The founder of what today is the global national park system, President Theodore Roosevelt, USA, was a keen trophy hunter and a true supporter of the conservation of nature. He proved that hunting and conservation are indissolubly bound together.
Over the last few decades, the practice of controlled, legal trophy hunting and nature conserva-tion, have successfully combined in many places around the globe, to bring protection to many species of wild animal, including some of the world’s most vulnerable species. Today it is widely acknowledged by many authorities on wildlife-biology that trophy hunting is one of the most effective tools to promote conservation and the sustainable exploitation of natural game popu-lations. The ideological and often arbitrary opposition to hunting that was formerly encoun-tered has, mercifully, been rejected by today’s most talented conservationists around the world. Even though there will always be a number of unenlightened “townies”, who for ideolog-ical or other reasons, will never be reconciled to the idea of hunting and especially trophy hunt-ing, this is mainly due to a lack of knowledge, and a misunderstanding of how things are in reali-ty.
ECO TOURISM – as nature conservation
Eco tourism, as f. inst. photographic safaris, is a far less efficient way of adding value to game populations. Of the total turnover in privately owned nature reserves in South Africa, 75 % comes from trophy hunting, although the number of hunters is only a fraction of the number of eco tourists.
Photographic tourists can manage with few and smaller reserves, where the same animals can be photographed many times, whereas trophy hunting requires large nature reserves and tar-geted game conservation in large areas. It is thereby only trophy hunters who are contributors to important nature habitats being situated far away from cities and roads.
Trophy hunting, when being managed responsibly, is one of the best indirect methods to con-servation of the total bio diversity in many places of the world.
Serious governments and nature conservation organizations all over the world have long ago recognized that legal and controlled trophy hunting is a very useful and important tool to na-ture conservation as well as to conservation of vulnerable populations of trophy animals.
The White Rhino – A success story about the legal trophy hunt:
The white rhino is a good illustration of this approach. In 1929, as a result of poaching, only 150 of these animals were left in the Umfolozi-Hlukluwe region of South Africa. Like today, the mis-taken belief of certain “wise men” in Asia that a “powder” from rhino horn could improve po-tency and had a wide range of other “healing” properties had already resulted in high levels of poaching. South Africa acted to remedy this problem by using the money raised from the con-trolled and strictly limited hunting of a few old male rhinos for their trophies to significantly strengthen the numbers of wildlife protection officers. The results are clear for all to see. In 1994 there were 6,750 white rhinos in Africa, including 6,376 in South Africa, 98 in Namibia, 33 in Swa-ziland and 18 in Botswana. Since then the population has been increasing at a rate of 8 - 12% per year.
Today there are now approx. 20,000 white rhinos in Africa. Unfortunately the threat from poaching has risen again in recent years because of the extraordinarily high price of horn on the black market - today one gram of rhino powder costs the same as one gram of gold - but the population of white rhino is still stable thanks to the protection they receive over large areas funded by the revenue from regulated trophy hunting. Without this source of funding from trophy hunters, the number of white rhino would be facing a catastrophic fall.
Markhor – A success story about the legal trophy hunting:
Another shining example is the Markhor which lives in some of the world’s most inaccessible mountain ranges in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and previously also in Afghanistan. In the 1970’s all of the 4 or 5 known sub-species of Markhor where under the severe threat of exten-sion. Several populations only consisted of 30 - 40 individuals. Through the range of the Mar-khor, which is a rare species of mountain goat with beautiful spiral horns, it was much sought after by local poachers for its meat and skin. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan many were also shot by the military to provide meat for the troops. As far back as the early 1970’s a group of forward thinking hunters realized that the Markhor would soon become extinct is something wasn’t done, and they started a number of private economic initiatives at various locations in which substantial monetary donations were made annually to the local tribes if they stopped killing the Markhor and started to take care of them. This led to, for example, the population of Markhor in Pakistan’s Chitral Valley increasing from an initial number of between 30 - 40 individuals to over 200 individuals in 1983. At this point the Pakistani Government began to sell 1 - 2 hunting licenses annually to European and American trophy hunters for huge sums of money. The main part of these trophy fees were given directly to the local tribes people in the mountain, which was a huge incentive for the locals to virtually stop all poaching of the Markhor in the Chitral valley. Today, 30 years later, there are more than 3,000 Markhor in this area. Here the survival of this species in entirely thanks to the money received from trophy hunting for Markhor. The Suleiman sub-species of Markhor provide another such case-study. Numbers of this sub-species, which is found to the north and west of the city of Quetta in Paki-stan, had dropped to around 30 - 40 individuals in 1980. Subsequently with the help of funds raised by trophy hunting, where each license is sold for a huge amount of money, the popula-tion has also risen to a level of over 2,000 individuals. Lately is also the rare and earlier at risk of extinction Bokhara Markhor in Tajikistan been saved by money solely from trophy hunting.
Regulated trophy hunting of Markhor in Pakistan, which was made easier in 1998 when CITIES started granting export and import permits, has been a great success and today around 15 licenses to hunt Markhor are sold annually. Today the cost of one of these hunting licenses is around 750,000 kr. (US$140,000) up to 1,000,000 kr. (US$ 179,000) and much of the money raised still ends up in the local area where the hunting takes place. Again the result of regulated trophy hunting has been very positive, and the Markhor population is growing at a rate of up to 25% per year. The logos behind all this is very simple: if they bring a really significant amount of money into the local economy through a limited amount of regulated trophy hunting, the local tribes immediately see the benefit of not killing these animals just for their meat and skins, which represents only a tiny economic benefit when compared to the enormous sums involved in a trophy hunt for a single old male animal. The other benefit of trophy hunting is that only the old males are shot, which are largely redundant as far as breeding is concerned, and have often been excluded from the main group of animals. Therefore all the productive animals, in-cluding the females, juveniles and younger males will not be affected by the trophy hunt.
The effect of hunting and trophy hunting in general:
If nature conservation and the protection of wild animals does not bring an economic benefit, then, despite the best of intentions from international organizations in many of the world’s poorest regions, the local population will bring down the number of animals. In Kenya, for ex-ample, the lion is regarded as a pest by the local Masai tribesmen as it kills the cattle they de-pend upon. Therefore the Masai simply wish for lions to disappear as quickly as possible. There-fore the number of lions in particular, but also of many other species in Kenya have collapsed since the Kenyan Government made the absolute folly of imposing a total ban on big game hunting in 1977. The hunting safari industry disappeared overnight, and all the local jobs that depended on this industry were lost. Any interest the local tribes had in looking after big game disappeared, the land was no longer watched over in the same way, and unorganized poaching activities took off - many of the locals needed to make a living, they had to have something to eat. Game animals lost all of their value to the local population, and large numbers of game animals that lived outside of the strictly controlled National Parks, which despite of their size only make up a small part of Kenya, disappeared into the cooking pots of the local tribespeople. Since the introduction of the ban on hunting in 1977 many populations of wild animals have been decimated, today it has been estimated that outside of the National Parks the number of animals is only between 1 and 10% of what they were only 40 years ago.
Fortunately many other places in Africa have shown more wisdom. For example Tanzania also closed trophy hunting at the same time as Kenya, as an expression of misguided solidarity and for the best intentions. But after only one year the Tanzania authorities realized how harmful the hunting ban was proving to be, and fully reinstated trophy hunting in Tanzania. Today wild-life populations in Tanzania are doing incredibly better than in neighbouring Kenya. Here you really can see the huge difference the effect of these two opposing doctrines has.
Another shining example is South Africa. Here in the late 1960’s a number of individual land-owners found that they could make a business out of dedicating their land to hunting rather than farming like all other landowners. It soon became clear that this form of hunting was a sustainable business, and slowly more and more of the traditional cattle farms stopped operat-ing allowing game animals to return to the former farmlands. In many places the hunting was carried out behind fences, but these were necessary partly to ensure they could operate as a profitable business in South Africa, and partly to keep foot and mouth and other diseases at bay. This led to an explosion in the numbers of South African game animals, and today an in-credible 17% of all South African land is operated as private nature reserves with controlled hunting - more than 200,000 km2. On former cattle farms were previously virtually no wildlife could be found, you can today find up to 30 different species of hoofed, trophy-bearing game animals.
Another facet of South Africa’s experience is that the natural game-meat production on a well-functioning nature reserve is much greater than that of the cattle farm that once covered the same area. In fact it is cheaper to produce more meat, of a higher quality, in this way in com-parison with traditional cattle farming, and the landowner also receives a significant additional income through hunting. Together nature and hunting have combined to create a valuable source of wealth, and today around 140,000 people in South Africa are employed in the trophy hunting industry. Species such as Black Wildebeest, Bontebok and Cape zebra owe their con-tinued existence to trophy hunting. They were rescued by the South African hunting ranches because they could pay their way through trophy hunting, otherwise they would have gone the way of the dinosaur - to extinction.
Legal and controlled trophy hunting, if managed responsibly, is one of the very best indirect methods for the conservation of game animals and their habitat, and thus the total biodiversity in many parts of the world. As a major international organization in the U.S.A. puts it “Killing wild animals is perhaps the best way of conserving them”. This holds true even though nature conservation itself is probably not in itself a significant part of many hunters motivation for hunting. Most hunters are dedicated to hunting for their own enjoyment and for the sake of the sport itself. The money that hunters spend on hunting, is not primarily given for nature conservation, at least not directly. But the net end results are the same, regardless of the hunter’s own intentions and motives. It is down to all the requirements required for hunting, especially trophy hunting, to be sustainable that nature and the wild game animals end up as the big winners.
Hunting is - and has been for many decades - a hot topic of debate. This is especially true of international trophy hunting. Many stereotypes and misconceptions about modern hunting flourish amongst the non-hunting population. People find it hard to accept that it is reasonable for hunters to kill individuals of a species that is endangered. It is tragic that this lack of under-standing leads to an often very hateful reaction and unnecessary restrictions against hunting. Decades of practical experience and objective factual evidence is apparently not enough to completely prevent attacks on hunting based on prejudice, ideology and ignorance. But fortu-nately every day more and more people are seeing the light and realizing how important regu-lated trophy hunting is for many of the world’s endangered populations of animals. Many of the world’s most vulnerable species and most sensitive areas will not survive, if the mistaken prejudices, ideologies, misconceptions and ignorance of some bureaucrats are allowed to be-come law. These animals, and the wilderness they live in, can only be saved by realizing their intrinsic value and thus being able to raise substantial amounts of money for the local people and the place they live. The major source of this money is from international trophy hunting.
Luckily, today it is possible to find many examples of this all over the world