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  • Killing for conservation?

    Posted by Arno Smit January 28, 2014 - 1,801 views - 1 comment - 0 likes


    The topic of trophy hunting has been in the news quite a bit recently. First with the infamous shooting of a male lion by sport hunter Melissa Bauchman, and now again with the auction of a permit to shoot a black rhino in Namibia. As with most conservation issues there are a number of components to each story, but what are the facts and where does it leave us?

    Wall of death

    Is this what a "conservationist's" wall looks like?

    The bottom line? Money talks. It is an easy rationalisation- that in order to devote large scale funds to the conservation of this world’s natural resources, we must turn to extreme measures and throw basic values aside in order to accomplish the greater good for a species. But at what cost, and are we really seeing the big picture?

    In relation to other African countries, South Africa is at the top of the conservation list, and does a great deal in order to protect its wildlife. Other countries, unfortunately, face many important issues such as starvation, instability, and major health concerns. Based on these concerns, many justify the exchange of a controlled hunting system for large amounts of funds for community development. This is the first misnomer because the advertised claim is that this money goes to conservation. It is not to say that community development is not important, but if groups are justifying the killing of a species based on the fact that funds are being returned to that same species longevity, then the money should actually go to conservation efforts. 

    But since money talks, let us look at the numbers; the sale of this black rhino hunting permit topped off at R3.5 million, which is said to go to rhino conservation. This is a massive contribution to conservation and, according to officials; the killing of this post reproductive animal will cause no real harm to the black rhino population. They claim, in fact, that this will do the population good, because black rhino are territorial and could potentially kill pre reproductive or reproducing males in the area. Even if the money does not go directly to rhino conservation, Namibia is in need of infrastructure development, job creation, health advancements, and other community initiatives. This all sounds logical enough, so let’s support trophy hunting!

    Hypocrisy in action. The reasons why trophy hunting contribute to conservation

    But if money talks, then why don’t governments and individuals look at the millions of dollars brought into countries from the tourism industry?  Private game reserves, which do not kill its inhabitants, have thousands of people visiting the area in order to experience the incredible wildlife Africa has on offer. These amounts come in smaller doses though. I suppose the immediate gratification does not play a part, and therefore these numbers are ignored.


    Rhinos are already under threat from poachers, habitat loss and well, predators. Shoud they now add "conservationist's" too?

    From a study done in Tanzania to investigate the effects of hunting on the animals as well as local human populations, interviews with villagers exposed the following:

    “We‘re more closely allied with the photographic operators than the hunters. They (the hunters) are finishing off the wildlife before we‘ve had a chance to realize a profit from it. Hunters don‘t recognize us; they only recognize the government 25 percent of hunting fees (that) goes into the “hole” at the district. We‘re supposed to get 5 percent- we don‘t even see that.” (Sachedina 2008, p152)

    Who will bring in the money?

    At this stage, I think it is fair to put these rationalisations aside, because we are all too smart for them. It is reported that less than 3% of the money earned from trophy hunting actually goes back into conservation and the poor communities in the area. If you want to see long term economic growth, then the logical choice is the prolonged protection of a resource unique to African countries, which millions of people contribute to seeing every single year. Yes, killing a lion may earn you $20, 000, but that same lion can earn you that, plus much more enrichment over the course of its lifespan. It would be ignorant to try and argue the elimination of this sport without an economic factor, I know, but, let it be a real conversation about money and economic value to an area. Hunting farm owners typically employee 10 to 20 staff members. Game reserves employ 30 – 60, if not more, local community members. These reserves create jobs, and draw international tourists to their areas and other businesses. Trophy hunting is about the rich serving the rich and powerful, not about enriching the lives of the disadvantaged communities of Africa.

    Motivation to conserve

    Motivations matter; if individuals are willing to contribute $350, 000 USD to conservation, then why not simply donate the money. Why must they receive a trophy of an animal’s head to post on their wall in order to contribute that type of money for a cause they claim they support… “conservation of wildlife”. Is it not complete hypocrisy to claim you support conservation, then carry out a death sentence onto these magnificent wild animals?

    Death to the lion

    The king of the jungle. Dead. Hardly something to celebrate about...

    As I said originally, money talks, but that is not the only thing that should speak to us. Through more and more education, it is becoming apparent that there is a balance to be maintained throughout the entire world - the earth is meant to be shared by all its creatures. As over population and deforestation of previously uninhabited areas increase, the interaction between human and wild animals also increases. For this reason it is even more important to ensure vulnerable species are given alternative areas to live and populate, to solidify species longevity.

    There are thousands of ways for us humans to show we are on top, to prove our dominance and sportsmanship. There is no part of the argument towards trophy killing for conservation that encourages me to believe that we must kill these magnificent animals to feed our own egos.  

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