Trophy Hunting – the complexity of Africa

Yesterday I spoke with Craig Packer and I posted some thoughts. Here is a slightly expanded version of some of that:

Trophy hunting is not the major problem for lions. They are persecuted because they eat livestock and threaten people. Many of us in the West have a romantic view of Africa as a great unspoilt wilderness but this isn’t the case. There is a hugely expanding human population, urban development and industry and this all places enormous and increasing pressure on the land. Humans and wildlife are in conflict.

What works in what country might not work elsewhere. In South Africa, wildlife is commercialised. Private land ownership, good management and fencing (that protects wildlife from people and people from wildlife) mean that hunting reserves and photo-safaris generate the revenue needed to maintain huge numbers of animals. Wildlife thrives there, because “it pays it stays”.

Trophy hunting of lions and other species can and does work where the terrain and infrastructure mean that regular tourists are few and far between. There are undoubtedly some success stories and lions and other wildlife benefit from the trophy hunters’ money in some locations in Southern Africa.

But the commercialisation of wildlife doesn’t work in many places, where great tracts of land are unfenced with unclear and unstable land ownership.

In Tanzania for example lion populations are rapidly declining. Many areas are not suitable for tourists and trophy hunting is undoubtedly a source of income but it is far too little to be meaningful. Craig Packer, arguably the world’s expert on lions, estimates that 2000USD per year is required to maintain one square kilometre of lion habitat and the 300,000 square km of hunting blocks require 600million USD annually. Trophy hunting contributes just 20 million USD and only 10-15% makes it back to conservation. Trophy hunting is the only source of income but it is far too little and is only slightly slowing the inevitable.

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