Trophy hunting at death's door

15 May 2019 | Environment

The financial contribution of trophy hunting to conservation in Africa is insignificant, and the practice could soon become an anachronism.

According to a new international study it is becoming impossible for trophy hunting to self-fund wildlife conservation as a consumer activity, as trophy hunters decline due to the dwindling number of trophy animals in Africa.

An Africa-wide report released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found there has been a huge drop in the number of trophy hunters over the past few years, and Namibia is no exception.

The report indicates that trophy hunting in Africa is not only running out of steam and money, but also out of boast-worthy trophies, and it often fails to support conservation.

According to the report, poaching, hunting and the bush meat trade have all contributed to the rapid decline in trophy animals in Africa. This is amid growing public criticism of hunting, which has led to a sharp drop in the number of hunters worldwide.

“The big game hunting economy, which was already precarious during the 2000s, has become so bad that the situation has declined rapidly in recent years,” the report says.

The causes of this decline are poaching and agro-pastoral encroachment, since hunting associations did not invest the necessary amount of money to counter these phenomena. The report says the hunting market does not have the means to pay the real price of safaris. “A very good hunting zone has a lion density of 2/100 km² and thus it needs a hunting surface area of 5 000 km² to shoot one lion per year sustainably.”

The annual upkeep alone of this area costs around US$4 million or more and the sales price of a safari to hunt lions is on average US$50 000 (the price paid Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe in 2015), the report said.

In other words, 1.25% of the cost price.

“No one will pay US$4 million to shoot a lion, and this shows how hunting is powerless to fund its conservation.”

The report notes that the decline in trophy animals has seen a parallel drop in hunters.

It says in the United States, registered hunters dropped from 14.1 million in 1991 to 11.5 million in 2016, a decrease of 18.5%, with only 4.4% of the population actually hunting.

In South Africa, the number of foreign hunters who visited the country dropped from 16 594 in 2008 to 6 539 in 2016, a decrease of 60.5%. In Namibia statistics show that the number of foreign hunters dropped from 7 599 in 2007 to 5 340 in 2013.

The report said further that huge formerly-hunted areas in Africa are now emptied of wildlife and are returning to pastoralism, therefore challenging the claim by hunters that their sport can protect biodiversity and prevent encroachment by farmers.

It found that 40% of the big game hunting zones in Zambia and 72% in Tanzania are now classified as “depleted” and useless to hunters, containing no game species.

“Hunting used to be a conservation tool, but in the great majority of cases it no longer plays this role and will not do so in the future either.”

ELLANIE SMIT

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