Opinion – Well-regulated hunting helps the conservation of habitat. Consumptive tourism or “hunting” has hit the headlines once again as Botswana re-opens hunting. This comes after a period of no hunting in the wildlife rich country a time during which poaching of elephant and rhino by commercial poachers and the killing of many smaller wild animals by subsistence poachers through snaring, has increased to unprecedented levels.
The other headline that recently piqued interest once again in the subject is the “dream hunt” with Donald Trump Jr.
We believe the following comment by Professor Keith Somerville of the University’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, is well balanced. He said:
‘The news that the chance to bid for a “dream hunt” in Alaska with the US president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has once again thrust the issue of trophy hunting into the limelight. Supporters of campaigns to ban trophy hunting argue on moral grounds that killing wild animals for pleasure and to have trophies on your wall is wrong. Plain and simple, it is wrong. Using emotive appeals, animal welfare NGOs and hunting groups say it does not help conservation, but removes prime breeding animals from the wild. They argue it does not bring much money to local communities and harms rather than helps conservation. This is the rationale behind the attempt by the former Conservative MP and now a member of the House of Lords, Zac Goldsmith, to have the import of hunting trophies to the UK banned.
‘But it is not that simple. There is a moral argument, based on Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism, that if the hunting of a few individual animals creates the greater public good of preserving wildlife habitats and species as a whole, then trophy hunting can have value.
‘The case for this is based on the fact that hunting concessions in Southern Africa and Tanzania keep areas of land as wildlife habitat with a diversity of species. If this land, outside the protected areas of national parks and reserves, does not bring in income for governments and local people through either tourism or hunting, then it will be turned over to marginal cultivation or pastoralism – bringing poor returns to farmers and ensuring the total loss of wildlife. In many of the hunting areas, the terrain, roads and other facilities are not there for photographic tourism. Regulated hunting is the only realistic means to bring in income and preserve both habitat and species. If hunting is banned or rendered uneconomic through trophy import bans, then the land will go under the plough or the cow and the biodiversity will be lost.
‘This was the basis of the argument put forward by 133 scientists, active conservationists and conservation researchers (myself included) to Science magazine in August 2019, arguing against bans and warning that removing or reducing the land assigned for hunting and reducing the possibilities for local people to benefit in some way from wildlife through hunting where photo tourism is not viable, would be counter-productive and would hinder rather than help conservation.
‘There is no single or simple answer to this debate of trophy hunting. If you hate the idea of people killing animals for pleasure, you will not be prepared to accept that any benefits that can come from well-organised, regulated hunting, with properly worked out quotas, are worth it. But realism is necessary along with compassion for wildlife and the interests and views of local communities must also be taken into account, and few of them would support bans that could remove the income they receive. Although of course much still has to be done to give local communities a sense of ownership, and a fair share of income whether from hunting or photo tourism.’
Professor Keith Somerville is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, where he teaches at the Centre for Journalism. His book, ‘Humans and Lions. Conflict, Conservation and Coexistence’, was published in July 2019, and he is now working on one entitled Humans and Hyenas. Monsters or Misunderstood.
The following is an exert from another world acclaimed news outlet. The article, unfortunately, loads pressure onto the Government of Botswana.
Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg
February 3, 2020
Botswana, which has the world’s biggest elephant population, is to this week hold its first major auctions for the right to hunt the animals since lifting a ban last year.
The government is offering seven packages of 10 elephants each, according to Auction It Ltd., which is operating the sales on behalf of the government. The auction will take place at 3 p.m. local time in the capital, Gaborone, on Feb. 7 and interested bidders will need to put down a refundable deposit of 200,000 pula ($18,300). It can be followed online.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi put elephants at the center of Botswana’s politics last year as he campaigned for October elections that the ruling party won. By lifting the hunting ban in May, Masisi broke ranks with his predecessor Ian Khama, who had garnered international praise for Botswana’s wildlife policies.
Botswana has about 130,000 of the animals nationwide. Farmers have complained of a growing number of incidents with elephants, which at times destroy crops and trample villagers to death. While hunting won’t meaningfully reduce the size of the elephant population, income from the sport can benefit local communities, according to the government.
Conservationists worldwide have opposed the changes, warning that tourists may go elsewhere. Tourism accounts for a fifth of Botswana’s economy.
Professional hunters are likely to bid for the hunting packages and then on-sell them at a profit. Hunts have to be carried out in the presence of a professional hunter and an additional fee is charged for that service.
The government issued a quota for the killing of 272 of the animals in 2020, of which foreign hunters will be allowed to shoot 202 elephants and export trophies.
The hunting season will last from April to September, spanning the dry winter when the African bush is thinner and animals are easier to find. While the government said it would allow the killing of 158 elephants by foreign tourists in the 2019 season, auctions for hunting licenses never took place.
By lifting the hunting ban, Botswana has brought itself in line with its neighbours. The number of hunting licenses are below the 400 cap it set itself, and compares with 500 licenses in Zimbabwe and 90 in Namibia. Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest elephant population.
The all-in cost of an elephant hunt typically involves several hundred dollars a day for the professional hunters who accompany the tourists, as well as accommodation and taxidermy fees. Hunts can last 10 to 18 days on average. Most trophy hunters in southern Africa come from the U.S.