African officials from multiple countries are helping a high-profile Interior Department advisory panel make the case for international trophy hunting.
A University of Botswana tourism studies professor called hunting a “conservation tool.” An ecologist from Zimbabwe said “trophy or safari hunting” is “key in sustainable wildlife utilization.” An official from Namibia said hunting “generates meat, money and jobs.”
They were, to be sure, PowerPoint-preaching to the choir.
During a two-day session convened last week at Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters in Northern Virginia, members of the decidedly pro-hunting International Wildlife Conservation Council collected evidence about the benefits of hunting from the host country perspective.
“This will strengthen our ability to best conserve our world heritage,” a Tanzanian official declared on his PowerPoint slide presentation, which called for “opening up of USA market to Tanzania elephant and lion” trophies.
The presentation by Imani Richard Nkuwi, of the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority, was among half a dozen set for the advisory council’s third meeting, held Wednesday and Thursday.
Packed with data, the presentations provided more ammunition for the council’s stated goal of providing “advice and recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior regarding the benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting” (E&E News PM, March 16).
The members of the council, who previously convened in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, include a number who are affiliated with the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International.
“You’ve got to tell the story: Here are the benefits that we bring and tell a positive story,” University of Maryland computer scientist Tom Snitch advised the council in June, a meeting transcript shows. “It’s got to be true. Because the media will lie in wait for you to make a mistake, and then they’ll jump on you, and then they’ll hammer you.”
Bill Brewster, the former Oklahoma congressman who chairs the advisory council, agreed.
“In a sports kind of narrative, if you play defense all the time, you’re going to get scored on,” Brewster observed at the June meeting.
Toward that end, Roseline Mandisodza-Chikerema, the chief ecologist for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, assured the council last week that “hunting is a conservation tool that if done scientifically with robust monitoring will assist in the conservation of wildlife species.”
The authority manages 13 percent of Zimbabwe’s total landmass. This includes 16 designated “safari areas” spanning about 7,300 square miles. The authority estimates the country’s elephant population at about 83,000, with an annual national hunting quota set at 500.
The number of elephants actually killed is “considerably lower, [has] a negligible impact on the overall population rate, and [has] declined in the past three years due to the import suspension” imposed by the United States, Mandisodza-Chikerema reported.
In March, following some policy turmoil, the Fish and Wildlife Service resumed offering permits on an individual basis for lion, elephant and bontebok trophies from countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa (Greenwire, March 7).
In Botswana, tourism studies professor Joseph Mbaiwa said, trophy hunting yielded benefits including “improved rural livelihoods [and] improved attitudes towards wildlife among local communities.” A 2014 hunting ban imposed by the country’s government has cost jobs and revenue that can’t be replaced by phototourism alone, he said on his PowerPoint.
“Sustainable wildlife conservation requires an integrated land use planning approach that respects photographic [and] hunting tourism and agricultural uses,” Mbaiwa said.