UK’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill – Ill-Informed And Misguided

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Last week I wrote about the UK’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill before the House of Lords as opposed by rural communities in wildlife areas. This week, I would like to note that the Bill appears to have been informed by emotions of Animal Rights Groups, fake news, and unethical research such as that by Adam Cruise’s Report on the trophy hunting of elephants  and CBNRM in Botswana.

There is equally a misconception in the western countries that trophy hunting in Botswana is destructive and uncontrolled. These misconceptions contribute to the misinformation recognised in this UK Bill. However, I would like to correct the misconception and state that hunting in Botswana is controlled and undertaken guided by the following scientifically tested approaches:

  • Hunting Quota – the Department of wildlife and National Parks decides on the annual hunting for each concession area in the country. This quota is decided based on existing ariel surveys of healthy species. In addition, Botswana observes requirements provided by CITES especially on elephant hunts e.g. Botswana is allowed to hunt 400 elephants annually by CITES. The 400-elephant figure is an insignificant and has not been proven to contribute to elephant decline nor does is indicate that elephant species in Botswana are in danger. Apparently, the opposite is happening in that Botswana has been able to sustainably use and manage its wildlife populations.

Selective hunting – hunting in Botswana is selective. That is, it targets those with healthy populations such as elephants and buffaloes. Species with lower numbers such as rhino and lions are not hunting. In addition, hunting targets old males which are no longer productive. Breeding females and young animals are not hunting;

  • Buffer and Marginal Areas – Trophy hunting in Botswana is carried out in marginal areas which are otherwise not profitable for photographic tourism. These marginal areas are peripheral and do not attract photo tourists. They also act as buffer zones between human settlements and wildlife areas;

Botswana acknowledges that trophy hunting is a land use option that supports conservation and complements photographic tourism to achieve sustainable use of wildlife resources in Botswana. The UK Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill fails to appreciate this contribution. The Bill should learn experience from three case studies on what happens to wildlife conservation when a trophy hunting Ban is effected in an areas. These experiences include the following:

a.Trophy Hunting Ban in Kenya – Kenya banned hunting in 1977. Between 1977 and 1996, Kenya experienced a 40% decline in wildlife populations, both within and outside of its national parks (Scott, 2013). Kenya’s wildlife numbers have continued to fall with wildlife numbers today being less than half of that which existed before the ban (Scott, 2013). Therefore, a ban on safari hunting does not halt decline in wildlife populations, instead it can escalate it.

b.Trophy Hunting Ban in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia – In the Luangwa Valley, to halt the drastic loss of elephants and rhinos to poaching in and around protected areas brought in community benefits from wildlife which included: i) Trophy hunting, ii) meat from hippo quotas to the community, and, ii) employment as community scouts. The results of community benefits from wildlife resources through their community project were a tenfold reduction in rhino and elephant poaching and improved attitudes to conservation. Chiefs in the area instructed their people to report any suspicious people in the area (Lewis et al (1990).  A few years later, Government banned trophy hunting in this area. The result was that the whole community project collapsed because of this ban on trophy hunting. The consequences were that rhino and elephant population were extirpated in the Luangwa valley.

c.Increased wildlife poaching in Botswana (2014-2019) – The hunting ban or suspension in Botswana between 2014 and 2019 resulted in increased poaching and human wildlife conflicts. For example, in 2014, there were 2,500 cases reported, by 2018, such cases had increased to 7500 and to 11,938 cases by 2022. The hunting ban resulted in the increase of incidents of crop damage by wildlife, livestock predation, reduced benefits from wildlife by communities, increased negative attitudes by rural communities towards wildlife conservation. It also led to increased poaching and indiscriminate wildlife killings (e.g. through wildlife poisoning). For example, 4000 wild animals were being harvested illegally and that 620,000 kg of bush meat was harvested annually in Ngamiland (Rogan et al. 2017). This was not good for the conservation of wildlife resources and tourism development.

Trophy hunting is thus a management/conservation tool when applied appropriately with the knowledge of wildlife populations. The UK Bill is thus ill-advised and dangerous to wildlife conservation and livelihoods in Botswana hence the House of Lords should consider rejecting it.

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