The IUCN released an extensive study focusing on the issue of trophy hunting and the import restrictions placed on trophies. Their findings may surprise some.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a paper which specifically addresses trophy hunting and its role in wildlife conservation. The paper presents an objective, unbiased look at trophy hunting, both good and bad practices, and its impact on wildlife populations and local communities.
This paper also looks at how bans on trophy hunting and the import/export of trophy hunting trophies affects the dynamic of both conservation and the financial stability of local communities.
It is hoped that this study will inform the decision making of various governing bodies and entities that could institute bans on the import of big game trophies.
The IUCN recognizes that there are “examples of weak governance, corruption, lack of transparency, excessive quotas, illegal hunting, poor monitoring and other problems in a number of countries”. They maintain that such practices need urgent reform, and that the hunting community as well as the countries themselves would benefit greatly from such reform.
However, the focus of this paper is the overwhelming success in the areas of wildlife restoration and population rebound, as well as in the increased wellbeing of indigenous and local communities that live in concert with wildlife, when well regulated hunting and game management are in place.
Recognizing that habitat loss is the single biggest threat to wildlife, the study attempts to look at how hunting and tourism – the two biggest income generators for conservation – can play an important role in securing and safeguarding habitat for wildlife, while replacing the income (and in many cases surpassing it) lost in human-centric development of lands.
If we can bring in more money to local communities by increasing lands set aside for wildlife and hunting than, say, for farming, then that is a benefit for both wildlife and the local communities. These solutions must be of mutual benefit to both humans and wildlife. This cannot be a one or the other sort of arrangement, or it just won’t work and both will suffer (with wildlife feeling the bigger loss).
Part of the problem with bans is that they are indiscriminate and affect both good and bad hunting practices, even in the same country. Bans are a “blunt instrument that risks undermining important benefits for both conservation and local livelihoods”. As such they do nothing to address the real threats to wildlife: habitat loss and poaching. In fact, they increase those threats.
For all of these species, as the case studies note, well-managed trophy hunting can indeed promote population recovery, protection, and maintenance of habitat.
Bringing in dollars, significant dollars, to local communities is what a good deal of the paper focuses on. In case after case we are given examples of exactly how dollars from trophy hunting are brought into the communities and how they are spread around to help maintain wildlife habitat and pay for anti-poaching measures.
To pick just one of the several case studies the paper presents, let us look at rhinos in South Africa and Namibia.
Since trophy hunting programmes were introduced for these species, White Rhino increased in South Africa from 1,800 (in 1968) to around 18,400; and Black Rhino increased in South Africa and Namibia from around 2,520 (in 2004) to around 3,500. By end 2015, these two countries conserved 90% of Africa’s rhinos, yet only 0.34% and 0.05% of their white and black rhino populations were hunted.
Not only has rhino hunting clearly been sustainable, it has played an integral part in the recovery of these species through providing incentives for private and communal landholders to maintain the species on their land, generating income for conservation and protection, and/or helping manage populations to increase population recovery.
The kinds of monetary incentives brought by trophy hunting have convinced some 300 private landowners to turn their lands away from farming and development, and towards rhino and other wildlife habitat. They have collectively added over 2,000 square kilometers of wild land – the “equivalent of another Kruger National Park!”
However, the bans on importing trophies that have been put in place in some areas – and in some businesses like airlines – since the “Cecil the Lion” case, could threaten to undermine that allocation of land devoted to rhino and other game populations. The dollars brought into the equation from trophy hunting are not there to pay for anti-poaching and land maintenance efforts like they once were.
It’s the age-old fight: anti-hunting wildlife advocates holler for restrictions and bans, basing their positions on emotional arguments. They ignore the empirical evidence and actual quantifiable results presented by those on the front lines of true wildlife conservation. Will they ignore this IUCN report as well?
The proof is there for the world to see. Trophy hunting is absolutely necessary for the future of endangered animals. It is necessary to provide the land, funds and resources to build and maintain viable populations. This effort will also require the help of human intervention. The world is no longer a place where we can just leave nature be. Leaving nature be is a death sentence to many wildlife species.
The good thing about this is that both humans and animals can live and thrive together, if we can simply lose the foolish notion that demands that humans step away from wildlife management.