If you ask me, there are a lot of foolish people who are trying to influence working conservation programs for their own selfish agendas. These people, from the animal rights movement and from the world’s media, are doing their level best to discredit and destroy trophy hunting around the world. They see trophy hunting as wrong and cruel and oppose it at every opportunity but their attitude is based upon total ignorance of how conservation really works, of what trophy hunting really is and what trophy hunting really does. So this post will put forward some truths about trophy hunting, as opposed to the lies and blatant propaganda from the likes of the animal rights movement and from ill-informed, media personalities, like Ricky Gervais.
In taking their anti trophy hunting stance, the anti-hunters are also opposing many working and successful conservation programs. It is this ignorance, promoted by the animal rights brigade and their refusal to accept facts and scientific data, which has become one of the biggest threats to working conservation programs world-wide. They may have convinced themselves that they are fighting the ‘good fight’ but they are actually doing an enormous amount of damage to conservation programs and have, themselves, become a serious threat to wildlife. If you are not convinced, then please read on.
Here, in Part 1, I will mention some of the hunting-related conservation success stories that have saved wildlife species. In the Part 2 we will look at what happens when you ban trophy/sport hunting as we look at the wildlife disaster of Kenya. Finally, in subsequent parts to this post, we will look as some of the specific lies and myths that are generated, and propagated, by the animal rights crowd in a misguided attempt to destroy trophy hunting worldwide.
So let’s talk about some of the positive results of trophy hunting:
Prior to the 1960’s, when the safari hunting industry began, wildlife numbers were extremely low in South Africa, as they were in many African countries. In 1960, South Africa had less than 600,000 wild animals across the entire country and these animals were mostly confined to National Parks. In most rural areas, wildlife was seen as a threat to agriculture and exterminated at every opportunity. In some cases, farmers employed full time shooters whose job was to remove all native animals that competed with, or threatened, their livestock or crops.
Then the safari hunting industry began to grow and farmers came to realise that wild animals were worth more, and were far easier to care for, than livestock and crops. Many farmers got rid of their cattle, stopped planting crops, pulled down internal fences, re-vegetated their land and even purchased more wild animals to repopulate their erst-while cattle farms. These game ranchers, as they had now become, make their living by selling off surplus game animals to other game areas or by selling the rights to hunt the surplus animals.
Now, around 50 years on, the number of wild animals in South Africa has expanded from under 600,000 to around 24 million. So successful, has the safari industry been, that around 25% of the entire country, and his does not include National Parks and other state-owned wildlife areas, is now associated with the wildlife industry and safari hunting. This level of success would never have been possible with photographic safaris alone.
At the end of the 1800s, American wildlife populations were at an all time low. Habitat loss and market hunting had decimated wildlife numbers and some species looked like they were headed for extinction. Note that this was NOT due to sport or trophy hunting. Indeed, American sport and trophy hunters, men like Theodore Roosevelt who would become the 26th President and who became known as the ‘Conservationist President’, fought to save these animals and their habitats and worked to put into place conservation measures, that included hunting. As a result of this work, by hunters, we have seen America’s wildlife recover dramatically.
To help fund these conservation activities, in 1937 American hunters, themselves, requested an 11% tax on hunting equipment to help fund conservation and this generates around $371 million each year. If you include hunting licenses and trophy fees then American hunters pay around $1.6 billion dollars every year into conservation. Now compare this level of funding for conservation, that comes from hunting, to the negligible funding provided by the animal liberation groups.
The animal rights organisation spend most of the millions, that they raise, on wages for their staff, ridiculous publicity stunts and on lots and lots of self-promotion. Animal liberationists spend virtually none of their money to actually help wildlife and aid conservation programs; but they certainly don’t advertise this fact! If you find this statement a little hard to believe, then you only have to examine the public financial statements of the various animal liberation organisations to see the truth for yourself and this will be the subject of a future post on this website.
The following list of successes demonstrates what hunter’s hard work and money has done for American wildlife.
At the start of the last century:
- There were only 41,000 elk left in North America but today there are more than 1 million elk,
- There were only 500,000 whitetail deer but today there are more than 32 million,
- There were only 100,000 wild turkeys but today there are more than 7 million,
- Ducks were scare but, due to restoration and conservation of wetlands by hunters, there are now more than 44 million ducks,
- In 1950 there were only 12,000 pronghorn antelope but today there are more than 1.1 million, and
- In 1950 there were only 7,000 polar bears but today there are around 30,000.
There are lots of other examples that show how trophy hunting aids and supports conservation in real and tangible ways. However, to discuss all of them would make this post far too long. However, other success stories can be found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, to name a few. In addition, in recent years, many other African countries have started to adopt hunting programs as the realisation that bans on hunting do not stop habitat loss and poaching and that such bans only deny the much needed funding, and incentives, to save and preserve wildlife and wildlife habitat.
What the IUCN says about Trophy Hunting
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. It is the parent organisation that all other organisations, concerned with real conservation, are either members of or they work with the IUCN. It is not a pawn for either the animal rights or for the hunting groups. The IUCN is mostly staffed by scientists and biologists and so the IUCN can be relied upon to present honest and truthful assessments.
So let’s just look at a couple of statements from the IUCN and it should be noted that there are more statements, that are positive in relation to trophy hunting, than you will read here. First of all, there is the statement by Rosie Cooney, who is the Chair of the Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) who said:
Recently, following the farcical media storm in regards to the hunting of Cecil the Lion (see The Cecil the Lion Scam), many countries reassessed the rules on importing lion trophies. The US Obama administration and the Australian Government both ignored all scientific data and caved into the misinformation generated by the animal rightists by banning the importation of lion trophies. Both governments also considered a blanket ban on all hunting trophies. When the European Union considered the same measures, the IUCN produced a briefing paper, for consideration by the EU. Here is one short exert from that paper:
“Well managed trophy hunting, which takes place in many parts of the world, can and does generate critically needed incentives and revenue for government, private and community landowners to maintain and restore wildlife as a land use and to carry out conservation actions (including anti-poaching interventions).”
You can read the entire briefing paper here: Informing Decisions on Trophy Hunting.
When discussing the conservation of the straight-horned markhor, in the Torghar Conservation Project (TCP) in Pakistan, the IUCN reported that the Torghar markhor population had recovered from 200 in the mid-80s to 3518 in 2011. This report went onto state that this was due to:
“… an innovative, community-based conservation program that allows for limited trophy hunting to conserve local populations of markhor, improves habitat for both markhor and domestic livestock, and improves the economic conditions for local tribes in Torghar.”
So there are just a couple of statements, from the IUCN, that put paid to the false accusation that trophy hunting is detrimental to conservation. Indeed, these IUCN statements make it clear that conservation programs that include trophy/sport hunting, are far more successful than those which do not include trophy/sport hunting.
The IUCN has also produced a paper entitled “IUCN SSC Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives”. The opening paragraph, of this documents, states:
“IUCN has long recognised that the wise and sustainable use of wildlife can be consistent with and contribute to conservation. Because the social and economic benefits derived from use of species can provide incentives for people to conserve them and their habitats. This document builds on existing IUCN policies by setting forth SSC (Species Survival Commission) guiding principles on the use of “trophy hunting”, defined in Section II, as a tool for creating incentives for the conservation of species and their habitats and for the equitable sharing of the benefits of use of natural resources.”
Here is a link to the entire paper, should you wish to read it: IUCN SSC Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives.
So there you have it from the leading wildlife conservation organisation on this planet; well managed and regulated trophy hunting is a valuable conservation tool that has, in many instances, contributed to the positive conservation of many species and their habitats including, endangered species. Further, regulated and managed trophy hunting can, and should, continue to assist with the conservation of many species and habitats.
This is a far cry from the blatantly false claims of the animal liberation brigade who rely, for their wildlife ‘knowledge’, on the rantings of noisy armchair and FaceBook based, ‘wildlife warriors’; many of whom have spent little, or no, time in the bush. Granted, these are people who abhor any use, especially the death, of any animal but that is not adequate justification for destroying working conservation programs. When it comes to conservation we have to make a choice; we can either save our animals and their habitats or we can save the fragile emotions of a small number of noisy and misguided animal liberationists – but we can’t have both!
So who would you prefer to believe and support; scientists, biologists and game rangers or urban activists? Personally, I’ll put my money on the scientists and the IUCN every time.
In Part 2 to this post, I will talk about Kenya’s wildlife policies and what happened when the animal liberationists managed to infiltrate the Kenyan government and influenced them to adopt their selfish and flawed philosophies. (Part 2 will be published shortly.)
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