Before You Criticize Trump’s Support for Wildlife Trophy Hunting in Africa

President Trump  has overturns an Obama-era ban on some trophies

In a memorandum published last week by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, President Trump  has overturns an Obama-era ban on some trophies. This means the United States has moved to allow hunters to import big-game trophies, including elephant tusks and lion hides, acquired in certain African countries with approvals granted on an individual basis.

In November, agency officials moved to lift the ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The new policy supersedes and broadens that decision, officials said.

New York Times reported that Traditionally, imports of trophies from certain endangered species on a nation-by-nation basis and that the US Endangered Species Act stipulates that in order for such trophies to be approved, exporting countries must prove that hunting enhances survival of a particular species in the wild — by reinvesting the money into conservation, for example, and by supporting local communities.

Due to a United States Court of Appeals decision against officials implementing the Obama-era bans without following regulatory procedures, including a failure to open up the decision to public comment, the Fish and Wildlife Service will change how it evaluates imports elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia and those of some other endangered species across Africa.

As reported, the agency will now consider imports lion, elephant and bontebok (a type of antelope) trophies from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia on case-by-case basis, as it already does with the majority of species hunted on the continent rather than evaluate these animals on a nation-by-nation basis.

Among conservationists, trophy hunting is morally wrong and a threat to endangered animals and should be ban. They are largely repulsed by the sanctioned shooting and butchering of innocent elephants, lions and other big game for fun or their body parts.

But According to Richard Parsons, chief executive of Safari Club International one of the hunting association which alongside the National Rifle Association long fought against the Obama-era ban, their groups thinks “it’s a positive step, as much as some people have a distaste for hunting, in southern Africa it actually works and is very positive for wildlife conservation.”

While the talks, the debates, the court decisions, lobbies, the bans and the ban-lifting is going on in another continent about wildlife in Africa, it is only rational to ask of the role governments in the countries where these animals are being hunted and the position of the people of these countries on the issue?

Ideal Conservation vs Pragmatic Conservation

African governments really do not care about wildlife conservation aside the dollars that can be made from game reserves. Like in other sectors, the role of the governments of most of these countries in wildlife conservation is shameful. Funding of Wildlife in African countries has been neglected by the governments of these countries and left at the mercy and generosity of trophy hunters mostly.

For example, Namibia’s communal conservancies which cover some 63,000 square miles and are often hailed for success in rebuilding and sustaining the country’s wildlife integrally really on hunting for survival; without it, the majority of conservancies would not be able to cover operational costs, researchers at the World Wildlife Fund reported last year in the journal Conservation Biology.

The Save Valley and Bubye Valley conservancies in Zimbabwe, which are primarily supported by hunting, are managed well enough that lion populations are growing. Even at that, the big dollars made by some governments including Zimbabwe from the industry are not reinvested in conversation, neither do the benefits from trophy hunting used to improve the lives of the people who live in and around the reserves.

The Maasai people in Tanzania’s Serengeti region have repeatedly reported eviction from their lands by a luxury hunting and safari company operating with a special “Presidential permit,” Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Centre at the University of Minnesota noted.

Stakeholders in the wildlife conservation and management in these countries have come out to emphasise the importance of trophy hunting to the survival of wildlife reserves in Africa especially with the absence of an alternative source of funds.

“Zimbabwe is on its knees because of economic downturn, yet the international community expects our poor country to look after elephants and lions when we can’t even feed our nation,” said Victor Muposhi, a zoologist at Chinhoyi University of Technology in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe told the New York Times.

“No one is coming to the table to say, ‘Yes, we want you to stop this hunting, but here is a budget and an alternative plan you can follow instead.’” He added.

Calls for blanket bans, Dr. Muposhi continued, overlook the benefits that well-managed hunting programs can bring and gloss over the complexities of the industry and of conservation itself.

Jan Stander, director of Phundundu Wildlife Park in Zimbabwe lamented that the Obama era ban has done more harm than good to wildlife conservation. He said the lifting of the trophy bans is “too little, too late.”

“Zimbabwe’s lost around half a million hectares of wildlife land since the trophy ban in 2014,” he told the New York Times. “It’s all gone over to cattle and agriculture.”

Mr. Stander and his colleagues who relies on fees paid by American hunters to run their anti-poaching units, maintain roads and support communities living around the reserve, following Obama’s trophy ban, had to drop his prices for lion hunts from $130,000 to $25,000.

Elephant hunts, which he once marketed for $80,000, “I couldn’t even give away,” he said.

In the year after the ban, Mr. Stander said he lost $500,000 and was forced to close the nearly 80,000-acre reserve for lack of business. Populations of elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard have since dwindled as poachers have moved in.

“I should have left three years ago, but this is an area that’s close to my heart,” he said.

Ecotourists, he added, will not save the day. They disappeared years ago, scared away by the country’s political turmoil.

“The only reason there’s still wildlife here in Zimbabwe today is because of hunting and the amount of money it brings in,” he said. “I’m on the conservation side, but I was using the hunters and trophy fees to keep the conservation going.”

“Commercially, we’re dead,” he added.

The truth of the situation is that most people in these countries have important basic needs like food, shelter and shelter to worry about, and bad governments have left poor communities and wildlife to struggle with each other for survival which has made these communities to turn against local wildlife for land and food.

On the other hand conservationists who criticizes trophy hunting seldom offer viable alternatives for the communities that rely on these funds to protect wildlife and the countries that issue trophy bans do not typically offer enough funds to make up for the shortfall when there is no more hunting income.

As explained by Brian Child, an ecologist at the University of Florida, the talk about morals and entitled white men killing innocent animals to hang obnoxiously on their walls has very little to do with pragmatic conservation.

“Like everything else in life, it’s all about the money — money to combat illegal wildlife trade, and money to prevent the much more serious problem of wildlife’s replacement by the cow or the plough.”

Since conservation costs money, and governments and conservationists are not putting in enough funds, trophy hunters are sure to win the day.


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