|Take photos, not trophies|
The tide is also turning against the Great White Hunter. Trophy hunting has been banned in Costa Rica, Kenya and Malawi and leopards may no longer be hunted in South Africa. True there are some forms of hunting which may still be necessary – for food, for protection against predators, getting rid of introduced pests and so forth, so I won’t quarrel with those for the moment, though it would be good to see more humane ways of dealing with such issues too – for example, birth control is being proposed for our wild horses (brumbies) rather than having to cull them in our highlands where large numbers may damage fragile lands. One should also consider that one reason why species are becoming ‘pests’ in some areas is because humans have encroached on more and more of their habitat.
However, as many species are in decline globally, there are strong ethical reasons to reconsider our relationship with wild animals and to desist from killing for fun and profit, as outlined in the next post by Melanie Flynn, especially as many of the economic and conservation arguments being put forward by hunters do not stack up.
The reliability of the data used to justify such activities is questionable. With rare exceptions, hunting safaris as conducted in much of Africa, do not necessarily produce the desired rewards for communities unless well managed to ensure that funds do go back to communities, towards genuine conservation and ensuring that quotas are adhered to. In Tanzania for example, 40% of hunting grounds were depleted of animals and legitimisation of ‘canned,’ hunting i.e. on game ranches and the like, and export of trophies in South Africa, have encouraged poaching of wild lions leaving only 200,000 in the entire continent. Trophy hunting is also believed to be behind the ‘silent decline’ of giraffes.
According to a 2019 article in the New York Times much of the money goes towards private operators or the pockets of corrupt governments, while local people are effectively marginalised. In the end tourism for wildlife viewing and photography brings in far more than trophy hunting does. This applies as much to domestic wildlife as it does to that in more remote locations.
As for trophy hunting being good for the species, as some hunters claim, the opposite is true. By taking the largest and best specimens out of the gene pool, the species becomes weaker and often less prolific. By way of example, animal welfare organisation Peta reports that the horn lengths of Canada’s bighorn sheep declined by 25% over the past 40 years due to hunting pressures, but the genetic impact on species most likely runs much deeper, especially under conditions of climate change.
While we should not dictate to other countries about what they should and should not do with their wildlife, we can discourage the import of trophies into our own countries and reject the glorification of killing on social media. I'm not sure how to do this. At least one Norwegian firm has terminated one of its executives after publicity over his involvement in a trophy hunt. Several other countries including the Netherlands, Australia and the UK are also seeking to introduce bans.