Conservation by the Gun: Trophy Hunting in Africa

Conservation by the Gun: Trophy Hunting in Africa
From Issue Sustainuary 2016: Planning For A Sustainable Future

Last year, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer killed a lion, affectionately called Cecil, in a game park in Zimbabwe. Palmer did not act illegally, but Cecil’s death brought widespread attention to trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa where big-game hunting is common.

The most hunted animals are known as the “Big Five,” and consist of buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos.  The majority of the hunters are wealthy Americans who participate in the hunting of these animals for sport; they are assisted by local guides. Trophy hunting is simple and rewarding, which makes it attractive to many wealthy individuals. Because exotic game animals are scarce in North Africa, hunters flock to South and East Africa, especially Zimbabwe. As a result, “60% of the rhino population in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was killed between 2003 and 2005. There are currently only 750 rhinos left in the entire country — compared to 2000 in the 1980s,” reports World Wildlife Fund. For the sustainability of the animal species populations in Africa, large organizations have begun to discourage trophy hunting. Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Emirates, and Air Canada have all banned the shipping of big-game trophies on their planes.

Trophy hunting brings tourism and economic life to areas in Africa. As a result, African governments in South and East Africa have pledged to combat the adverse effects of trophy hunting with roundabout, impractical approaches. They promote hunting because the money from hunting permits are supposedly redirected to the conservation effort and poor local communities. Even then, many Zimbabweans believe that most of the revenue is not redistributed, but embezzled by corrupt government officials. According to Edward Ngwenya, an unemployed villager, the poor have not received a single cent from the government. “Conservation by the gun,” as the redistribution of funds is called, has done little except propagate the problem.