SCI Foundation’s African Wildlife Consultative Forum (AWCF) was hosted in Kasane, Botswana last week with a diverse group of government officials, conservation partners, community leaders, and other parties. The week featured fruitful discussions and presentations on conservation, local community, and international hunting issues.
SCI’s EVP of International, Government and Public Affairs Ben Cassidy and FACE’s Secretary General Dr. David Scallan discussed the threats to international hunting in the form of trophy bans from the United States and Europe.
The original framework of the EU Biodiversity Strategy included a trophy ban, but thanks to the efforts of SCI, FACE, and other partners the word “commercial” was added to exclude international hunting. Additionally, the UK is developing their Animal Welfare Initiative, which seeks to ban the import of elephant ivory. A recent hearing on trophy hunting included only animal rights and anti-hunting activists without scientific basis or concern for community realities. As Dr. Scallan pointed out, many legislators say they understand that science supports hunting, but their constituents dislike trophy hunting in Africa; regardless of how Europeans feel about the issue, it is not their wildlife to manage.
From the United States, several state bills were introduced – and defeated – seeking to ban trophy imports from African nations. The most immediate threat in the U.S. is at the federal level in the Interior Appropriations Bill. The U.S. House’s version included a dangerous funding prohibition to process the imports of elephant or lion trophies from Tanzania, Zambia, or Zimbabwe. These three countries, which have some of the best international hunting programs in place, are home to some of the world’s largest populations of lions and elephants. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate’s version did not include this language, but in conference the House and Senate will negotiate on the final version with a real possibility of including it.
Evidence time and again has shown that well-regulated international hunting is a successful and sustainable conservation strategy, and the U.S. and Europe have no place to dictate the management of a sovereign nation’s wildlife. Not only is international hunting beneficial to hunted species, non-hunted wildlife, and entire ecosystems, but it is also critical to local communities. These communities often depend on hunting for employment, game meat, and other community benefits. Their voices should matter most in any discussion of African conservation. SCI and SCIF had a successful rest of the week at AWCF and are looking forward to future forums working for sustainable conservation.
For more information on international hunting, please visit SCI’s International Hunting – Focus on Africa page.
The House Natural Resources Committee will also hold an International Conservation Forum on November 18th – stay tuned for further updates!