The Heart of Africa: Hunting for Conservation

Published on 29 February 2016
Author: Daniel Beardsmore
Biased or not, having grown up involved in shooting sports and seeing all of its values, especially in hunting, I am committed to doing all I can to ensure the sustainable management of not only our surrounding wildlife but further a field too. It’s time to discover the facts of hunting conservation on the plains of Africa.

The Current Situation:

As of late, social media has been full of stories about hunters and their “hellish hobby” paying to “slaughter” animals for fun, engendered by last years killing of Cecil the lion. The arguments formed usually revolve around a three dimensional model – those who hunt, and believe hunting can be an effective conservation tool, those who don’t hunt but understand its management benefits, and those who detest every notion of hunting. It’s a politically and ethically charged debate. Can hunting animals really contribute to wildlife conservation and biodiversity objectives? At first glance, hunting as a means of conservation seems like an inherent contradiction. However, the sustainable use of wildlife has been affirmed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a central means of conserving biodiversity.

Realistically, hunting conservation, if executed properly with ethical management and strict quotas, can be a very effective wildlife management tool. Hunting may be among the few useful mechanisms for controlling ungulate populations that would expand with abandon given the relative absence of natural predators. And in other places, the fees formulated from legalised trophy hunting can fund key conservation efforts on the ground. Robin Naidoo, a WWF researcher, points out in ‘Conservation Biology’, the Western opposition to trophy hunting is a bit “ironic” given how much funding legal hunting generates for wildlife management and conservation in North America.

In the background to our familiar hunting and population management efforts here in Europe, the African Safari hunting industry has quietly operated for well over a century and has now grown to an over 200 million USD annual industry. Much of the remote habitat in Africa, untouched by photo tourism, is leased or owned by safari outfitters and conservancies for the purpose of hunting.

Safari Hunting: How It Works

Typically, a safari operator will purchase hunting rights from the government for a concession area which may or may not be close to a national park. Government game managers then assign him a “quota” of animals he is allowed to take during the year. The quota is based on population field research and is determined to be a sustainable off take that will not compromise the overall population.

It is then up to the safari operator (outfitter) to market there concession to attract clients willing to pay for the right to hunt on the ground. By following this system, it gives resident animals a distinct value and hunting them will result in substantial economic benefits to support continued game management, national park operating costs, conservation programs and support of local communities. It also results in a vested interest in resident animals with support to regular anti-poaching patrols ensuring healthy populations continue to exist.

The Facts:

  • The legal hunting of correctly managed African game provides financial support to the local communities
  • Hunting is seen as the economic engine behind community based conservation
  • Many hunting outfitters directly contribute revenue to conservation efforts; helping the local economy, the continued protection of wild game and their habitat.
  • Data shows a direct correlation between hunting bans and increased numbers of poaching
  • Similar to our domestic hunting, African game needs population management on the grounds they inhabit to maintain healthy, stable numbers.

Both the IUCN and WWF have long acknowledged that hunting represents the wise and sustainable use of wildlife and can be consistent with and contribute to conservation, because the social and economic benefits derived from use of species can provide incentives for people to conserve them and their habitats.

So what happens if all hunting was banned in Africa? First and foremost, wildlife will stand to have little to no importance or value to locals, The impetus to conserve would slowly disappear. Time and time again we have seen evidence that hunting bans give rise to poaching pressures. Bans on hunting in Tanzania (1973-78), Kenya (1977) and Zambia (2000-03) all but accelerated a rapid loss of wildlife due to the removal of incentives for conservation. .

The long-term survival of species and their habitats will only occur if local people are acquiring equitable economic and social benefits from conservation and have control over, and the right to, manage wildlife resources – without it, they see no incentive to maintain there surrounding ecosystem.

Daniel Beardsmore

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the views of the company.