Responses to a call for a ban on the importing of hunting trophies to the UK, made in the Guardian by a dozens of public figures, from parliamentarians such as Jeremy Corbyn to wildlife campaigners including Virginia McKenna
I write regarding the call for a ban on trophy hunting imports to the UK (Report, 18 December; Letters, 18 December). While I recognise the good intentions of the signatories, I am concerned that they may not be aware of the consequences of what they propose.
Tanzania has approximately half of the world’s wild lions and the third largest elephant population in Africa. Its 40,000 sq km of national parks are funded by photographic tourism, whereas its 140,000 sq km game reserve estate is funded solely by “safari” hunting. Last month we surveyed southern Tanzania’s elephant population, and we are soon to embark on the first national lion census. It is probable that more than half of Tanzania’s lions live outside national parks. This means that a quarter of the global lion population currently relies on hunting revenue for the survival of their habitat.
Tanzania currently has no other means of managing game reserves, which cannot compete with its parks or a growing human population. What is needed is an alternative and sustainable means of funding Tanzania’s game reserves and surrounding human populations, otherwise there will be an even bigger conservation challenge than already exists. Currently, no matter how counterintuitive it may seem to many, hunting is the only means of financing these key conservation areas.
I’m neither pro- nor anti-hunting, but rather a pragmatic and experienced conservationist eager that the world understands the many shades of grey in this challenging argument. I invite one or all of the signatories to come and visit us in Tanzania to better understand the complexities of this debate.
Dr Tim Davenport
Country director, Tanzania, Wildlife Conservation Society
• I am amazed and confused by how the hunting fraternity has the audacity to state that the business of trophy hunting is helping to conserve those very animals who are now on the critically endangered list as a result of their actions. Let’s not be fobbed off by the lie that trophy hunting is promoting conservation of these endangered species. Clearly that argument is deeply flawed. What right have we anyway to breed purely to kill for our own entertainment? It is perhaps a deeper psychosis that we must also address globally. Let’s not dress this up; trophy hunting is a vile, cruel and truly despicable sport which is enjoyed by the truly despicable for fun and financial gain. What then when all our wildlife is gone as a result of their actions, will they turn their guns on us? Imagine a world void of our majestic wildlife, save for those whose lifeless heads sit adorning the walls of trophy hunters’ offices. It is a world I would not wish to live in.
• Having spent close to 30 years in Botswana, I find the idea of shooting these incredible animals for “trophies” quite abhorrent and even alien. However, I do know from working on community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) projects in southern Africa that, if administered and managed properly, it brings much-needed income to community trusts or conservancies for rural African households that live with these animals on a daily basis.
May I suggest that all the signatories and supporters of the trophy hunting ban ensure that the loss of income it will represent to many rural communities is at least fully compensated by a “payment for ecosystem goods and services” scheme that rewards people for the often unprecedented levels of human-wildlife conflict they are experiencing. Southern Africa is becoming drier and hotter under climate change, and the mobility of free-ranging African ungulates and their predators is needed over a spatial and temporal scale not seen for decades. We urgently need to find new and effective ways of ensuring that rural, often marginalised communities are willing to “coexist” with African wildlife, and I remain sceptical that removing a vital source of income such as trophy hunting represents a good start.
Prof JS Perkins
Department of environmental science, University of Botswana, Gaborone
• It is heartening that so many people have strong feelings about conservation, as evidenced by the letter expressing a desire for a global ban on trophy hunting. However, this well-meaning call risks unintended negative consequences for both wildlife and for impoverished rural people.
For rhino, elephant, lion and all the species mentioned in the letter, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the global authority on conservation – considers that trophy hunting is not a key threat to their survival. Indeed, well-managed trophy hunting has led to increases in populations of rhino, elephant, lion, markhor, argali, chamois and others. The main problems facing these species are habitat loss and fragmentation, conflict with local people, prey base depletion and illegal poaching.
The letter suggests that nature tourism could replace trophy hunting. But tourism is a fickle industry (much more so than hunting) and only viable in some places. And even in those places it generally fails to generate sufficient funds to cover the cost of protecting land and wildlife. We need to keep more options open. Trophy hunting is a strategy that rural communities who live alongside wildlife (including many of us listed here) actively choose for wildlife management – alongside tourism, trade and other uses. Surely our voices, and the impacts upon us, should be taken into account in this debate? Meanwhile, celebrities and politicians could better use their influence to address issues which really affect conservation, such as tackling climate change, funding protected areas, and aligning conservation and development goals.
Laimi Abisai and 31 other community representatives of Uukwaluudhi Conservancy (North), Namibia
Byron Du Preez Wildlife Conservation Alliance, Zimbabwe
Amy Dickman Ruaha Carnivore Project, Tanzania, University of Oxford
Christine Breitenmoser IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group
Veikko Angula and 14 other community representatives of Iipumbu Ya Shilongo Conservancy (North), Namibia
Elton Araeb and 62 other community representatives of Erongo – UIS Conservancy (North West), Namibia
Armas Ashilungu and 49 other community representatives of Sheya Shuushona Conservancy (North), Namibia
Pufeho Basehi and 25 other community representatives of Zambezi Region Conservancy (East), Namibia
Johannes Alfeldo and 18 other community representatives of King Nehale Conservancy (North), Namibia
Colleen Begg Director, Niassa Carnivore Project, Mozambique
Urs Breitenmoser Co-Chair, IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group
Philippe Chardonnet Co-Chair, IUCN Antelope Specialist Group
Rosie Cooney Chair, IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group
Jeremy Cusack University of Stirling
Enrico di Minin University of Helsinki
Holly Dublin Senior Adviser, IUCN East and Southern Africa (and immediate past chair, SSC African Elephant Specialist Group)
Adam Hart University of Gloucestershire
Brisetha Hendricks Treasurer, Uibasen/Twyfelfontein Conservancy; Chair, Kunene South Regional Conservation Association, Namibia
Juan Herrero Co-chair, IUCN SSC Caprinae Specialist Group
Charles Jonga Director, Campfire Association, Zimbabwe
Ivanga Kapuike and 31 other community representatives of Kunene North Conservancy, Namibia
Khalil Karimov Tajikistan Snow Leopard Programme Field Scientist; Central Asia Regional Chair, IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group
Robert Kenward Chair, IUCN Thematic Group on Sustainable Use and Management of Ecosystems
Mike Knight Chair, IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group
Adrian Lombard Vice-chair, IUCN Thematic Group on Sustainable Use and Management of Ecosystems
Maxi Louis Director, Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO)
Sandro Lovari Co-chair, IUCN SSC Caprinae Specialist Group
Rodgers Lubilo Chair, Zambia Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) Forum
David Mallon Co-Chair, IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Moreangels Mbizah Trans-Kalahari Predator Programme, Zimbabwe, University of Oxford
Stefan Michel IUCN Caprinae Specialist Group, IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group
EJ Milner-Gulland Director, Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, University of Oxford
Debbie Peake Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organisations and Botswana Wildlife Producers Association
Orume Robinson Korup Rainforest Conservation Society, Cameroon
Jon Paul Rodriguez Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC)
Dilys Roe Biodiversity lead, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Niki Rust University of Newcastle
Charlotte Searle Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford
Lovemore Sibanda Trans-Kalahari Predator Programme, Zimbabwe, University of Oxford
Keith Somerville Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent
Mark Stanley-Price University of Oxford
Paolo Strampelli Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford
Pete Tyrrell University of Oxford
George Wambura CEO, Community Wildlife Management Areas Consortium, Tanzania
Alexandra Zimmerman Chair, IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict Task Force
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