuse and corruption. Transparency is needed in the allocation of concessions and in the setting of hunting quotas, and instances of unethical hunting practices need to be eliminated. In order to achieve effective, sustainable and lucrative hunting industries in the SADC region, considerable effort is still needed from both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders. Drawing upon the lessons from the region and implementing ‘best practice’ guidelines is an important step to ensure the long-term viability of the sport hunting industry at a time of increasing global oversight and accountability.