A fellow INDEVOUR, Ben, recently wrote a blog post about the controversy surrounding Kendall Jones, a self-proclaimed ‘conservationist’ that hunts big game animals as an effort to save them. There is an argument to be made for the continuation of big game hunting as a conservation effort since the sale of hunting licenses and tags is the primary source of funding for most wildlife conservation efforts. As National Geographic reported a few years ago, there are around 23 African countries that allow sport hunting, and it brings in roughly $200 million a year from tourists. Since there are many countries that allow the sport, it is no surprise that there are varying opinions from locals in these countries about the positive or negative outcomes of trophy hunting. As outlined in the Ben’s post, people in South Africa are against sport hunting in their country and Australia has banned trophy hunters from bringing home body parts of the animals they kill as a conservation effort. The United States have taken a similar stance as Australia banning ivory imports from Zimbabwe, however Zimbabwe has not taken their side like South Africans have.
The Zimbabwean government will lobby against the U.S this month to overturn the ban on ivory sales since they claim it will harm the sport hunting industry, which they rely on for economic gains. Back in February the U.S banned imports of ivory due to the uncertainty over whether the elephant populations were sustainable. Now this seems like more of an effort to conserve a population than paying to kill them. However, the income from the industry is more important to Zimbabwe and elephants play a crucial role in the industry that is worth $60 million a year to Zimbabwe. This staggering number makes sense since it costs around $30,000 to kill an elephant, pay for guide fees and shipping costs. The continual bans on ivory and other big game animals seen in Australia and the U.S is also hurting Zimbabwe since they have a stockpile of 70 metric tons of ivory that cannot be sold or traded due to these global bans.
Both sides to the conservation efforts of big game animals carry some merit. Further research needs to be conducted into the economic and ecological impacts of the trophy hunting industry. Even though both countries rely on big game hunting for money and conservation efforts, why is it that South Africans are against sport hunting in their country, but Zimbabwean’s want it to continue? Is it due to the controversy of Kendall Jones in South Africa that is pushing them to fight it. Further yet, detailed in-country studies are needed for each country in which hunting occurs to improve the assessment of the various conservation roles of governments or hunters to diagnose the problems, and prescribe an appropriate country-specific solution.
While trophy hunting is a major industry in South Africa and Zimbabwe, creating incentives for conservation of vast areas that otherwise might be used for alternative land uses, it is also limited by various issues. Several problems include the failure to allocate sufficient benefits to local communities in these countries, leakage of income, and corruption of government and wildlife officials. Let me know how you feel about trophy hunting in southern African countries or what you think can be done differently about conservation efforts.