The graphic above speaks volumes: it is undeniable fact that the largest populations of megafauna live and are successful in the countries where they are hunted. To those outside of the hunting world, this may seem counterintuitive. How can hunting a threatened species help save it?
Overwhelming scientific data shows that international hunting is one of the most effective methods of conservation, for both hunted and non-hunted species. Protecting large amounts of land and habitat has a huge price tag – one that is difficult for many countries to effectively manage. Photo tourism does bring in a substantial amount but is only operable in select scenic areas with high wildlife viewing. Hunting is not only operable in remote areas with little infrastructure, but is also a low impact, high revenue generator; a hunter brings in roughly ten times the revenue of a photo-tourist, with significantly less impact on the environment and wildlife. Having this high revenue stream in large land areas prevents these areas from being converted to other profitable, but ecologically damaging, uses, such as mining, agriculture, or other resource extraction.
In addition to the providing funding for wildlife, the primary reason for these species’ success in hunted areas is the community ownership of, and benefits from, wildlife. This was a major topic at the recent African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF), hosted by SCI Foundation in Botswana. Communities must benefit from the wildlife they live alongside and have sole management authority. When communities do not own the wildlife, do not glean any benefits, and are hurt by wildlife, they negatively view wildlife conservation. This perspective is often ignored by outside groups in the U.S. and Europe, who by doing so value the animals more than the people. These communities hunted and managed their wildlife sustainably for thousands of years and have every right to continue doing so. Populations, and communities, thrive when the communities own the wildlife; through all the benefits, they are incentivized to protect them rather than forced to.
Additionally, many anti-poaching efforts are funded completely by legal, regulated hunting. International hunting is often focused on problem or conflict animals, which frequently attack buildings, crops, livestock, and people. For rural communities, hunting switches the animal from a liability to a profit and reduces or eliminates retaliatory killings. Subsequently, attitudes towards poaching are transformed; rather than eliminating a threat, poaching is now removing a valuable resource.
Conservation is at a critical juncture: the world has lost approximately 80% of its wildlife. If we want to reverse this, we must start by allowing the people closest to wildlife to own it. As discussed at AWCF, there is huge untapped potential for wildlife hunting and trade and sustainable community development. The models in Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Zambia are proof that community-led, well-regulated international hunting results in high success for both wildlife and people. International hunting is the harvest of one or a few animals for the benefit of the whole: the whole species, habitat, ecosystem, and community.
SCI will continue to advocate for science-based management and community ownership. To stand with us, please sign our petition to Protect Legal, Regulated Trade in Wildlife!
For more information on international hunting, please visit SCI’s International Hunting – Focus on Africa page.