Linking trophy hunting, wildlife conservation and African rural livelihoods

Trophy hunting is an emotive subject. In Africa, hunters from the US and Europe pay many millions of dollars a year to track and shoot game for their trophies. Whilst many people disagree with shooting animals, the industry contributes to both conservation of endangered species and giving rural communities the incentive to conserve species.

Not everyone's cup of tea but generating income and conservation benefits at a local level

African safari hunting: Not everyone’s cup of tea but generating income and conservation benefits at a local level – Photo Mrsire, Flickr

This week I attended the African Wildlife Consultative Forum, an annual event organized by Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) with a host African country. The meeting of the hunting sector and African government representatives discusses challenges facing the sector in Africa. Governments present (Ministries of Environment) included South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Cameroon, Malawi, Mozambique. Representatives from the hunting associations, CITES, EU and US Fish and Wildlife were also present. The event was hosted by the Government of Ethiopia and held in a lakeside resort in Hawassa in the Rift Valley to the south of the country.

In the course of 2.5 days of presentations from experts, industry and government, a number of key issues emerged.

There is a substantial economic benefit from trophy hunting

The economic benefit of hunting in South Africa was reported on from the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (Hermann Meyeridricks). A commissioned report from TREES at North West University in RSA put some numbers to the industry’s impact on the economy. Hunters in 2012 spent USD17m, with over 8,500 hunters visiting the country. Their average spend in the country is R138,000 (USD 12,000) 88% of hunters come from the US. The total economic value is R1.24 billion (USD110m).

Whilst the South African industry dominates the region in terms of its size, other countries in the region also derive significant economic benefit from the hunting sector. For example, in Namibia total income from Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) (including communal conservancies) was N$42m in 2009. In Mozambique, 2012, the total value of hunting quotas was USD1.2 m with 50% used. 50% of hunters come from the US.

Rural communities have a strong stake in the preservation of wildlife.

A recurring theme of the workshop was that only by giving communities an economic stake in the preservation of species will they survive. i.e. “what pays, stays”. The hunting sector by paying concessions and permit fees provides that incentive.

Presentations from Ethiopia (Government representative) and Zimbabwe (Clive Stocker) illustrated how trophy hunting concessions result in payments to governments at a federal and local level and to communities. The Campfire initiative for example, results in tens of thousands of US dollars being distributed in cash or new infrastructure and services for local communities in National Parks

Import of hunting trophies are crucial for determining conservation and livelihood outcomes

Whilst the industry appears in rude health in terms of its turnover, the key issues facing its development include maintaining strong marketing to attract buyers, land reform issues and non-tariff barriers to trade, for example the US Endangered Species Act. US trophy hunters are no longer allowed to export trophies from hunting in Zimbabwe and Tanzania on the basis that the countries had no demonstrated that hunting fees arrive in the communities or enhance conservation. The conservation and socio-economic impact of this ruling were discussed following presentations from the Zimbabwe Campfire initiative and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

Charles Jonga the Director of the Campfire project, a community-based hunting scheme in the National Park showed how hunting fees fed directly through to increasing community incomes and services. He reported that ban on import of trophies resulted in 108 elephants (out of a quota of around 300) not being hunted in 2013. The concession results in fees per hunted elephant for the communities. The wider outcome of this policy change has been increased human elephant conflict (due to rise in number of elephants), increased poaching and poisoning of elephants and lost provision of basic services that were paid for by the hunting fees.

Some themes in the ongoing discussion included:

  • What are the criteria for FWS to rule on whether to ban the trade or not?
  • How heavy is the administrative burden for range states to meet FWS requirements for information on community benefits of the trade, species surveys and so forth?
  • What other countries will FWS examine for compliance with the Act?

Work is thus needed to clarify what kind of methodology range states should use to show compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Lions may be listed as “endangered” in the coming year which will mean range states will have to go through the same process to convince FWS of the livelihood and conservation benefits of trophy hunting of the species.

Benefit sharing models have similar characteristics across the African continent.

The conference set aside an afternoon session on benefit sharing in the hunting sector. Some interesting case studies and an opportunity for an agency to carry out a more comprehensive assessment of what livelihood benefits of the sport hunting industry are on the ground.

There were similar stories from range states in terms of how the concession fees are divided amongst different levels of government and at the community level. In Mozambique for example, 20% of all taxes from wildlife go to communities and for the Tchuma Tchato community wildlife program 34 % of concession income goes to govt, 33% to local govt and 33% to local communities. In Ethiopia, a similar split in concession incomes are made. However, more information and research is needed on how these schemes work in practice and how factors like governance and scheme design influence outcomes.

The industry is under pressure from NGOs

Strong advocacy power of the animal right groups was not specified discussed in the meeting but was often referred to in informal discussions (over Ethiopian coffee and cake) in terms of determining the public perception of the sector. Social media and political lobbying are seen as particularly negative influences on the sector.

Policies banning trade are viewed generally with skepticism by the hunting sector as they remove income streams to communities to preserve species like elephant and rhino. Following a trade ban, the financial incentives for communities are to poach rather than conserve. It appears also that private owners of rhino in South Africa are divesting from rhino as they are a highly risky investment given the animals could be slaughtered at any moment. Owning rhinos also attract poaching gangs that present a mortal threat to their families and rangers.

Increasing population a threat to wildlife

A presentation from Hans Bauer from the University of Oxford /IUCN outlined the current population estimates of lion. He concludes that whilst poaching is an issue, the biggest threats to wildlife conservation are increasing population. With populations growing fast in Africa, there is increased competition between humans and wildlife for use of land. Poverty amongst the population results in poaching for bushmeat. Increased incomes and population numbers are resulting in greater demand for cereals and meat and thus an increase in agricultural and livestock areas at the expense of habitat for wildlife. in discussions on the wildlife trade it is important that we keep the bigger picture of population growth and income rises in mind. To that I would also add climate change which will change habitats often to the detriment of species that we are concerned about.

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