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The troubling truth of trophy hunting

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Daniel Thomas explores the surprising potential benefits of trophy hunting

There are many factors responsible for the dwindling populations of certain animal species, such as poaching and loss of habitat. Similarly, trophy hunting (the art of paying an agency to legally kill specific animals) can be a huge risk to animal populations, and has been known to receive a lot of attention in the media. It is particularly shocking, then, to find out that certain cases of well-organised trophy hunting have in fact helped the population of animal species.

Artwork by Marion Cromb

Of course, killing animals is not ordinarily an effective method of helping animals. However, if the end result is a consistent increase in population, could it be defined as such? A 'good' process for animal conservation must first be defined: if the population increases consistently as a result of a process, it could be considered beneficial. Of course, there are other factors to consider, such as the animal's quality of life, but that is a whole new can of worms. If only a handful of animals were left of a certain species, an increase in population is usually the top priority. So, are there examples where trophy hunting has had a measurable, positive impact?

In South Africa, a portion of the proceeds from trophy hunting is given directly to landowners, which incentivises the protection of local wildlife. Currently, one third of white rhinos in South Africa live on private property, and their population has increased from around 100 to 18,000 in the past century. Although this is the result of a large combination of factors, it is thought that the well-managed trophy hunting has played a significant part. Also, in Namibia, revenue from trophy hunting is the main way in which new wildlife conservancies are funded, by giving 100% of concessions to the local communities.

A lot of conservation schemes currently rely on the revenue from trophy hunting, and so if it were banned, there would have to be an immediate and significant increase in revenue from alternatives. These alternatives include eco-tourism, such as safaris. As stated by Jason G. Goldman, animal behaviour researcher and science writer: "Current economic and social circumstances seem to necessitate at least some trophy hunting if local communities are to tolerate the presence of wildlife."

However, trophy hunting should not be absolved of its wrongdoings. Despite some countries doing it well, there are many who do not. This means that overall, trophy hunting is having negative effects of populations of endangered species. Also, there is no way of forcing the companies or governments to put the money into local communities and conservation efforts, and so these schemes will not be effective wherever corruption occurs. In short, the process of controlled trophy hunting must be improved, or alternatives found. However, banning trophy hunting would most likely be detrimental to animal populations, as it currently stands—a tough pill to swallow. Efforts must instead be focused on eradicating poaching and habitat destruction, if we are to continue to live alongside these animals.

All images are original artwork by Marion Cromb

From Issue 13

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