Simon Espley
30 January 2015

The thing about hunting is that the topic is so polarising that it prevents meaningful discourse between people who probably have more in common than they care to admit. And, while the protagonists battle it out, the grim reapers continue to harvest Africa’s wildlife and other natural resources.
We humans tend to silo information to suit our personal requirements, and make enemies out of those who feel differently. We might agree on 99% of things, but the 1% apparently makes us enemies.
Lets face it, we either hate Kendall Jones or we adore her – there is no middle ground. So the chatter around her tends to be angry, emotional, defensive and meaningless in the greater scheme of things – which is of course what she wants: the more attention she can generate the higher she ranks in the race for social media fame. And while we bolster her fame, the process of turning Africa’s incredible biodiversity into trophies, trinkets, medicine and lifestyle products continues apace. The enemies of conservation are well-resourced, focussed and not distracted by the chatter about who has the moral high ground.

Cartoon by Walter Pichler

I find myself discussing hunting with people from all walks of life. I make a point of speaking to hunters to try and understand their motivation. In my experience people are mostly either rabidly for or rabidly against hunting. This rabid focus results in an inability to see facts or opinions that are not directly in line of sight, and this kills the opportunity to learn from each other and work together towards a common goal.
Many of the NGOs that tend towards emotional campaigns and demand-side strategies to solicit donor funding are from the “developed” world, while many of the more practical approaches and supply-side campaigns come from within Africa itself. While some “developed” world protagonists call for tourism boycotts on African countries that offer trophy hunting, they tend to ignore the fact that it’s largely their fellow countrymen who are doing the hunting, and that hurting the tourism industry will remove livelihoods, reduce protected areas and drive more people and resources into hunting. Try explaining that to a rabid anti-hunting campaigner.

Tourism boycotts on countries that offer trophy hunting
cause more harm
than good

Personally, I find the act of hunting for pleasure or trophies unconscionable and I find it sad that many trophy hunters resort to the default argument that killing animals is good for conservation. There are indeed examples where community-based hunting programs, in remote areas that are not suitable for tourism, do provide meaningful funding for communities and, ironically, do lead to the recovery of the targeted species (Namibia has a few such examples), but this is by no means the norm. And many trophy hunters get upset when it is suggested that these examples are few and far between and that the overall picture is not as pretty as they portray.

©Anton Crone

One of the problems with hunting as a topic is that it’s a complex issue. People are by and large lazy, so little research is done outside of a narrow range of personal interests. There are so many types of hunting, such as subsistence hunting by communities on their own land; hunting on fenced private farms that choose wildlife over sheep; trophy hunting in unfenced areas near national parks; canned hunting and so on, and each has it’s own set of implications.  And there are the moral/ethical considerations to weigh with the conservation implications. In my view you shouldn’t lump all hunting debate into one pot and stir, you should rather try to understand each situation and then debate based on its merits. In that way you avoid generalising and insulting large groups of people (on both sides of the debate). When intelligent probing questions result in insults, what chance does conservation stand?

I was recently asked to attend the preview of a rhino horn pro-trade documentary film, and to provide constructive feedback. The documentary was put together by a group of experienced, respected people (some of whom I know personally and have great respect for) and I was one of an audience of about 50. The documentary makes a passionate plea for CITES to permit the trade in rhino horn – and some of the content is compelling. Unfortunately the documentary came across to me as one-sided, with some claims being made that were rather ambitious and others that were simply not accurate. For example, it claimed that Kenya’s wildlife has been decimated since the ban on trophy hunting in 1977, and that hunting is therefore essential for the survival of African wildlife. I stood up and pointed out that both Tanzania and Mozambique have ongoing hunting industries and yet their wildlife has also been decimated, therefore the attempt to position hunting as the cure for poaching was disingenuous and did not cater for the complexity of the situation. I was hoping for intelligent debate, but sadly the panel of experts shied away from the issue, folding their arms and avoiding eye contact. Even the chairman tried to move me away from my question. It was awkward. I stood my ground and requested clarity on the issue. A well-known hunter who remained silent that evening subsequently described me on social media as an “animal rightest” – I think he meant it as an insult. And therein lies the problem – when intelligent probing questions result in insults, censorship and cessation of discussions, what chance does conservation stand?

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The team at Africa Geographic have to deal with ongoing attacks from people on both sides of the hunting debate – alternatively describing us as “bunny-huggers” or “right wing hunting promoters”, depending on the nature of the content on that day. We suffer insults, profanities and even death threats. Our mission is to educate and inspire people to celebrate Africa and do good for the continent. We are determined to bring you content that we feel meets that objective, as difficult as some of it is to stomach.

The only thing separating him and I in our respective pursuits was the
act of killing

In my discussions with hunters, I find that the reasons they commonly give for pursuing their passion just don’t add up as being exclusive to hunting. They relate to being outdoors, the bush skills required, the thrill of being close to danger etc – all of which I get in spades when I walk in remote areas and track wild animals to observe them up close. During one recent fireside discussion a hunter called me “ignorant and stupid” for doing all of that without a gun – without any knowledge of my bush experience. When I suggested that the only thing separating him and I in our respective pursuits was the act of killing, he became defensive and insulting. But after a while he admitted that it was in fact the act of killing that gave him the ultimate rush, and that my strategy of bush walking without weapons just can’t measure up. I respect him for coming clean on that issue and suspect that it was a cathartic discussion for him – it certainly was for me.
On the other hand, in my discussions with anti-hunters I have found that many of them have the same knee-jerk response and laager mentality. It seems impossible to get them to accept that there are examples where hunting does work to keep communities gainfully employed, relatively free from animal-human conflict and that the target species even recovers and grows in numbers. The anti-hunting lobby seems to rely largely on emotion to win votes, and contradicting facts seem to be an inconvenience.

©Anton Crone
Lets take on the threats as a united force and face the real enemies

It’s a complex situation, but the facts deserve to be taken into account. The Kruger National Park, South Africa’s flagship conservation and tourism drawcard, is a classic example of how complex the situation is, but the facts are compelling (this short summary is of necessity abbreviated, so for more information read this post). Afrikaner “Voortrekkers” moved into the Kruger area in the mid 1800’s, utilising the wildlife to survive – there seemed to be no limit to the available wildlife. The arrival of gold prospectors also put pressure on wildlife, with active trade in horns, skin and meat, and the arrival of “sportsmen” (trophy hunters) from Europe finally resulted in the decimation of most of the wildlife by the early 1900’s. The government at the time tried to implement a series of laws to regulate hunting, none of which were successful. Eventually a number of game reserves were proclaimed, the beginnings of what is now the Kruger National Park. Today many nearby farms and reserves offer hunting, even some that are fenced into the Greater Kruger. Much of the Kruger wildlife can migrate into these areas, putting them at risk, but not as much risk as they face on nearby livestock and citrus farms where there is little tolerance for wild animals. And so the Kruger area has recovered from historical plunder and there is an uneasy truce between hunting, tourism and conservation. There are examples of foul play, but broadly the system works and it stands as an example of how things can progress if different groups co-operate for a common good.
My parting thought is to challenge you to get involved in the debate. Whatever your views please try to respect others and their opinions and harness your emotions to fuel your energy and not to override your common sense. Lets take on the threats to Africa’s biodiversity and wild areas as a combined, united force and face the real enemies.

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  • Hunter

    What an excellent article! I may disagree with some points but the author’s plea for common ground and decent debate is insightful and correct. Both hunters and non-hunters who are also genuinely conservationists have no option but to engage each other and find common ground in the interests of many species’ survival.

  • Good one Simon. I personally dislike hunting but I find lots of common ground with hunters and I can also see the beneficial role hunting has played in some areas in conservation of land and specific animal species, as well as generating revenue to help protect wild areas that would otherwise be lost to agriculture. For me probably the best example where stopping hunting would cause the extinction of a species is with scimitar-horned oryx, which today only exists in some zoos and on hunting ranches, mainly in Texas. They are extinct in the wild, but they thrive on hunting ranches because the ranch owners manage the populations, grow their numbers and conserve the species, for the purpose of hunting and entirely funded by hunting fees. This is obviously a unique situation but if hunting these rare animals were to be banned, as some have been campaigning for, they would likely become extinct faster than you can say scimitar-horned oryx. But would I personally shoot one? Never.

  • Scott Hurd

    Excellent. So good to read a common sense approach that acknowledges the real enemy of all who want to adhere to real conservation issues.

  • Conservationist

    Good article and much appreciated. Common sense is not so common these days! It is a complex situation where the greatest need is for people to have the ability to listen and learn. We need to find the most suitable solution for a given context to ensure our wild areas and wildlife remains healthy. A one size fits all approach does not work. There is more than enough evidence of that.

  • Rob Baird

    Great article Simon. Well-balanced but it certainly does entice more debate, which of course is a good thing. I suppose I am in a way sitting somewhere in the middle but this is because I too look at the circumstances of each situation, which are mostly very different. There is far too much sensationalism around this topic. I see how hunting activities generate plenty of funds to aid conservation and anti-poaching efforts (not all of course), most of which is not possible without access to such funds, but I have no intention of hunting myself as personally it is just not for me. I believe that transparency around such hunting as well as protocol, regulation, procedures, impact research and simply a long-term mindset is critical to hunting and conservation ever truly working together.

  • Zoologist

    Very interesting well put article, Simon. I dont agree with trophy hunting – as you said it is unconscionable. It is not a necessity like hunting is for developing communities that rely on wildlife as a food source. Most hunters can easily access food anywhere else. Trophy hunting affirms a hunter’s belief that he is superior to a lion, bear, bushpig, moose, cheetah, warthog or even black-backed jackal, regardless of their status as endangered, etc, and therefore he will continue to believe that their lives are worth less than his. It also means that a hunter is willing to kill. That “willing to kill” attitude not in retaliation to a threat, but to end a life for a brief thrill goes against every moral compass of humanity, especially when it requires 10 bullets to bring down an elephant as opposed “the one shot to the vital organ killing it instantly” that is so often reassured by hunters. I understand that in fenced reserves, game population control is necessary and yes, possibly generating an income out of hunting is a quick way to make a huge amount of money “for conservation”, i.e. pay the expenses that running a reserve incurs. But there are other ways of achieving this – just look at parks managed by African Parks. I believe motives behind hunting matter and no trophy hunter ever says “Today, I am going to hunt a rhino so that I can conserve the species and subsequently the biodiversity of this land and keep the ecosystem intact so that it is able to function for the future.” The trophy hunter says “I want to kill something. Im wealthy. I’m superior to wildlife. Let me shoot something off my hunting list like an endangered cheetah. And I will come up with some kind of conservation-related justification while I take a photo with my trophy.” (this is obviously a generalisation, but this is what comes across from numerous trophy photos displayed on many hunting websites and Facebook posts). This I vehemently do not agree with. I believe sustainable hunting can exist and possibly does but in a corruptible country like SA where the government is responsible for issuing hunting permits, etc, it would be impossible to manage ethically and correctly on a large-scale. And that is the same reason why the trade in rhino horn would be impossible to manage ethically and correctly as well. But i do agree that everyone has different opinions and it would be great to discuss this in these comments without being criticized and bashed, but hopefully challenged and questioned instead. But every conversation should be brought back down to earth where the whole entire point of it is “how do we go about ethically protecting our wildlife for as long as possible?”.

    • Mary Q

      FYI, African Parks does do some hunting, not that they enjoy it but it does happen. Also, the hunting industry has seen several species make a come back, especially in South Africa, due to the availability of animals to hunt being in the hunters’ best interest. Hunting reserves also allow huge areas of land to remain as close to ‘natural’ as possible as they aren’t being grazed to death by commercial livestock or cultivated.
      It’s a matter of hunting being done properly rather than being eradicated. People will pay considerably more to shoot one animal than they will to see 500.

  • Bugs van Heerden

    Simon you have very cleverly dragged the issue of trade/no-trade of rhino horn into that age old and worn out hunting debate. You are perpetuating a stigma and stereotype that feeds your community, while at the same time trying to take the middle ground.

    Having touched that stereotypical nerve – you will then realise have identified that core differences between people with conservationists and economists with Phd’s and Animal Rights and the tourist industry.

    When it comes to managing wildlife and resources and policy making – I think we should put faith in the conservationists who are were duly trained practitioners, and the Tourist industry and the hunting industry to make it workable financially. We can thank both tourists and hunters alike for brining the money in, and welcome their love for Africa – but when it comes to sorting out Africa’s problems we should pretty mush regard their opinions with a pinch of salt.

    You are completely correct we need to put the differences aside and find the middle ground – to find pragmatic solutions that satisfy the needs of Africans and wildlife together.

    • WillemCoe

      I think you’ve very cleverly ended an insult with a compliment.

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Bugs, there is no need for me to “drag” the rhino horn pro-trade debate into the hunting debate – the documentary film I was commenting on did that quite well (hence my reference to it). In fact a fair portion of the film was about hunting and its purported influence on the success with regard to rhino conservation. But then you know that because you hosted the evening and are credited in the film …

      • Bugs van Heerden

        Thanks for taking the time to reply Simon.

        A large portion of the film was about the benefits of sustainable utilisation and the importance of attributing a value to wildlife that can translate into income for less fortunate Africans. Tourism, hunting and farming wildlife are all options which encourage better land use.

        We agree that the situation in Kenya is not completely attributed to the policy changes that made wildlife valueless. But the policy change is most certainly was a major contributing factor to the demise of wildlife in that country. Kenya should be compared with Tanzania, where once again the person on the ground sees no benefit from wildlife, – as all revenues go to the state. The wildlife policy in both countries are questionable for the same reason – they both disenfranchise people who have to live in conflict with wildlife.

  • Margrit Harris

    So spot on. The good old house divided notion which gives the ‘enemy’ the upper hand.

  • WillemCoe

    A lager mentality is when you’ve had one too many. A laager mentality is when you are inward-looking.

    • africageographicmagazine

      Oops! Thanks, have corrected.

  • Paul Michael Reynolds

    Very well written! I would like to see a follow up article looking into the different types of hunting and their implications both positive and negative for conservation. I personally cannot abide trophy hunting but can understand sustainable subsistence hunting.

  • Thoughtful and much appreciated article which gives comfort to those of us trying to find solutions to benefit both communities and wildlife in the charged emotional space between the hunting and anti-hunting lobbies. Another issue little understood is that international organisations (like WWF where I work) are obligated to respect the human rights and aspirations of the communities we work with. Finding the sustainable and sustaining compromises on the ground is hard work and nearly always offends those who stake out simplified, absolutist positions.

    • Simon Espley

      Interesting perspective Phil, thanks

      • Sharon Gilbert-Rivett

        I think what we really need is clarity on the word “sustainability”. It is bandied around as something of a catch-phrase both in conservation and tourism terms and few people actually really understand what it is or what it means. What, precisely, is “sustainable utilisation”? Why is sustainability such an issue and is anything, really, truly sustainable, given the current rate of human population growth? There are too many myths surrounding this overused word and now is the time to unpack it and actually cast in stone what is, and, more importantly, what is NOT sustainable. What is not sustainable, in my humble opinion, is the current situation where a species under threat (in this instance, rhino) are still open to legal killing (as opposed to illegal killing, or poaching) with the issuing of hunting permits. At the end of the day, a dead rhino is a dead rhino. Whether it is killed with a piece of rubber-stamped paper or not makes no difference. That the hunting industry in South Africa has not stepped up to voluntarily declare a moratorium on the hunting of white and black rhino until such time as is deemed more suitable, is indicative of the moral fibre of said industry. Money talks. And loudly too. Enough to drown out common sense and ethics.

  • I have hunted before, and have, in fact, enjoyed it. Today, though, I train guides to safely approach dangerous animals on foot with tourists. I find my thrill out of finding, approaching and observing animals, and leaving without them knowing I was ever there… Whilst I do agree that there are many instances where hunting is not only beneficial, but indeed crucial, for conservation, I cannot find a way to understand why a person could find joy from killing an elephant, rhino, lion, leopard or any animal they could, or would, not eat. Having hunted often myself, I am well aware of the philosophical dualism of this opinion. Perhaps, though, this is also Simons point – which I will, somewhat disingenuously, “Orwellise” thus: “All forms of hunting are equal, but some forms of hunting are more equal than others”. Whether “equal(ly)” is followed by “good” or “bad” will depend on the angle from which the observer looks upon hunting…

  • “There are so many types of hunting, such as subsistence hunting by communities on their own land; hunting on fenced private farms that choose wildlife over sheep; trophy hunting in unfenced areas near national parks; canned hunting and so on, and each has it’s own set of implications. And there are the moral/ethical considerations to weigh with the conservation implications. In my view you shouldn’t lump all hunting debate into one pot and stir, you should rather try to understand each situation and then debate based on its merits.” This is what is so relevant, in my view people is Southern Africa tend to view this debate from a very blinkered viewpoint. conservation is too broad to be a total purist and where I live several of the protected areas would struggle to exists were it not for the well guarded and very large Buffer areas around them. we don’t all have the luxury of thousands of wealthy photo graphic tourists and some areas are only protected due to hunting support. Having said that, I am not a hunter and don’t sit in ether camp, but I do own a 1700 km2 hunting concession on which we forbid all trophy hunting and utilise only for eco- tourism.

  • Spookpadda

    A couple of years ago the then head of KZN Wildlife, Mr Bandile Mkhize, attempted to distinguish a legal hunt of White Rhino from poaching. He fluffed it; Rhino hunts may contribute to local communities, but poaching probably does as well. In terms of the demography of declining populations, however, there is little distinction. Mortality is mortality whatever the source, at least when the same age class are targeted (neither “hunters” nor “poachers” have much incentive to target juveniles). For species that are not in decline I don’t think that hunting is a conservation issue. For Red List species, shooting is unlikely to halt declines.

  • Andrew Wyatt

    Interesting… but while you claim to be objective, it is impossible to notice that while devoting quite a bit of the article to why you don’t like hunters or the the pro-hunting crowd, only three sentences are vaguely critical of the emotional based fundraising approaches represented by the animal rights/ anti-hunting crowd.

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Andrew, thanks. Could you advise where I ‘claim to be objective’? A quote will do just fine. In fact I encourage debate and respect for all opinion. I believe that we all come with our personal experiences, views and attitudes (which makes us subjective) and believe that we should really try hard to harness all of that to work together towards a common goal. Objectivity never entered my mind or my article.

      • Andrew Wyatt

        Fair enough Simon…

        • Simon Espley

          Its a good point though that we should all be aware of …

          • Andrew Wyatt

            Thanks Simon… I enjoyed the article. I’m not one of those folks who has to agree with a certain point of view to appreciate it. I certainly won’t be bad mouthing you or sending death threats! 😉

  • Done hunting!

    Excellent article. I guess my take on the debate is that conservation is truly about striking the balance between all the facets of wildlife management. Striving to live in harmony with all the groups and facing the enemy as a united front has massive conservation value.

  • Accipiter

    Your challenge is to get involved in the debate, so here we

    I am not a hunter, but I am a qualified nature and trails guide.
    I am also a member of a hunting association so that I can engage with them and
    understand where they come from. So it may be surprising to some that I am pro
    hunting, not unreservedly so but generally so.

    Man has continued to destroy nature through so many ways,
    but primarily through the destruction of habitats – as populations increase, as
    urban areas expand, as more land is put under agriculture, as we build more
    mines and factories. None of this is enhancing nature. In the long run I
    consider this the “real enemy” you mention. Yet there is no emotional debate to
    condemn this. In contrast we love to criticize
    sustainable hunting.

    Most hunting is on game farms, not trophy hunting in hunting
    concessions like in Tanzania. So this is the focus of my comments. There are countless
    examples. It is said that there are more animals in the savanna areas of South
    Africa outside the formal parks today than at any time in history, due to the
    game farming industry, which is dominated by hunting. Of course this is hard to
    prove but it makes a point. These game farms are also great destinations for
    nature lovers at prices that are affordable, thanks to the hunting. I
    personally (and many other) paying guests spend a lot of time bush walking on different
    beautiful game farms that were once cattle farms, changed thanks to sustainable
    hunting. Of course these could still be cattle farms and I could eat the beef
    with a clear conscience, but how could I have a clear conscience if I eat the
    venison from game hunted on these farms!!

    OK, so maybe we don’t criticize the game farm, only the
    hunting. Well, any cattle farmer has to “crop” his animals by sending them to
    the abattoir otherwise he would overgraze and degrade his land. The same
    applies to a game farmer. He also has to “crop” his animals because the natural
    predators are not there to do it. So to crop he can capture and sell live game
    or he can do it through hunting. The process of transporting domestic animals
    to the abattoir and lining them up for slaughter has been studied and shown to
    be immensely stressful and cruel for the animals. Hunting generally is less
    stressful or cruel for the animals. And there isn’t a live game market for all
    species that need to be “cropped”.

    Subsistence hunting in Southern Africa (for those who
    justify it) is mostly a misnomer. It is unsustainably commercial for the bush
    meat trade. And it really oversteps the mark with indiscriminate snares, dogs
    and the like. All organized hunting utilizes all the meat, by the hunter or
    local community. No wasted meat in snares.

    The successes of local communities in Namibia, who protect
    and benefit from their game, is in my view no different to a game farmer in Limpopo
    who has introduced game, protects and manages it on a sustainable basis for the
    benefit of the farmer, his employees and the economy.

    It is not a case of passing judgement on somebody who is prepared
    to ”pull the trigger”. The question is whether through sustainable hunting species
    are being conserved, are being reintroduced to areas where they disappeared, and
    are available for the public to enjoy. Is this not of benefit to conservation?

    Hunting in the Kruger Park? This is a reasonably balanced
    ecosystem so definitely not.

    Hunting on a game
    farm that was or could be a cattle farm? Why not? It certainly is sustainable and
    has lots of spin off benefits for any nature loving hunter or non hunter.
    Without hunting there would just not be as many nature areas for people to
    enjoy. The average nature lover and what he is prepared to pay, does not come
    close to making game farms economically viable. And if people think it is too
    expensive to spend time in nature there will be no love for nature (conservation
    ethic) in society. African Parks (who one contributor referred to) exists only
    because of the generosity of philanthropic supporters. Game farms are one of
    the few areas of conservation that pay for themselves, and if conservation does
    not pay it will not survive.

    Your final comment “Lets take on the threats to Africa’s
    biodiversity and wild areas as a combined united force and face the real
    enemies” means accepting the hunting fraternity and not trying to fight them.

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks, some good thoughts

  • Cynthia Britt

    While I could not kill any animal unless I was starving (& would likely look for vegetarian solutions), I have no problem with much hunting, ie others who do need it for their subsistence (take only what you need & will use) or even when the prey has become an overbred nuisance like our deer here in the states (& the overabundance is not good for their health, either). I do have a problem with people who move to natural spots, like where I live, and then proceed to kill anything that comes onto their property. Why the hell did you move to the ______(mountains, lake, woods) if you can’t abide peacefully with it? I do have a problem with any sanctioned hunting that involves any endangered species, just so someone can hang a head on their wall or put a rug on their floor. The words ‘threatened’, ‘endangered’, ‘under stress’ mean something. How can we ever justify killing even 1 if it means 1 less of a species we are fighting to save?

    • Calvin cottar

      Its as simple as this : (1) should we value wildlife or not? Because the wildlife lives on land belonging to poor people living hand to mouth, they have no choice – they will do the land use that feeds them best . If it’s not wildlife, then they remove it and replace it. So yes, wildlife has to pay its way. (2) is hunting a means for valuing wildlife? Yes. Hunting has abstract values sometimes bud reds of times more an the local values – which are usually just the protein value (3) can hunting be sustainable? Of course, it is ‘sustainable’in every other her part of the world including the developed countries, and simply means number of producing herds are increasing. Every farmer / rancher knows the principals of SU . (4) is hunting a moral issue? In the rich urban world with no access to real life and death, and where extreme anthropomorphization is promoted by TV and pets as family, yes it is. In the land where animals live,no it isn’t, because wildlifes existence is a threat to the peoples lives and welfare. 5) is there an alternative to hunting? Yes there is, but only if the urban folk from the developed world put their Ming where their mouth is and pay the poor rural people of Africa the opportunity cost for NOT doing SU, agriculture and monoculture domestic stock. Is this happening? NO. So should poor Africans be allowed to benefit from the abstract value if their natural resources by SU ? Yes – and anyone who is against that is either consigning these landowners to poverty and early death or should put money into leasing the land from them at the right values.

      • Calvin Cottar

        New Corrected version! ….Its as simple as this : (1) should we value wildlife or not? Because wildlife lives on land belonging to poor people living hand to mouth, they have no choice – they will practice the landuse that feeds them best; If it’s not wildlife, then they remove it and replace it with the alternative. So yes, wildlife has to pay its way in dollar terms. (2) is hunting a means for valuing wildlife? Yes. Hunting has abstract values sometimes hundreds of times more than that possible from the local values (usually just the protein value) (3) can hunting be sustainable? Of course yes; it is ‘sustainable ‘ in every other part of the world including the developed countries ( and within 20 Kms of every office of every anti hunting animal rights NGO in the first world) ; sustainable use ( SU ) simply means number of animals in the producing herds/ population increasing despite ‘take off’ …Every farmer / rancher knows the principals of SU, wildlife is no different . (4) is hunting a moral issue? In the rich urban world with no access to real life and death, and where extreme anthropomorphization is promoted by TV and pets as family, yes it is has become a moral issue… In the land where megafauna wild animals actually live, no it isn’t because wildlife is a direct threat to the lives and welfare of the poor people and they kill animals every day in their normal life. Is it ok for rich people in the west to hunt? Hunting is as old as man became man, the best hunter had the best success to feed his family and it took on other values through human history of prestige and the upper classes – hence ‘royal game’. Hunting is not going away, and the more it’s restricted, the more people will lay for it (5) is there an alternative to hunting? Yes there is, but only if the urban folk from the developed world put their MONEY where their mouth is and pay the poor rural people of Africa for the opportunity cost of NOT doing SU, agriculture and monoculture domestic stock. Is this happening? NO..where’s the billions needed? Nowhere in sight. So should poor Africans be allowed to benefit from the abstract values (SU) of their natural resources? Yes of course, and anyone who is against hunting and SU is actually consigning African landowners to poverty and and wildlife to extinction.

        The biggest constraint for successful SU in most of Africa is the very concept of state ownership of wildlife which was inherited directly from the ‘royal game’ ( RG) concept of the feudal European colonial powers; RG centralizes its revenues and control at government level, thereby disenfranchising landowners from the natural renewable resource where it actually lives – and of course where power and money is funneled, it is corrupted. Poor governance and corruption cannot be resolved with such ridiculous laws, and for see reasons I would tnever recommend hunting or attempts at SU in countries that have such laws. In these countries, the only option is to lease land for conservancy and easements .

        Its as simple as this : (1) should we value wildlife or not? Because the wildlife lives on land belonging to poor people living hand to mouth, they have no choice – they will do the land use that feeds them best . If it’s not wildlife, then they remove it and replace it. So yes, wildlife has to pay its way. (2) is hunting a means for valuing wildlife? Yes. Hunting has abstract values sometimes hundreds of times more than that possible from the local values – which are usually just the protein value (3) can hunting be sustainable? Of course, it is ‘sustainable ‘ in every other part of the world including the developed countries; sustainable use ( SU ) simply means number of animals in the producing herds/ population are increasing…Every farmer / rancher knows the principals of SU . (4) is hunting a moral issue? In the rich urban world with no access to real life and death, and where extreme anthropomorphization is promoted by TV and pets as family, yes it is. In the land where megafauna wild animals live, no it isn’t because wildlife is a direct threat to the lives and welfare of the poor people there (5) is there an alternative to hunting? Yes there is, but only if the urban folk from the developed world put their MONEY where their mouth is and pay the poor rural people of Africa for the opportunity cost for NOT doing SU ( that has income generation capability 12 times more than that of other land uses in much of arid Africa ) agriculture and monoculture domestic stock. Is this happening? NO. So should poor Africans be allowed to benefit from the abstract values (SU) of their natural resources? Yes of course – in areas that land is not being leased for ‘conservancy’ or wildlife ‘easements’, and anyone who is against SU is consigning African landowners to poverty and early death.

        The biggest constraint for successful SU in most of Africa is the concept of state ownership of wildlife – inherited directly from the royal game concept of the feudal European colonial powers – that centralizes its revenues and control with government thereby disenfranchising wildlife from the landowners where it actually lives – and of course where power and money is funneled, it is corrupted. Poor governance cannot be resolved with such laws,therefore I would never recommend hunting or attempts as SU in these countries. Here, the only option is to lease land for conservancy and easements .
        We who want wildlife to survive in Africa need to come together and support SU as a tool for valuing wildlife in the areas it works and finding ways to finance wildlife easements and conservancies where it can’t work.

        • Calvin cottar

          Anyway, I am sure you all get my drift despite the mistakes and double sends..

    • John Weavind

      Calvin 100% on the mark.

  • Jude Price

    The thing about hunting… A wise man once said to me when as a Hunting-opponent, I honestly asked myself the question “Should I put aside my ethical and moral opposition to Trophy Hunting so as to work with hunters for the animal’s (species) sake” He replied “The thing about being in partnership with someone is you are responsible for their actions”. I cannot be responsible for the bullet ripping through the brain of an Elephant, the heart of a Lion or giraffe. I just cannot accept that humans with all our creativity and strengths have to kill to conserve. Whether in some places hunting ‘works’ to assist community or even (if it is true) to recover populations of endangered animals – if we were smarter, more open and empathic to the animals and put them as individuals first as well as ‘species’ then those people for whom the killing of the animal is an “ultimate rush”… would not be pulling the trigger. It is all about them, not about any benefit perceived, actual or imagined…. Killing an animal for fun is the “ultimate selfishness” really.
    If something is wrong, it is wrong, joining hands with the transgressors does not make it right, just makes them feel justified.

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Jude, you raise some good points – some of which strike a cord with me – thanks. And I agree totally that killing an animal for fun is the ultimate selfishness. Where you and I seem to differ is in how to direct our obvious passions for living creatures and natural areas – in my case I believe that the best strategy is to engage with hunters and the industry. The hunting industry is not going to just disappear – its massive and well funded – possibly more so than conservation NGOs. The level of funding and support does not make hunting good, it just makes it impossible to ignore. And, as I point out in the article, there are examples (too few in my opinion) of where forms of hunting do in fact lead to benefits for communities and wildlife populations. I believe that I would fail as a human if my actions cause those communities and animals to stop benefiting. I feel that your approach reminds us all of our moral obligations to respect all living creatures – and that’s good. I believe that my approach recognises the practical realties of dealing with a rapidly expanding human population and increasing pressure on our wildlife, natural landscape and rural communities. Above all I believe that if all of us stop communicating and trying to find common ground it all just disintegrates into chaos and destruction. Keep the passion.

  • Hunting is conservation, leave it alone.

    • Is not conservation.
      Hunting industries makes tons of money and waste on ranch, canned hunts and preying on countries with corruption and political turmoils.
      Killing is not conservation.
      Killing is killing.
      So declining Lion population hundreds of thousands to 25000 is conservation?

      Hunting industries will NEVER help anything without destroying.
      They will NOT give a dime.
      I will not support nor accept organizations like that especially something that does that.

      • This is an old forum and I don’t care what you think bunnyhugger.

  • Frans Joubert

    A very good article, Simon. Our ancestors where indeed hunters & gatherers. We have the same genetics.

    The meat in the supermarket is a dead animal (cannibalism is totally unacceptable!). The meat on the table of an African lodge is also a dead animal; maybe a slaughtered ox or maybe a hunted wild animal (while the trophy is being prepared for the hunter to take home).

    My grandpa was a cattle farmer, however he conserved the wildlife. When kudu numbers were high, he taught me to hunt and process the meat for the kitchen. When the kudu numbers were low, we tied an old cow to a tree near the kitchen, shot it and processed the meat inside the kitchen.

    As the years went by my grandpa sent his old cows to the slaughterhouse, and got 2-3 trophy hunters every winter – the kudu trophies were an additional income – and the meat still went to the kitchen.

    I inherited the rifle, however I became a vet and bought myself a dart gun.

    The value of an animal is correlated to the amount of protection it receives.
    How is the value of a domestic or wild animal determined? Why are game caught and relocated at high prices? Why are photographic safaris and trophy hunting going hand in hand on the same ranches?

  • Andrew

    Interesting to note that Africa Parks has adopted hunting as one of their base activities in the Bangweulu Wetlands of Zambia. It provides important incomes for the attached communities and helps finance management. Hunting should be viewed as a management tool in areas where there are few other options for conservation. A responsible safari hunting operation can be likened to farming whereas animals are bred for consumption and a percentage is harvested for profit.
    The demise of Africa’s wildlife is poaching on a commercial scale and it is this criminal element that needs all our attention.

  • John Weavind

    I am a pro-hunter. I arrange hunting for foreign clients. I also arrange for my Hunting clients to tour reserves. Never have i met a hunter that is a cold blooded killer like one would expect a sociopath to be.
    A couple of points id like to make to a Non-Hunter and i want these points to be properly understood.
    1) Trophy hunting means the meat is utilised. Except in the case of Cat Hunting.
    2) Caged or canned Lion hunting is wholly barbaric. It serves no conservation purpose except to manipulate animals life cycles to be shot. i personally am against any hunting of an animal that has not spent its life in a wild state and i make no bones about that. This does not mean that im against hunting lions. Im not.
    3) There are now hundreds of thousands of hactares of formerly domestic farmland which has gone back to game as a result of hunters dollars and rands and Euros.
    Its a misconception amongst non hunters that a trophy hunted animals meat is simply Thrown away… Thats nonsence. It is sold and eaten…completely.
    Caged hunting of Lions is going to come back and create big problems for the hunting industry in South Africa in the future. It is an indefensible practise. Yes there are many aguments ive heard from the farmers of these animals and ive even had stand up arguments with them. Most admit. It is not conservation oriented hunting and i feel that this industry is slowly shutting down. 5 more yeas and it will close. I can almost guarantee that.
    Looking at the vast tracts of land that have been converted over to Wildlife as a result of hunters demands. i would ask that foreign people that are opposed to hunting (note. I dont make a distinction between trophy hunting and hunting of any kind. Its all hunting) Make a proper study of the environment of hunting in South Africa. Consider that National parks. Ezemvelo and Sanparks only hold around 30% of all natural habitat (just to mention here that most antis never seem to mention habitat in their rantings. They forget that habitat is more important then the animals themselves) and wild animals. The rest are in private hands. Prponents of anti hunting therefore vote for the eradication of 70% Of South African Wildlife and a conversion back to livestock farming which ultimately wrecks habitat.
    One must bare in mind that responsible and legal utilisation of Wildlife is an excellent way to save habitat and the animals themselves.
    Heres an example. Subsistence hunters are generally chased of wildlife farms and treated as poachers because they come on with their Dogs and generally wreck havoc. I know some game farmers that have taken the approach of allowing 3 legal subsistance hunts on their properties a year. The guys come with their Dogs.pay for their animals and now poaching is eradicated.
    We must forget about a hands off animals of any kind because we love our Dogs and Cats so much. Its nonsence. aNimals, domstic and wild must be utilised in order to have a future.
    I ask that everyone asks the following questions of themselves. stop eating meat now what happens to beef cattle? They go extinct right? Stop drinking milk, what happens to milk cattle? Extinct right? Stop hunting, what happens to wild animals? Extinct right?
    Its straight forward, maximum demand means maximum industry growth and therefore many millions of wild animals.

    • donala
      • Monica Gilbert

        Ignore Weavind. He’s a professional pimp for wealthy clients with more money than sense who need to shoot a large animal with a large weapon to make up for their inadequacies.

        • Yoko Lu

          I like Monica’s comment. 🙂 Weavind’s sentence “They forget that habitat is more important then the animals themselves” is ridiculous. Animals are far more difficult to manage and there is more biodiversity and genetics involved that involve long history of evolution. And I also (almost) completely disagree with Frost – especially the statement “Animal rights activists, for example, are not interested in conservation and there is no point in talking to them about conservation”. Animal right activism and conservation are intertwined.

          It seems that there is always endless debate between hunters and non-hunters. Why do domesticated farms exist in the first place? If there is no farm and livestock and we need to eat meat for protein, then hunting for food may seem to be an unavoidable option, and also for those living as hunter-gatherers as they have a very sustainable life.

          I personally value species at risk over least concern species, so even though I am against hunting and value precious lives of each individual animal, I have no word on hunting least concern species. Scientists from IUCN and CIC have ways to monitor the population so they can also manage the trophic level therefore the animals will less likely go extinct, although I believe hunting issued by these scientists are also very negative.

          Another interesting point that comes to my mind right now regarding hunting (aka killing animals) is that scientists kill all kinds of animals for studying and managing, including animal experiments and control of population (i.e. rat cull on Galapagos to save Giant Tortoises and ‘very inhumane’ cull of rabbits just to reduce holes dug by rabbits to prevent human casualties). So in this case, there is not really a difference between hunting and killing even though there are different forms of hunting, so does killing. Both of these do not include meat consumption (unless meat is fed to animals in the zoo?).

          Anyhow, the best option, I believe, is to educate locals (especially those living in Africa, not foreigners who have money to hunt and wants pride and money) about the future of country and its wildlife. The non-traditional lifestyle locals should be more educated and work together (and perhaps work with both foreign and local NGOs?) to stop foreign investments and that includes demand from China for their non-proofed traditional medicine (shark fin business is just ridiculous; it is hunting too in a way) which involves poaching (really, hunting and poaching…are not different to me, unless it is hunting for food for daily life).

          I feel like I can go on and on forever, maybe I should start writing something too 🙂

          • And something off topic perhaps, I find the idea of euthanizing a wild animal just because of attack on human property is just very sad…

          • Monica Gilbert

            Your comments make so much sense to me Yoko Lu. To cut to the end, shark finning is just like rhino poaching. Cut off the fin/horn and toss the rest. Poaching on land and sea for what? Chinese/Vietnamese “medicine” and a tasteless soup. And for what reason? Ego? Prestige? Because I can! Nobody is addressing the fact that animals are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate and CITES are such a joke my 3 year old niece could handle it better. IUCN? Pulhease. It’s all jobs for the boys. Junkets to exotic places, a few press conferences and what’s the outcome? EFF ALL!

            Most, if not all, countries in Africa are so corrupt that there’s no point even contacting the government without an enormous bribe but Trophy Hunters have the option of NOT hunting. But they won’t not hunt because their egos are far too important. If it pays it stays. Sad sad mantra for a disappearing megafauna.

          • Bob

            You know I have to agree with the statement that the Habitat is more important than the species. I would also like to stipulate that the animals are not inherit to the land, they are part of the land if we (all of us) hunters, anti-hunting what ever, need to understand this. The habitat changes from wild to cattle, houses, sub-divisions, concrete become the habitat. Wildlife is not part of that habitat unless it evolves to be. Such as the deer in the states, with laws on hunting, and with a higher income. Hunting is controlled and populations evolve to co-habitat within the habitat thus 32,000,000 deer in the states. Ever see a deer stop and wait for a car on the side of a road or eat your hostas. In Africa people equal poaching end of story. It is not for hunting it is for survival or for money, black market bush meat business for example.
            Educating locals to do what, have smaller families? Starve instead of kill animals? Do not plant crops as fawns will die because there mothers do no have enough food to produce milk? Do not think that China is only after medicinal medicines, there is a whole lot more under the ground that they are after. Wildlife is just in the way, that is why poaching is ramped up too many people and they need money to eat and exist, they are pawns. People around the world are all basically the same they want more, just like happened in the states we used the resource until it was almost gone and then people with foresight (mostly hunters) organized for limited, scientifically controlled seasons. Some years no seasons, but changed things.
            Poaching and hunting are NO difference, that is extremely ridiculous statement. I have seen poaching, there is a difference.
            One last thing wildlife needs habitat, photo safari parks, hunting concessions. It all adds to one thing wild habitat.

          • Please reread my message more in detail. You are completely misunderstanding my point.

            As I have said, there is always a great debate between hunters and non-hunters. It is endless war. I can come up with various ways to argue with them too. So, instead of giving you my points, I think I will just let this sit here. i.e. Monica’s comment is typical non-hunter comment.

            Although I must say we should look at microfauna too; we look at macrofauna too much.

  • donala

    I vehemently object to hunting as a “knee jerk” response to human/wildlife conflicts when non-lethal measures are possible. I read about a honey bee project in Africa whereby the bees served as a deterrent for elephants raiding village farms (it was discovered that elephants are extremely fearful of bees) and the actual honey production served as another source of income for the villagers. These are the types of solutions that we as the alleged “more intelligent” species should be attempting to implement if we are to save the magnificent beings that grace our planet! IT’S THEIR WORLD TOO!

    • John Weavind

      Bwaaaaaa hahahahahhahaaaaa
      We dont care what you think if you dont live in Africa
      We have it all under control
      Concern yourself with your own country

    • Jamil

      The problem being that animals will go where the food is and the areas that are set aside for wildlife are sometimes less appealing than maize crops, etc. The project you refer to was started in Kenya and works for elephant to a certain extent but how does one keep lions from devouring the cattle in your kraal? Humans are too spread out, and spreading daily, for there to be sufficient food sources within the designated national/wildlife parks.

  • Willem Frost


    Experience has taught me to expect a barrage of curses, insults, foul language, profanity,
    and even death threats from the anti-hunters. This article of yours is
    different, although unconvincing in content. Your approach is definitely more
    balanced than that of the typical anti-hunter. So, I think I can respond to
    your views and opinions.

    I am glad you recognise that hunting and conservation is a complex issue and that all
    situations, species and types of hunting cannot be chucked into one pot. One big
    mistake you make (like all other anti-hunters) is not to differentiate between
    hunting and poaching. Hunting is legal, controlled, sustainable, selective and
    undertaken within an ethical framework. Poaching on the other hand is the
    illegal, uncontrolled, indiscriminate killing of as many animals as possible in
    the shortest possible time by any means possible. Poaching is having a
    devastating effect on Africa’s wildlife; hunting is having almost no environmental
    impact and in some situations it has resulted dramatic increase in wildlife
    numbers. A good example is South Africa where there are far, far more antelopes
    on private game ranches (that offer both trophy and meat hunting) than there
    are in all of the country’s national parks collectively.

    It is therefore disappointing that you suggest that hunting is anti-conservationist.
    This is NOT true. In fact, it is the anti-hunters which are often anti-conservationist
    through their ignorance.

    The anti-hunting fraternity is not a homogeneous group either. Animal rights
    activists, for example, are not interested in conservation and there is no
    point in talking to them about conservation. Your subtle suggestion that
    anti-hunters are pro-conservation thus needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

    I find it equally sad that anti-hunters are stubbornly unable to grasp the simple truth that hunting
    is good for conservation and that it is a very necessary tool for
    conservationists. Or why do you think some of the leading scientists of the
    IUCN and CIC, for example, are so supportive of hunting as a conservation tool?

    There are now about12 000 game ranches in South Africa, all deriving some very necessary income
    from both meat and trophy hunting. Presumably the anti-hunters want these ‘evil’ practices stopped, the animals removed, and the land be put under the plough to grow salads for the
    city-slicker-vegan-liberals. How on earth could this be good for conservation?
    And please don’t try to tell me that these game ranches should all be turned
    into photographic safari destinations. This is totally unrealistic and not
    feasible. I am glad that you at least recognise the positive effect of hunting
    in some tribal areas.

    To return to the question of the decimation of Kenya’s wildlife: Fact is that you cannot deny the
    drastic decline in Kenya’s wildlife numbers since hunting was outlawed. Your
    comparison with Tanzania and Mozambique is however incorrect and misleading.
    Although wildlife numbers have also declined in Tanzania it is not at the same
    scale as in Kenya. Mozambique has NOT had an ongoing hunting industry as you
    claim. It was only relatively recently – after the civil war – that the Mozambican
    government realised the benefits to be gained from a proper hunting industry
    and they then took steps to revive the hunting industry. To suggest that the
    demise of wildlife in these countries is caused by the hunting industry is
    simply utterly ridiculous. The lesson that can be learned from these countries,
    and others, is that wildlife has a much better chance in those countries that
    offer hunting than those that don’t.

    Your claim that Afrikaner “Voortrekkers “ moved into the Kruger area in the mid 1800’s is also
    not correct. Tsetse fly and malaria kept them out of the Lowveld for a long
    time. It was only during the winter months that some of them took their cattle
    down there for grazing on the sweet veld. They obviously also hunted. The statement
    that there is an uneasy truce between hunting, tourism and conservation is also
    misleading. You seem to suggest that hunters are at war with tourism and
    conservation. This not true – in fact it is absolute nonsense.

    Africa’s wildlife is declining fast except in South Africa and Namibia – countries that offer
    both meat and trophy hunting. The main reasons for the decline in Africa’s wildlife
    numbers are the ever increasing human populations; overgrazing by cattle,
    goats, donkeys and camels; agricultural development; drought; loss of habitat; poaching
    and the bush meat trade; the charcoal and logging industries; poor management
    of some existing wildlife areas; lack of government empathy for wildlife
    coupled with corruption and weak law enforcement and poor legal systems; civil
    war, ongoing violence and general lawlessness; and the inability of politicians
    and conservationists to realise the potential high economic value of Africa’s
    wildlife. Yet the anti-hunters want to blame the hunters for everything; I never hear them raise their voices to address any of the real problems facing Africa’s wildlife. I guess these real issues are not ‘unconscionable’. How can you then be surprised when the hunting community gets annoyed?

    Your objection to hunting is one we have heard before: unconscionable. It would be interesting to know if the killing of cattle, sheep, pigs, chicken and fish for human consumption is also as unconscionable and repulsive. And what about pest control by crop farmers?

    The challenge for Africa is to move away from the current largely uncontrolled, laissez-faire,
    ineffective, and unsustainable state controlled conservation model towards something more in line with the very successful model followed in South Africa and Namibia. Sustainable utilisation (which includes hunting) is unquestionably the way forward. We also need to find a way to farm with antelopes in order to
    provide protein to the hungry masses. A lot can probably be learned from the New Zealand deer farming industry. Please note however, that this will mean the killing of many more animals than the relative few that are currently taken by the hunters. Unless we find ways to pursue this, very large parts of Africa
    will soon be without any wildlife at all – it will all have been consumed by the bush meat trade.

    As far as Africa Geographic is concerned, I have to advise that since this otherwise fine magazine has become a platform for anti-hunting propaganda (and in my view thus anti-conservationist) I have
    stopped buying it. Nor will I advertise in it or support any of your advertisers.

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Willem, thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail. You seem to infer so much into my words that its almost impossible for me to comment without addressing issues I don’t even cover in the article. Perhaps I will write another feature covering some of the additional issues you raise. As a self-confessed fan of the print magazine you will of course know that the paid for (print) version has not been around for over a year.

  • Wingshooter

    Very good article and I think if people step back and look at the big picture both parties hunters vs non hunters have valid concerns and grounds to argue their side.
    Also to “completely generalize” the topic is to just pick a fight for the sake of fighting.
    Im a hunter yes and also a wingshooter, much more a wingshooter and a “hunter for the kitchen” than just a hunter. Saying that I have never shot a “trophy” and don’t see myself ever going down that path.
    And here is my personal experience, I train my dogs right through the year and shoot only 4months. To put in numbers I probably only shoot at 1 out of a 100 birds my dogs point and probably hit even less than that. BUT I have removed hundreds of snares, partaken in numerous bird surveys, personally prevented 3 pouching attempts(subsistence) , “donated” gamebird management books to my farmers, informed the farmers of pollution, pouching, cattle being sick, dams being contaminated by dead cascasses, ………………………
    This has resulted that I find less snares(much faster to remove a snare than place it), less subsistence pouching, bird populations have increased, farmers are happy to have us on their properties, waterways being fenced off from cattle, some areas closed off in breeding season, just a general improvement.
    And I believe its because someone values these gamebirds, someone is spending time in the bush looking for them, taking care of them, taking care of their environment. Someone added value to a few dusty grey birds.
    That is the reality of what I have found in the South African veld.

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks, I guess that almost any activity at the level you describe is sustainable.

  • Steve Bolnick

    Hi Simon, you certainly know how to stir the ants nest. Nice to see old friends participating here. I was forced to hunt in order to obtain my Zimbabwe Guide Licence and it taught me a lot about hunting. I still cannot understand what motivates someone to kill a lion or elephant or Leopard etc just in order to put its head on a wall, and personally I detest trophy hunting. But what I do know is that many parts of Africa are still conserved because of trophy hunting. These areas would be devoid of wildlife and probably devoid of indigenous vegetation if hunting was stopped. I’d go a step further to suggest that in many ways trophy hunting has a smaller environmental impact than photographic safaris. Just look at the numbers. Hunting generates so much more money per participant than non-consumptive safaris that in order to earn an equivalent income, photographic safaris must have many more visitors with all the associated infrastructure, sewerage, accommodation, roads, camps, power-supply, shops, etc. Most often a comparable hunting area will have one simple accommodation unit, limited roads and a handful of permanent staff. So while I do not understand the motivation and from an ethical perspective I do not agree trophy hunting, I have no doubt that it has served to preserve large tracts of wilderness.

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Steve, the comparison with tourism is probably more complicated than looking at infrastructure alone. For example employment and upskilling. But that’s probably a huge topic on its own …

      • Russell Gammon

        Hi Simon,

        I posted above but to your response to Steve’s point- It’s not that simple. As any guide worth his salt will tell you- not all areas are suitable to photographic safaris. If they are then photographic safaris are proven to be much more lucrative and will displace hunting safaris just as we have seen happen throughout the Okavango Delta. The truth is that hunters are been squeezed out of many wildlife areas all over the continent as the demand for photographic safaris increases which is a very welcome development but there are exceptions. Take for example the case of Nissia Reserve in Mozambique. It’s remote and the wildlife is scarce so can’t, at this stage, be use for photographic safaris. Who is there doing the heavy lifting for conservation? Hunting operators. In time, as wildlife number grow Nissia will become a sort after destination for photographic safari and I know that at least one hunting operator’s is looking forward to that day with great anticipation, but until that day comes, they will continue hunting and plowing the profits back into the reserve and doing a great service for the cause of conservation.

        • Simon Espley

          Hi Russell, a good friend of mine who has been in the travel trade since Noah has the same view as you on how photographic tourism takes over hunting areas once/if the areas become more suitable for the more choosy photographic tourist. And, having been to Niassa and seen the reality, and being in ongoing contact with many people involved in the area, I understand fully your point. In fact I probably know the hunter you are referring to as wanting to make the switch – having met him in Niassa and several times since. Great guy, does huge anti-poaching work. Sho, that’s one special area.

          • Russell Gammon

            100 %- we spoke at length about his dream for the place and if you have visited Stanley and Livingstone you know he’s serious about conservation and is literally putting his money where his mouth is- on a separate issue what are you plans for the African Geographic brand? Can you drop me an email on africanhinterland1@gmail.com I have a few ideas I would like to chat to you about. Thanks for fostering this debate- it’s long overdue!!!

  • joao

    The thing about hunting for me is to go to a game farm or demarcated open wild area in the bush where i can walk and stalk an animal eligible for protein and eating eg antelope ; we harvest a kudu or impala or warthog or mountain reedbuck or whatever edible may be on offer during the hunting season ; i only hunt what i can eat ; never hunted buff but would like to ; have tasted in zim buff biltong and it is good ; also tasted buff steak in a Kruger park restaurant and enjoyed that ; ditto for elephant biltong bought in the Kruger park ; i started hunting with shangaan trackers in mozambique at the age of 13 ; watched them using assagai ; personally I oppose the killing of african cats specially wild lions ;knowing that they are in demise no hunter should even think of applying for a cites license ; however cites continues to issue these; not clever at all in my view !

  • Zimboy

    Thought provoking and timely, I have been on both sides of the fence and personally gave up a career as a PH over 12 years ago, I no longer hunt, it was a personal decision. However during my years as a PH I saw the fantastic work that well run projects such as CAMPFIRE did for rural communities. I saw how game populations increased exponentially in areas where photo safaris would have been a failure and I know that thousands of rural people benefited from our work, be it employment, irrigation projects, schools, electric fencing, protein from the animals that were shot as trophies and financial compensation after their crops were destroyed or livestock eaten. . I did work and live in East Africa and saw how (I believe) the hunting ban backfired in Kenya (most people don’t realize that there are still thousands of wild animals killed in Kenya by the Government each year). A couple of important points from my perspective, that without providing decent education to rural people we are doomed to failure, without significant backing by our Governments and political will we are doomed to failure, without providing decent employment for our rural populations we are doomed to failure. The above issues must be priorities and if we can both, hunting and anti hunting communities work towards tackling them, our wildlife will at least have a fighting chance. Unfortunately if the game does not ‘pay its way’ then there is no chance. Sorry to be doom and gloom, I agree it is not fair but we humans are breeding faster than ever and the land is limited, education is the key.

  • Gail Potgieter

    Simon, thank you for the article. I sometimes think that the debate gets to the point where no-one is listening to anyone else anymore, so it is a waste of time to continue. However, you have reminded me that we can’t just stop talking to each other if we want to face the common enemies of conservation.

    Firstly, I think there needs to be a better understanding of what conservation actually is among the general public (i.e. those who have not studied it formally). The purpose of conservation is to maintain ecologically intact communities of plants and animals in such a way that these communities will continue to function in future. ‘Future’ here is an indefinite period of time, and this is my unofficial definition, but I think it covers the basics. I believe that all activities should be measured against the goal of long-term conservation to see whether they are assisting or hindering our progress towards that goal. This is the view I take when assessing both consumptive and non-consumptive uses of wildlife.

    The hunting industry (i.e. consumptive use) can assist us in achieving conservation goals. However, this does not mean that it always does, in every situation. As you point out, not all hunting is the same, and not every situation is the same, so each case must be examined on its own merits. For example, game farming in southern Africa has had several conservation benefits: 1) habitat is maintained rather than being converted; 2) areas that are not naturally beautiful can still maintain a reasonable level of biodiversity; 3) many game farmers contribute to anti-poaching efforts. However, this same game farming system has some conservation drawbacks: 1) many game farms are fenced, which inhibits natural migratory patterns and can cause ecological damage if not carefully managed; 2) some game farmers in SA have taken antelope breeding to such a controlled level that their farms can no longer be described as natural, or contributing to biodiversity (e.g. breeding exotic species, artificially increasing carrying capacity to the detriment of other species); 3) predators are not always tolerated and are often removed as ‘problem animals’ for killing their natural prey species.

    Similarly, the photographic/ecotourism industry has both positive and negative effects on conservation. As above (in the interest of fairness), I will provide three of each. On the benefits side: 1) tourists bring in much needed revenue to developing countries and thus incentivises conservation at the government level; 2) the value placed on wildlife by photographic tourists drives a large industry that provides jobs, which incentivises conservation at the local or regional level; 3) as most of the funding for conservation comes from the developed world, tourists that come on safari may then support conservation efforts through donations after they have returned home. There are, however, some drawbacks if the lodges etc. do not toe the line: 1) some ultra-luxury lodges have a much greater impact on wilderness areas than they should have (an Africa Geographic article on this topic comes to mind); 2) some tour guides harass animals in order to get better views and thus better tips (e.g. approaching breeding herds of elephants too closely); 3) some lodges do not support local communities, and most of their staff are not from their immediate vicinity, thus denying the people living with the wildlife any benefits from that wildlife.

    You will notice that the ‘drawbacks’ I list for both industries apply to “some” game farmers or tourism operators only. These are things that happen in both industries, although not everyone involved in that industry are culprits. Similar lists can be made for other aspects of hunting (e.g. trophy hunting), but I think game farming will suffice as an example. I agree with you, Simon, that the debate should become more productive, and I think that we should focus on minimising the negative aspects and promoting the positive aspects of both consumptive and non-consumptive wildlife use for conservation. I also think that the people within those industries are the best people to address these issues. I will provide some examples of this.

    Hunters that stand for sustainable use and ethical hunting should be at the forefront of destroying the canned hunting industry in SA. They should also help to enforce quota systems and report any corruption in the hunting permit system in the countries in which they operate. All hunting outfitters should find ways to provide benefits to the local communities living in or around the areas in which they hunt.

    Tourism operators must actively look for ways to reduce the environmental impact of their lodges and activities, even if this means imposing a little discomfort on their guests. Operators should have a strict code of conduct for their guides when it comes to approaching animals and driving off-road. Just like hunters, tourism operators must work with local communities and provide benefits to these people as much as possible.

    There is a lot more that can be done to achieve conservation goals by all stakeholders who rely on wildlife for their income. We must remember that both industries (hunting and photographic tourism) are for profit, even though many on both sides of the fence claim that they do everything for conservation. Making a profit out of wildlife can be a good thing, as long as the positive effects outweigh the negatives for conservation.

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Gail, as usual your thoughts are clear and educated. Would you mind if we blog your reply, linking it to my online magazine article?

      • Gail Potgieter

        You’re welcome to blog it.

  • Asanda Gonya

    See if you can access the limited bonus (sound) track of SAMOS Foolish – (ndi) bale… USBE(Bluetooth, Email)
    Should you find it relevant to your cause, I grant you limited permission to use it for any cause that is against the killing of endangered species.

    Did you check your email or opened you bluetooth of 26 January 2015? (Check your spam)

  • Russell Gammon

    It is sad that the debate on sport hunting is so polarized especially as both camps claim to be committed to the same common goal of furthering the cause of conservation. As a photographic safari guide I have always felt obliged to explain to guests that a well regulated hunting industry plays a crucial role in conservation and I disagree with the notion that Africa’s wildlife populations are threatened by sport hunting. The decline of the wildlife is principally a result of habitat loss due to human encroachment and hunting safari operators are the first line of defense against this threat. By patrolling, pumping water and preventing fires across huge swathes of the continent that are important for conservation, but do not lend themselves to photographic safaris, hunting operators are the backbone of the conservation effort. In addition, the money paid my their clients helps justify the continued allocation of these areas to wildlife, by providing a valuable revenue stream to cash strapped governments. It has been seen time and again, that in the absence of hunting operators, the cattle and people soon move in and the wildlife is displaced. Anyone involved in conservation that refuses to acknowledge this is either willfully ignorant or in denial, but if sport hunting is one of our most valuable tools to prevent the demise of the wildlife- why then is there a debate about it at all?

    The argument about hunting is a highly emotive one and both sides are guilty of being more than a little disingenuous about their position. Although controlled hunting has a proven to have a beneficial effect on conservation, it does not necessary follow that all hunters are conservationists and furthering the cause of conservation is not why hunters hunt. If it were, they could save themselves considerable personal discomfort, by just mailing a cheque to WWF every year, claim a tax rebate on the donation, and go on vacation to the Bahamas. The truth is they enjoy the thrill of tracking, stalking and ultimately killing the animals they hunt, but this is never acknowledged because too many people find that notion distasteful. For their part, the anti-hunting lobby claim to be championing the cause of conservation, but theirs is a moral crusade motivated by the fact that they find the killing animals for sport abhorrent. They oppose hunting at every turn and claim to have the animals best interests at heart but at the same time they either ignore or discount the overwhelming evidence of it’s positive contribution to conservation. They are prepared to do anything to advance their moral agenda in spite of the fact that if they succeed it will cause long term irreparable harm to the wildlife they claim to love.

    The sharpest part of this debate centers around the subject of canned hunting where animals are bred specially to be hunted, in particular lions. Captive reared, they are habituated to humans and many have been filmed being shot from the back of vehicles which has cause a public outcry. The argument can be made that this is no different to the cultivation of lambs raised for human consumption but even most hunters are uncomfortable with this practice since it lacks the critical element that separates hunting from butchery- the notion of “fair chase” which requires that the animal being pursued has a reasonable chance of eluding it pursuer. The hunting fraternity must accept that the privilege of their pursuit comes with a duty of responsibility to ensure that they uphold the practice of fair chase and avoid inflicting any unnecessary suffering on any creature. The leadership on this issue must come from SCI and if hunters do not hold themselves to a higher standard on this issue then their sport will be subject to increasing external scrutiny, oversight and eventually regulation. Until now the SCI’s response has been underwhelming and as a subscription driven organization this is a hard choices but they have much to gain by showing real leadership and weeding out the bad apples that are giving the whole industry a bad name.

    Most of us live in a world where our steaks magically arrive’s neatly vacuum packed with a sprig of parsley and I suspect if anyone had the first idea of what cows endured to make this possible, there would be an awful lot more vegetarians in the world. Hunters are comfortable with getting involved in the process of putting food on the table and have no qualms that animals die to make this possible. Most people are quite happy not being involved sourcing their own food in this way, but there is something fundamentally honest about being prepared to participate in the entire process. I have a profound respect for people who, for ethical reasons, eschew eating meat because it would require the death of another creature but this is an ethical rather than moral decision because it is an incontrovertible fact of evolution that we are omnivores and therefor have been hunters from before the beginning of time. If some people still feel the atavistic need to hunt and kill food for themselves that cannot be immoral, since that is what we have been programed to do by the evolutionary process.

    In our modern “interconnected” world most people live disconnected from the wilderness and so, have an imperfect understanding of the natural process. This airbrushed version of the wilderness belies the darker side of the nature that gave Darwin such nightmares when he truly understood it, for the first time. Life is the exception- death is the norm. All creatures live to be hunted, killed and eaten by some other creature and from the first moment of their birth to their last frenzied breath, their lives are a desperate struggle for survival, with no quarter asked or given. In short- mother nature is a mass murderer and in the wilderness- death is everywhere. Darwin’s ephipinqy was to realize that wether an organism live or died was irrelevant, the only question that mattered was had that creature been successful in passing on it’s genes? This is the stark beauty of nature, not that individual creatures die but that their offspring survive to carry their genes forward. Death is the fire that nature has used for eons to purify, temper and forge the next generation by weeding out the weak so that the strong may flourish. For three million years humans have been part of that process by hunting with tools of ever increasing complexity and effectiveness. In the grand scheme of things the death of a every single creature is inevitable but if that individual death can ensure that it’s offspring has space in which to move and a chance to pass on their genes to the next generation is that not the very essence of conservation and what every true conservationist should be fighting for- both hunters or non hunters alike.

    • Simon Espley

      Very well-constructed and powerful response – thanks Russell. Do you mind if we blog it?

      • Russell Gammon

        Be my guest

    • Mareks Vilkins

      For three million years hominids have been part of this process, by hunting with tools of ever increasing complexity and effectiveness

      few excerpts from:

      ‘Man the Hunter’ theory is debunked in new book


      You wouldn’t know it by current world events, but humans actually evolved to be peaceful, cooperative and social animals.

      In his latest book, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis goes against the prevailing view and argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles.

      Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator, says Sussman.

      Since the 1924 discovery of the first early humans, australopithicenes, which lived from seven million years ago to two million years ago, many scientists theorized that those early human ancestors were hunters and possessed a killer instinct.

      Through his research and writing, Sussman has worked for years to debunk that theory.

      Sussman and Hart’s research is based on studying the fossil evidence dating back nearly seven million years. “Most theories on Man the Hunter fail to incorporate this key fossil evidence,” Sussman says. “We wanted evidence, not just theory. We thoroughly examined literature available on the skulls, bones, footprints and on environmental evidence, both of our hominid ancestors and the predators that coexisted with them.”

      Since the process of human evolution is so long and varied, Sussman and Hart decided to focus their research on one specific species, Australopithecus afarensis, which lived between five million and two and a half million years ago and is one of the better known early human species. Most paleontologists agree thatAustralopithecus afarensis is the common link between fossils that came before and those that came after. It shares dental, cranial and skeletal traits with both. It’s also a very well-represented species in the fossil record.

      ”Australopithecus afarensis was probably quite strong, like a small ape,” Sussman says. Adults ranged from around 3 to 5 feet and they weighed 60-100 pounds. They were basically smallish bipedal primates. Their teeth were relatively small, very much like modern humans, and they were fruit and nut eaters.

      But what Sussman and Hart discovered is that Australopithecus afarensiswas not dentally pre-adapted to eat meat. “It didn’t have the sharp shearing blades necessary to retain and cut such foods,” Sussman says. “These early humans simply couldn’t eat meat. If they couldn’t eat meat, why would they hunt?”

      It was not possible for early humans to consume a large amount of meat until fire was controlled and cooking was possible. Sussman points out that the first tools didn’t appear until two million years ago. And there wasn’t good evidence of fire until after 800,000 years ago. “In fact, some archaeologists and paleontologists don’t think we had a modern, systematic method of hunting until as recently as 60,000 years ago,” he says.

      “Furthermore, Australopithecus afarensis was an edge species,” adds Sussman. They could live in the trees and on the ground and could take advantage of both. “Primates that are edge species, even today, are basically prey species, not predators,” Sussman argues.

      The predators living at the same time as Australopithecus afarensis were huge and there were 10 times as many as today. There were hyenas as big as bears, as well as saber-toothed cats and many other mega-sized carnivores, reptiles and raptors. Australopithecus afarensis didn’t have tools, didn’t have big teeth and was three feet tall. He was using his brain, his agility and his social skills to get away from these predators. “He wasn’t hunting them,” says Sussman. “He was avoiding them at all costs.”

      Approximately 6 percent to 10 percent of early humans were preyed upon according to evidence that includes teeth marks on bones, talon marks on skulls and holes in a fossil cranium into which sabertooth cat fangs fit, says Sussman. The predation rate on savannah antelope and certain ground-living monkeys today is around 6 percent to 10 percent as well.

      Sussman and Hart provide evidence that many of our modern human traits, including those of cooperation and socialization, developed as a result of being a prey species and the early human’s ability to out-smart the predators. These traits did not result from trying to hunt for prey or kill our competitors, says Sussman.

      “One of the main defenses against predators by animals without physical defenses is living in groups,” says Sussman. “In fact, all diurnal primates (those active during the day) live in permanent social groups. Most ecologists agree that predation pressure is one of the major adaptive reasons for this group-living. In this way there are more eyes and ears to locate the predators and more individuals to mob them if attacked or to confuse them by scattering. There are a number of reasons that living in groups is beneficial for animals that otherwise would be very prone to being preyed upon.”

  • Let me repost this — I realized that I did a mistake replying instead of posting as initial post as my post is regarding the whole topic:
    It seems that there is always endless debate between hunters and non-hunters. Why do domesticated farms exist in the first place? If there is no farm and livestock and we need to eat meat for protein, then hunting for food may seem to be an unavoidable option, and also for those living as hunter-gatherers as they have a very sustainable life.

    I personally value species at risk over least concern species, so even though I am against hunting and value precious lives of each individual animal, I have no word on hunting least concern species. Scientists from IUCN and CIC have ways to monitor the population so they can also manage the trophic level therefore the animals will less likely go extinct, although I believe hunting issued by these scientists are also very negative.

    Another interesting point that comes to my mind right now regarding hunting (aka killing animals) is that scientists kill all kinds of animals for studying and managing, including animal experiments and control of population (i.e. rat cull on Galapagos to save Giant Tortoises and ‘very inhumane’ cull of rabbits just to reduce holes dug by rabbits to prevent human casualties). So in this case, there is not really a difference between hunting and killing even though there are different forms of hunting, so does killing. Both of these do not include meat consumption (unless meat is fed to animals in the zoo?).

    Anyhow, the best option, I believe, is to educate locals (especially those living in Africa, not foreigners who have money to hunt and wants pride and money) about the future of country and its wildlife. The non-traditional lifestyle locals should be more educated and work together (and perhaps work with both foreign and local NGOs?) to stop foreign investments and that includes demand from China for their non-proofed traditional medicine (shark fin business is just ridiculous; it is hunting too in a way) which involves poaching (really, hunting and poaching…are not different to me, unless it is hunting for food for daily life).

    Additional comment: Wildlife trafficking…hunting…poaching…killing…dying…etc. All intertwined.

    Really, some Linkedin comments are very good!



    • Simon Espley

      Some interesting observations, thanks Yoko

      • Thank you for your post and thank you the person who posted it on Linkedin as well otherwise I will not find this website.

  • Barry Hattingh

    I quote the late great Dr Ian Player :

    “In 1970 when we put rhino on the hunting list it was abhorrent to many of us – but it was the only thing to do at the time.”

    it was very advantageous, because (once hunting was allowed) the rhino
    population exploded! What a great irony! Because it was hunters who were
    responsible for the near extinction of the species in the 19th

    “I did not like the thought of even one rhino being
    shot,” he said, but by 2010 South Africa’s population of rhinos had
    multiplied to more than 20 000, compared with less than 100 at the end
    of the 19th century. And nearly a quarter of those rhinos were now on
    private land.”

    Millions of hectares of privately owned
    agricultural land once used for cattle ranching had also been turned
    over to wildlife ranching and conservation, largely due to the economic
    value of eco-tourism and hunting.

    “I know that hunting raises a
    lot of controversy but there are now about 10 000 licensed (hunting)
    guides in Poland alone. Whether people like it or not, that is why there
    is still game left in Europe.”

    • Simon Espley

      Hard facts are tough for either side to argue against.

    • Ross Wind

      Hi Iwan Hattingh,

      I saw a photo of a young male lion guarding the carcass of a full-grown rhino. The lion was in front of the head of the rhino so I could not see if his horns were removed. We can see some red marks on one of the rhino’s hears and chess. In the button of the photo your name Iwan Hattingh copyright. This rhino was it killed by Lions? The same person put a picture of 2 sub-adult male lions pursuing a big rhino perhaps the same rhino.

  • Kerry Allen-Traeger

    I am a vegetarian so, obviously do not understand mans insatiable desire to eat dead animals but, I am not naive enough to believe that all 7 billion people on this planet will cease eating animal flesh. So having said that, I do understand there is a place for sustenance hunting but, for the life of me will never understand how any compassionate human can find pleasure from killing another living being. I respect those hunters that I have spoken to that describe their feelings of remorse for taking a life, and the respect that they feel for the animals that they have killed. There are no photos to brag over their kills, no trophies on their walls. They kill to eat and feed their families and, whilst I dont eat meat, I do understand that.
    Anyone who describes enjoyment from actually snuffing out a life, has in my opinion, got some serious issues, which is likely why very few admit to enjoying the act and chose to hide behind the “its for conservation” line. If hunting helped conserve them, why are so many species on the edge of extinction?
    Anyone who smiles over the dead corpse of their victim, also has serious issues, in my opinion, I mean, I have been told by a trophy hunter that the pictures are to reminisce over at a later date. To look back on an event that they feel pride in and enjoyed, and the pictures help them to recall the emotions felt at that time. Sounds very much like the same rationale used by humans that kill other humans and record the event.
    I believe that there is way too much corruption involved in governments and organizations that claim to be interested in animal conservation. How can the WWF hold out its hand and accept my money to help conserve polar bears, yet on the other hand support “sustainable hunting” of the same species? They either need our money to save them, or they don’t. If they do, then they should not be hunted, simple as that! If all this money that trophy hunters pay to kill one, goes toward saving them as govts and orgs like the WWF would have us believe, then why are targeted species still declining?
    The argument ” wildlife needs to pay its way” saddens me greatly. WHY should they have to pay their way? Why do they owe us anything? Leaving religion aside, we are all just flesh. bone, blood and nerves. We all feel; pain, love, fear, joy. Why do humans believe we are somehow the only living beings capable of feeling such things, and therefore granted the rights to be protected by laws? Why do they have to pay their way and provide an income for us? When is it our turn to give back to them what we have taken?
    I can never see myself joining hands with a trophy hunter. Their values are too far removed from my own. I will join hands with the respectful sustenance hunters I describe above but, anyone who kills a living being for fun, profit or a trophy will never have my respect.

    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Kerry, you have touched on so many issues that go to the core – and create the huge divide between the pro and anti-hunting factions. I think that organizations such as WWF battle to communicate why they do invest into campaigns that do involve hunting – more so because of the likely backlash from some of their members/donors. From a practical point of view I doubt that they would involve themselves in hunting unless they felt it would have positive spin-offs for conservation. Its a tough place to be for them. I too believe that there is rampant corruption throughout the conservation ecosystem and hunting industry – especially at government and parastatal levels – but I would certainly not tar everyone with that brush because I have met and engaged with many fine people on all sides. I understand your comparison of a hunter hankering after the trophy with a mass-murderer type – but I suspect that comparison will land you in hot water in hunting circles 😉

      • Kerry Allen-Traeger

        I am sure that my comparison between a serial killer of non humans to that of a serial killer of humans would land me in hot water with hunting circles but, I really don’t care. ANYONE who enjoys killing has serious issues. To knowingly snuff out a life, for pleasure and self interest, just astounds me. There should be no difference how we view those that do this to humans, to those that do this to non humans. If our vets made a contest of how many animals they euthanized and, handed out awards to the one that euthanized the most, we would all be up in arms, and rightly so. But, the SCI hold killing contests, awarding their members for killing our most vulnerable animal species and that is meant to be ok? WHY? Because vets are meant to be caring and compassionate? Well that is what trophy hunters claim to be also.

        I have been in the firing line from trophy hunters for voicing my opinion. I’ve had my fb account hacked, had my bank account hacked by a large safari company in Tanzania, have had threats made against me and my children on a regular basis so, maybe that has caused me to distrust these people.
        As for the WWF and orgs like them, I understand that they probably chose not to disclose their position due to the likelihood of receiving backlash but, they owe it to their contributors to be honest and transparent about their position on such issues. If I am handing over my money to conserve a particular species, then I am assuming the WWF are in fact interested in conserving that species, not taking from both sides of the fence. They take money from anti hunters for projects to conserve rhino for example, yet, they publicly gave their support of the trophy hunt of a critically endangered black Rhino. A representative for the WWF told me it was because the funds raised could be used for conservation of the species.. Well, if all the funds raised from these hunts was indeed being used to save the species, why are we losing them? If the funds generated by trophy hunts were used for conservation and anti poaching, then why are the numbers declining? No one has been able to answer that question and I am of the belief it is because the funds do not go toward conserving these animals at all. They line pockets!

  • Linda Harward

    Trophy hunting should be banned!!! Period!!!!

  • Steffi

    I have just returned from a walking safari in nothern Ruaha National Park, TZ.
    This was certainly one of the most beautiful things I did in my meanwhile long
    travelling and safari going. Watching elephants at close distance without disturbing them, having them not even noticing that you are there was a thrill in
    itself. Passing on foot a spot where 10 minutes later a pride of lions comes to rest, passing spots of thickets where you could encounter hippo …… it has been
    all thrill by itself. None of us had the wish to put anything else’s life to an end.
    Who am I that I decide who or what has the right to live or has not?? But anyhow, the small operation I did it with exists for two year only and reduced
    only by it’s sheer presence elephant poaching to zero in this very area. When the hunting industry claims that their presence is reducing poaching I say it’s
    bullshit. Look only at Selous Game Reserve in TZ, one of the saddest situations
    one can find in TZ with regard to the decline of wildlife because of poaching.
    In this reserve the biggest part of it has been or still is reserved as hunting block.
    Very soon the elephants might be gone there, from above 100.000 in 2000 only
    appr. 13.000 are left by today. Between 2009 and 2013 TZ lost appr. 66% of
    it’s elephant population because of poaching, due to a recent report of WCS TZ.
    I have not heard of any single outcry from the hunting industry there to stop this, nor of any support from these circles to support in a direct, feasable way conservation. I rather tend to believe they could not care less.

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Steffi. There is no doubt that the hunting industry has been silent about Tanzania’s poaching issue. I have always been confused by this, because they are quick to claim that the cessation of hunting in Kenya played a big role in the massive reduction in wildlife in that country. Something does not add up and it’s a pity that the hunting industry does not embrace this issue and get to the core of it.

  • Jeremy Anderson

    Greetings Simon,,

    I found your article interesting, but I have to ask why you should you omit some facts and infer others that are untrue ?

    In referring to the benefits of safari hunting on communal land is conserving species, you say that Namibia “has a few such examples” and in so doing infer to readers these are inconsequential. .The truth is, the conversion of Communal Rangelands in Namibia to trophy hunting has now taken place on over 14% on the country (120,000 km2). This area is several times bigger than Swaziland and about 20% of the size of Kenya.

    This change in landuse is INCREASING – “a few such examples indeed”. Would you prefer that they revert back to domestic livestock – mainly sheep and goats ?

    You pointed out that both Tanzania and Mozambique have ongoing hunting industries and yet their wildlife has also been decimated, therefore the attempt to position hunting as the cure for poaching was disingenuous. Anyone with any knowledge of the wildlife situation in Mozambique knows that most species were decimated by the civil war – when there was no safari hunting taking place in the country. The Safari industry played no role in decimating the wildlife – there was none at the time.

    An example is the buffalo population at Marromeu , which between 1977 and 1990, dropped from about 45,000 to just over 5,000. This was a period when no safari hunting took place at all. I was on the 1990 survey and daily we would see up to six groups out on the plains armed with AK47s and using bicycles to carry away dried meat.

    During the civil war FRELIMO set up an abbatoir in Zinave National Park – the evidence of which I have photographed. Renamo did the same in Gorongoza where between and the large mammal populations dropped by more than 90%.

    Since the end of the civil war, Safari companies were allocated concessions around Marromeu – and started anti-poaching operations – most of the wildlife species populations are increasing steadily. The Safari operators in Mozambique have more Field Rangers and guards patrolling than the wildlife department – yet that is ignored by you.

    The most recent elephant census shows that Mozambique’s elephant population has declined by 50% in the last five years. This is due to what has been termed “Industrial scale” poaching – not trophy hunting, yet you do not refer to it.

    There is no evidence at all that Tanzania’s wildlife populations have been decimated by trophy hunting. The current elephant poaching and decline has nothing to do with trophy hunting and efforts to combat it are heavily funded by hunters. The opening of areas for agriculture and felling trees for charcoal are what is impacting on Masailand – not trophy hunting.

    The most important trophy safari species in Botswana are elephant and buffalo. Both these species were steadily increasing when safari hunting was
    stopped in that country. Roan, Tsessebe and Giraffe were not on license yet they were decreasing Invite anyone to name one trophy species in Africa that has been decimated by Trophy hunting ?

    For the last three years, the efforts of WESSA to combat rhino poaching
    in SA have been generously funded by the Professinal Hunters Association
    of South Africa. This has been done with little if any fanfare and has
    had a significant impact in the field.

    Of course moral/ethical considerations are important in deciding how to manage wildlife, However, in the marginal rangelands in Africa, the priority is to implement the form of sustainable land use that brings the optimal benefits to the rural communities living there. In some cases this happens to be trophy hunting and the moral and ethical issues must become one of how best can it be managed.

    With regard to impact of the Kenyan non-consumptive policy you may find the following two papers very informative.

    Norton-Griffiths. M. 1998. The Economics of Wildlife Conservation Policy in Kenya, 279-293 In E.J. Milner-Gulland & Ruth Mace. Conservation
    of Biological Resources . Blackwell’s Scientific

    Norton-Griffiths. M. 2010. The Growing Involvement Of Foreign NGOs in Setting Policy Agendas and Political Decision-Making in Africa.

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Jeremy, you raise some some good points. The point of my feature though was not to debate the detail of hunting (which can go on and on in never ending circles), rather my point was how fractious the debate tends to be. With regard to my comment about Moz/Tanzania and hunting, you perhaps missed my point. I didn’t claim that hunting is responsible for rapidly reducing wildlife populations in those countries – rather I suggest that hunting does not prevent the reductions (as is intimated in the video I was referring to, and a common claim by hunters). Cheers

  • Ted Newton

    Hi Simon. I am afraid that it is very easy to get side tracked by the passionate debate which surrounds this subject. The key issue to me is in your very last sentence, we have a common enemy and only by putting aside our differences and standing shoulder to shoulder will this war be won.

  • I believe that all the animals that are in danger of becoming extinct should be off limits (period). Lions, Rhino’s, certain Zebra, Bears, etc… Those populations will not increase any other way but to protect them… And canned hunting is terrible no matter how you put it… I fail to believe that Africa can’t figure out a better way to help tourism and the economy…

    As far as these famed hunters are concerned. I pray for them because they get off on killing animals far more beautiful alive and wild, opposed to dead and on their floor or mantle.

  • bruceleejohnson

    I have a cousin who e-mails me weekly or post on my facebook his kills from Spain, Poland, Russia, USA, Canada, South America. He has the financial resources to hunt continually. He earned his money selling munitions to various countries. He has sent me less post after I objected to a large group of Turkeys killed in Tennessee, USA. It seemed to be 30+. I stated that it was wrong and even Turkeys could become endangered if indescrimantly killed. I also said to him that he is killing without consuming the food, collecting more than 1 trophy or fedding others. He replied there are millions of Turkeys. I think I should have used another animal, some of the large animal kills in Europe, Africa, etc. My belief is the animals killed belongs to no one but the killer has decided it is his property.
    My cousin and other acquaintance that enjoy killing animals are ex-military that were exposed to combat during their service. My cousin did 4 Vietnam tours. My question is: Are military who are exposed to combat more disposed toward hunting and killing? I am not trying to dis our military veterans and heros. I am ex-military but in late 1950s and we only had cold war but no combat at least for me.

  • Bundubele

    There seems to be an ‘imagined’ relationship between ‘development’ or ‘progress’ and hunting. I perceive the way many see as forward is a rural environment managed by hunting on private or public land in essence as ‘culling’ to prevent/manage the man/resource conflict and provide an economic stimulus in the form of fees and taxes, tips, animal remains and meat for poor locals. Occassionally this works, sometimes for a while, sometimes for longer. However, clearly moral issues come into question and when probed, many hunters find themselves on the backfoot, clutching at straws…There must be dynamism and flexibility – not just between countries or even continents, but on a micro-scale, between different physical and social environments.The trouble is blanket laws affect everyone but if they were targeted to certain areas or even communities, the success of wildlife policies may become more apparant to all. The scene of the world is changing and if we are to survive and prosper, the genuine needs of animals and people should be dealt with quickly at all levels, under legal supervision and encouragement. This can be done with modern technology. I am not a protagonist of hunting and would not do it personally, but I respect it is an industry that generates economic wealth but may pander to the whims of rich benefactors.. My question is, does this wealth largely reflect back on the environment from which it is sourced, or as I suspect, is it redirected elsewhere – for good or indeed for bad? Furthermore, like in other parts of the world, when income is generated illegally, but in this case through hunting or exploiting the law and its loopholes, this has a generally detrimental effect on integrity all round and in the long run is a disincentive for really long-term foreign investment and prosperity in an animal resource base that is offered nowhere else. It could bring so much pleasure to so many more if creative thought was put into making safari fun, safe, family-oriented, exciting and providing this not only for foreigners but making wild areas accessible to local urban populations who would benefit and show more interest in their own inheritance and culture. For example I personally think Disney have a great concept in Orlando (of all places) where you can ‘smell’ adventure – at all ages and abilities! Africa has nothing on this and furthermore I personally haven’t yet seen or heard of an ‘O’ level in ‘wildlife management’ for example! Perhaps you’ll agree the population by enlarge can’t or don’t appreciate their own environments in that part of the world – but nor do many have the foundations on which to do anything about it. I would say a ‘downtrodden’ historical past is largely to blame, and where many have only seen animals as food or quick money,I would argue the welfare of Africa’s animals can still be intertwined through encouraging cultural pride in them, awakening the true potential of living amongst them, learning from them and sharing the experience with others less fortunate. Perhaps then we could all enjoy Africa for longer.

  • Extinction Six

    Hunting doesn’t conserve species – land distribution, natural reclaim, reforestation & ceasing the expansion of development and agriculture are conservation methods. Hunting funnels money into conservation efforts. If the national lotto decided to fund conservation programs, we wouldn’t be calling those who purchase lotto tickets as conservationists. A post was shared on a hunting blog, the user claimed, “If you want to stop hunting, just purchase the hunting farms & no one can hunt anymore”. Obviously a lot easier said than done, but perhaps the focus should be on finding ways, besides solely eco-tourism, where species are more valuable alive & existing in natural biodiversities versus dead & hanging on someones wall. We have effective conservation methods, we just need more creative avenues to fund them, without a species being killed.