Annually, thousands of tourists flock to South Africa to experience our unique wildlife. But behind this booming industry is an ugly truth, many wildlife encounters support the mistreatment of iconic species, such as lions.
Tourism plays a vital role in job creation and contributed over R130-billion to the economy in 2017, about 2.9% of the total gross domestic product (GDP).
However, exploitative wildlife interactions such as cub petting, walking with lions and the associated volun-tourism sectors are all closely linked to the captive predator breeding, canned hunting and lion bone trade in South Africa. All of which has the potential to drastically damage South Africa’s reputation as a tourist destination.
A recent study has shown that nearly half of the captive lion facilities in South Africa are directly linked to tourism through offering one or more of these unethical activities, explained Fiona Miles, country director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, one of the largest national animal welfare organisations fighting for the protection of big cats.
Dragging down the South African name
“Although global trends in responsible tourism are showing that tourism is moving away from such exploitative captive wildlife interactions, many tour operators at home and abroad continue to promote these activities to their clients,” said Miles.
“Local and international visitors carry on supporting hands-on captive wildlife facilities either through a lack of awareness or purely to get that perfect wildlife selfie.”
In addition, the captive lion trade has the potential to tarnish South Africa’s reputation as a conservation leader.
A recent Legacy Report of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism in the Fifth Parliament on the effects of wildlife interaction found the safari niche market has been marred by the growth of animal interactions and canned hunting, which have “damaged the country’s brand as a champion of wildlife conservation”.
According to a report by the South African Institute of International Affairs on the economics of captive predator breeding in South Africa, our tourism brand value could potentially be negatively affected by as much as R54 billion loss in revenue over the next decade, if the captive lion breeding industry is allowed to thrive.
Take a stand
But there is a way to prevent further damage to our image as a tourism destination, believes Miles, and this starts with ending the demand for these devastating activities.
“Collectively, we need to stop supporting any type of cub petting, walking with predators or associated volunteering options, whether this involves lions, tigers, or cheetahs, as none of these activities support conservation of the species in the wild, as many facilities would like you to believe,” added Miles.
“It is also time for all of the establishments offering these activities to put a stop to it.”
This is why FOUR PAWS is challenging both the tourism industry and the public to commit to their Lion Longevity Oath: A commitment to end all support of activities and interaction with captivate lions and raise awareness of lion trade and canned lion hunting.
Six major tour operator companies have already signed the oath in against visiting establishments where lion cub and other animal interactions take place.
A FLORIDA TROPHY hunter has permission to import what is thought to be the first lion trophy from Tanzania since January 2016, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based nonprofit that advocates for endangered species.
In that year, two subspecies of African lions were listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, meaning that those lions can be killed for trophies only if it can be shown that the hunts would enhance the survival of the species in the wild.
In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that oversees trophy hunting imports to the United States, approved a hunter’s application to import the skin, skull, claws, and teeth of a lion killed in Lukwati North Game Reserve, a hunting concession leased from the government and run by Tanzanian safari operator McCallum Safaris. That’s according to records obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. (See more from FOIA: We asked the government why animal welfare records disappeared.)
The hunter, whose identity could not be confirmed by National Geographic, originally applied to import a lion trophy from Tanzania in November 2016. It’s unclear exactly when he killed the lion. Nor is it clear whether the trophy has been imported. The permit to do so, issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, expires in May 2020, a year after it was issued.
African lions have disappeared from 94 percent of their historic range, and populations have halved, to fewer than 25,000 since the early 1990s, according to the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Network. The main causes of the decline are retaliatory killings of lions that attack villagers and depletion of their prey animals. Tanzania is home to 40 percent of Africa’s lions.
Sanerib, who calls the country a “stronghold” for lions, worries that the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service could be a signal that the Trump administration will “open the floodgates” for future Tanzanian trophy imports for lions and other species, including elephants. The news of this approval of a lion import comes on the heels of a decision last week to allow a U.S. hunter to import a black rhino trophy killed last year in Namibia.
According to Laury Marshall Parramore, a spokeswoman with the Fish and Wildlife Service, “Legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”
Sanerib says she’s concerned about the lack of detail in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination that this hunt enhances lion conservation in Tanzania. She claims that the service didn’t do due diligence when approving the import permit. As part of her FOIA request, she says she obtained emails in which the service asked general questions of Tanzanian government officials, such as whether they were monitoring trophy hunting.
“Those are not the basic questions that I think that our government should be asking before we approve these types of practices. We should be way down in the weeds, getting all of the details to ensure that these programs are actually going to enhance the survival of species.”
“Organizationally, we’re opposed to trophy hunting—we don’t think we should be killing threatened and endangered species,” Sanerib says. “But if we are going to do it, if it is going to happen, Fish and Wildlife Service needs to follow the law, and they really need to ensure—and this is their own regulatory requirements—that this program has all the adequate safeguards to ensure that it’s going to be sustainable for the lion population.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a request for specific information about how this hunt benefits lions in Tanzania and for reaction to Sanerib’s concerns.
The lion decision is particularly troubling given Tanzania’s history of mismanaging trophy hunting, Sanerib says. In 2017, Hamisi Kigwangalla, Tanzania’s minister for natural resources and tourism, revoked hunting concession lease permits that previously had been issued to companies for a low set fee, citing a need for greater transparency about the process. The government then began auctioning off concession leases instead. But according to biologist Craig Packer, who had studied lions in Tanzania since the late 1970s, only undesirable concessions were put up for auction, a move he calls a “halfhearted” effort to reform.
Kigwangalla did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2015, Packer was barred from entering the country after he characterized the nation’s trophy hunting industry as corrupt. Trophy hunters are supposed to target only older male lions, thought to be less crucial to reproduction, but Packer says there was no accountability or oversight by Tanzania to ensure that this was happening. As trophy hunting declined in popularity, Packer says, concession operators charged hunters fees so low that they couldn’t possibly be providing enough revenue to maintain roads, hire rangers, and prevent illegal farming or grazing in the hunting reserves.
Whether this particular trophy import is good or bad depends on whether the hunt was shown to have a conservation benefit, Packer says. If the U.S. is rewarding responsible hunting operators, it will incentivize others to follow suit. “As long as the sport hunters are showing that they’re making a positive impact, good on them,” he says. “It would be great if the system is actually forcing some kind of reform.” But, he adds, the Fish and Wildlife Service “has no way of confirming whether Tanzania’s well-meaning policies are really being implemented.”
Representatives from the Tanzania Wildlife Authority, which implements the country’s Wildlife Conservation Act, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, an organization under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism that conducts wildlife research, and the Tanzania Tourist Board did not respond to requests for comment about how the country manages its trophy hunting.
John Jackson, a member of the International Wildlife Conservation Council, an advisory group to the Secretary of Interior, is the Florida hunter’s attorney. Jackson welcomes more frequent trophy imports from Tanzania and says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been “too slow” to issue these permits—a pace Jackson calls “inexcusable.” Since 2016, he says, many hunting operators have had to surrender their lands because of a lack of revenue, which leaves the animals in those lands unprotected. More frequent trophy hunts would allow concession operators to afford anti-poaching safety measures. “Hunting is the single most important mechanism to save lion,” he argues.
Jackson disagrees that Tanzania’s trophy hunting is mismanaged. As home to about 40 percent of Africa’s lions, he says, the country has “managed to save more lions than anybody else.”
“I wish there was another country equal to it,” he says. “It’s easy to criticize people, but it’s much more important to work with them and support them.”
Sanerib says Tanzania deserves credit for having a “phenomenal system” of protected areas but that its lion conservation success has been despite trophy hunting rather than because of it.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s findings for lions also could apply to elephants, Sanerib says. In 2014, the Obama administration effectively banned trophy imports of elephants from Tanzania because of a poaching crisis in the country and concerns about the management of its trophy hunting industry. Sanerib says this lion trophy import decision may indicate that the Trump administration plans to overturn that ban.
In 2017, the service reversed the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe. “So we have some history—some very recent history—to point to as evidence of them, I would say, leaping before they take a look,” Sanerib says. (After President Trump tweeted his dissatisfaction with the Zimbabwe decision, the service reversed course and decided to evaluate applications on a case-by-case basis. Since then, no elephant trophies are known to have been imported from Zimbabwe.)
Anna Frostic, the managing wildlife attorney for the Humane Society, says the decisions to issue lion and black rhino trophy import permits indicate that there are more to come. She says the Fish and Wildlife Service “is making these decisions behind closed doors and without the input of independent scientists and the public.”
“The issuance of this one lion trophy import from Tanzania will likely be replicated and applied to the more than 40 other applications for Tanzania lion trophies that are pending,” she says.
Even though Tanzania is a stronghold for lions, she says the fact that overall lion numbers are dwindling means this potential new pattern is “extremely concerning.”
“The decision to legitimize that type of activity,” Frostic says, “is not only unethical and scientifically unjustifiable but is unlawful” based on the decision’s merits and because of the service’s lack of transparency in its decision making.
THIS is the horrifying moment inspectors found two fatally ill lion cubs locked inside a metal crate on a farm – seconds before discovering the bodies of 20 others stuffed inside a freezer.
Officers dropped in on Pienika Farm in South Africa as part of a surprise inspection arranged after they found other animals in dire conditions just four months ago.
The cubs, who ranged in different ages, were found suffering from neurological conditions and had to be euthanised at the scene.
Their bodies were later taken away from the farm, which was slammed in April after inspectors found animals in filthy and parasitic conditions, for post mortem examinations.
The discoveries sparked a further search, leading to inspectors finding approximately 20 carcasses of lions and tigers in a chest freezer.
According to Eduardo Goncalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, the animals were being bred in captivity to be petted by tourists, bottle fed and then eventually shot for trophies.
The NSPCA removed five carcasses for post mortem examinations to determine the cause of death.
They stated that they will be laying further charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962, on the owners of the farm, who were initially charged in April.
Speaking to The Sun, Mr Goncalves, said: “Inspectors from the NSPCA previously found 27 tigers, lions, leopards and caracals in terrible condition at the same farm during an unannounced visit in April this year.
“They were kept in overcrowded conditions, had no water, were filthy and suffering from parasites. Two lion cubs were suffering from neurological conditions, likely to be the result of in-breeding.
“The farm is in Lichtenburg in South Africa’s North West Province. There are around 60 such facilities in South Africa breeding big cats for people to pet, bottle feed, and then shoot for a trophy.
“The bones are often sold off to dodgy dealers in Asia who make fake medicines out of them. This is the reality of big cat factory farming in South Africa.
“It’s simply obscene. The animals are kept in appalling conditions and their owners make a fortune out of their misery.”
Senior Inspector Douglas Wolhuter, manager of the NSPCA’s Wildlife Protection Unit, said: “With the release of The Lion King and the tribute to lions during World Lion Day, the rest of the world is celebrating these majestic creatures.
“Here in South Africa, where lions are indigenous and a massive part of our heritage, we are condemning thousands of lions to a life of captivity, where their basic needs are not being catered for, and we are subjecting what is globally known as the king of the animal kingdom to a pathetic life in a cage, waiting for death.”
In April, NSPCA investigators attended to a complaint at the same farm in Lichtenburg, where they found lions being kept in small, overcrowded enclosures and inadequate shelters with no provision of water.
The farm contained suffering lions, caracals, tigers, and leopards. In total, 27 of the lions had mange and the caracal were obese and unable to properly groom themselves.
An NSPCA spokesperson said: “The Inspectors were horrified to find two lion cubs that were unable to walk and appeared to be showing signs that they were suffering from a neurological condition.
“The NSPCA removed the two cubs for assessment and veterinary treatment by a veterinarian with a special interest in carnivores.”
The two cubs have since improved ‘with leaps and bounds’ and are now able to stand unaided.
The spokesperson added: “Two cubs that were unable to stand, and were paddling on the ground to try and move away from their own faecal matter, are [now] able to stand and even take steps.
A Canadian trophy-hunter, who was slammed for kissing his partner beside a lion they had just shot and killed in Africa, has now been disowned by his own daughter.
“Hard work in the hot Kalahari sun… well done. A monster lion,” Darren and Carolyn Carter of Edmonton, Alberta, had captioned their photo on Facebook, drawing flak from animal rights activists and social media users.
The couple from Edmonton, Alberta, was part of a tour organised by Legelela Safaris when they shot and killed the magnificent animal.
“The tour operator regularly shares snaps of dead animals alongside proud hunters, often grinning as they hold up their guns, on their Facebook page,” reports Daily Mail.
Other photos showing Darren and Carolyn Carter posing in front of another dead lion were captioned: “There is nothing like hunting the king of the jungle in the sands of the Kalahari. Well done to the happy huntress and the team…”
As the pictures went viral on social media, the Carters were called “murderers”, “disgusting” and “cowardly.”
Sick couple kiss to celebrate killing magnificent lion in horrifying picture https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/sick-couple-kiss-celebrate-killing-18210999 …
I am thoroughly disgusted and appalled at these people. This is all for sport and it is absolutely disgusting. This has to stop now!
Canadian couple kiss and pose for photo by dead lion they killed.
Not brave. Not cool. Cowardly to the extreme. What sad sad souls to kill such a majestic & beautiful animal.
The pictures along with the Facebook page of Legelela Safaris have since been deleted. On July 16, Darren’s daughter took to YouTube to express her disgust.
“That just make me sick,” she said. “Like, I refuse to call him my dad anymore. Who does that? I’ll never understand people like that, that take pride in shooting a beautiful animal like a lion. … [K]nowing you trophy hunt beautiful animals like lions who are slowly getting endangered is just, it’s too much. I’m someone who loves animals and I never want anyone to hurt them. To know that my own father does that, I don’t even consider you my dad anymore,” she said in a 10-minute long video.
The Carters, who run a taxidermy business, have described themselves as “passionate conservationists” despite their trophy-hunting expeditions, reports Daily Mirror. “We aren’t interested in commenting on that at all. It’s too political,” Darren was quoted as saying.
Eduardo Goncalves, the founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, believes the lions were captive and bred for the sole purpose of being killed by hunters.
“It looks as though this lion was a tame animal killed in an enclosure, bred for the sole purpose of being the subject of a smug selfie,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
“This couple should be utterly ashamed of themselves, not showing off and snogging for the cameras.”
Trophy-hunting businesses targeting big-game hunters in Britain have been banned from a shooting show after public objections. The NEC in Birmingham said that it would no longer be welcoming safari operators selling hunting trips for sport at the Great British Shooting Show in February.
Campaigners had gathered 30,000 signatures demanding that the venue revoke admission for ten safari operators that wanted to market their tours to shoot lions, elephants and other big game in Africa. The announcement by the NEC yesterday came after organisers had earlier defended the safari operators’ appearance at the show as “controversial”.
The venue, which also hosts Crufts, said in a tweet yesterday that it had listened to its customers’ concerns “and have acted”.
“Taking these concerns and the safety of staff and visitors into consideration, we will be removing exhibitors that practise safari hunting from the show,” it said.
Among the exhibitors that had bought stands at the show were Umlilo Safaris, from South Africa, which offers packages including lion trophy hunts “in fenced areas” — a practice known as canned hunting because there is no way the trapped animals can avoid their fate. Another operator, Legelela Safaris, offers giraffe hunts for £2,400 and baboons for £160.
The safari firms had been expected to capitalise on an increase in interest from British big-game hunters, documented in a report by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting. The report, based on data from Cites, the global wildlife trade regulator, tracks a sharp rise in souvenir animal trophies imported into Britain in recent years.
Last night the veteran explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes welcomed the NEC’s decision as “a small but positive first step”.
“The idea that animals may be killed, not in self-defence or for food but purely for entertainment, must surely be challenged,” he told The Times. Last week Sir Ranulph appeared at a reception in parliament calling for a ban on the import of trophies from endangered animals to Britain.
From 2004 to 2014 about 2,500 such trophies were brought home by British hunters. The UK is among the top 12 nations taking part in such hunting trips, along with the United States, Russia and Germany, according to Cites data.
Many of the lions being imported into Britain come from hunting farms in South Africa, which Sir Ranulph described as a “hideous trade”. The country has 3,000 lions in the wild, compared with up to 8,000 born in captivity for commercial purposes. Canned hunting is legal in South Africa. Supporters argue that it helps conservation efforts by giving greater value to preserving animals in the wild, as well as bringing revenue to rural areas.
Scientists consider captive-bred lions to have little to no conservation value.
The couple in question is Darren and Carolyn Carter, hailing from Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. They were pictured on a trip to South Africa where they signed on with Legelela Safaris, a firm offering trophy hunts for tourists. According to a report by the Daily Mail, they charge just over $3,000 for these massive undertakings.
The company often shares photos of happy customers posing with their quarry. Something about the Carters’ photo did not sit well with viewers, however, and it soon went viral on other platforms as well.
Daily Mail US
Canadian couple happily kiss for photo as they kneel behind magnificent lion they have just killed on a hunt https://trib.al/4qOxfP9
Canadian couple pose for kissing photo in front of dead lion
Darren and Carolyn Carter, from Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada, were taking part in a tour organised by Legelela Safaris when they shot and killed the magnificent creature in South Africa.
That’s it lady, an arrow for each monster…
“Hard work in the hot Kalahari sun… well done. A monster lion,” read the Legelela Safari caption on the post. “There is nothing like hunting the king of the jungle in the sands of the Kalahari. Well done to the happy huntress and the team.”
As the photos from the hunt circulated on social media, animal lovers and conservationists reacted with horror. Many denounced the entire practice of big game hunting and trophy hunting, as well as the Carters themselves. In particular, their kiss over the lion’s remains seemed to strike a sour chord with many viewers.
“A shocking photo of this cruel and smug couple alongside this beautiful lion,” one person tweeted. “The sooner game hunting is banned the better. I went on safari to South Africa this year and saw lions – they are magnificent animals.”
A Mirror front page I wholeheartedly agree with! Trophy hunting is sick. Photos like this of people posing with corpses of magnificent animals they’ve just shot are barbaric & cruel. Will never understand it.
“Kiss of death from disgraceful couple who have money but don’t know how to use it,” addedanother. “This is expected from rich with no heart and no sense! Tell them to go and learn from Bill Gates and his wife how to spend money on preserving life and destroying it!!”
The Carters’ photo was so resonant it even sparked a renewed call to end trophy hunting altogether, even outside of the usual conservationist circles. The Mirrorpublished editorials on why the practice should be stopped, with the Carters’ photo on the front page.
The Carters reportedly run a taxidermy business when they are not on vacation, though they describe themselves as “passionate conservationists.” Darren Carter told reporters that they “aren’t interested in commenting on that at all. It’s too political.”
MANILA (UPDATED) — Photos of former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson with a lion he shot dead during a hunting expedition in South Africa are drawing flak online.
The photos, which were initially published in June on the website of the Philippine Times of Southern Nevada, show Singson posing beside a male lion and an antelope that he shot at the Kalahari Desert as he celebrated his birthday.
According to the report, Singson went to the Kalahari Desert, which extends 900,000 square kilometers and covers much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa, to hunt wild animals.
Singson, like all other hunters, waited for about a year to get his shooting license, it said.
“His hunting rifle took down a male lion and an antelope, highly valued targets. Needless to say, he couldn’t be happier. His feats were celebrated in his birthday bash in Spear Safari, also in the savannah. An image of his prized catch is printed onto his cake, making the celebration go down in history as one of the most memorable,” the report said.
On micro-blogging site Twitter, some netizens reacted negatively to the photos.
— Meil Aguana (@iamsoMeily) November 21, 2013
Shame on you Chavit Singson! Animal cruelty! https://t.co/rxj6eCQpkO
— JEC(???) (@jec_in_tokyo) November 21, 2013
Meanwhile, an online petition at Change.org is asking Singson and his family to stop hunting wild ducks.
The petition, which has so far garnered over 600 signatures, started after photos of Singson and his daughter, Richelle, hunting wild ducks in Ilocos Sur went viral online early this month.
The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines said the Singsons have “shown a blatant disregard for our country’s wildlife laws and the welfare of our wildlife by advocating the hunting of protected species and posting photos of their father-daughter hunting spree on Facebook and Instagram.”
“We ask former Gov. Chavit Singson and his daughter Richelle Singson to stop promoting, advocating, and practicing hunting of Philippine wildlife. We hope they will instead promote the protection and conservation of wildlife and their habitat,” the group said.
ABS-CBN News Channel tried to contact the former governor to get his reaction but he has not been answering the calls.
The conservation group Conservation Force is funded by hunting interests and has gained access to CITES meetings, sat on key IUCN committees, and influenced a number of major decisions affecting threatened wildlife.
Lawyers acting for Conservation Force have successfully challenged a ban on elephant trophy imports from southern African countries, and helped defeat an international proposal against lion hunting.
The group is currently opposing moves to protect endangered giraffes. It has previously lobbied for polar bear trophies to be allowed, and defends the continued hunting of leopards and a rare species of zebra.
In the wake of the killing of Cecil the lion, Conservation Force sued Delta Airways for refusing to carry hunting trophies. It also sued the state of New Jersey for refusing to allow hunting trophies to come in through its ports.
Conservation Force is led by John Jackson, a former President of Safari Club International – the world’s biggest hunting lobby group – who has himself been on dozens of ‘big game’ hunts.
The Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting has unearthed interviews in which Jackson says killing elephants is “the most intimate, real relationship one can have with elephant. Nothing else in life is more satisfying than an elephant hunt”.
Jackson has also described shooting lions: “I can plainly see the African lion that has leaped into the air the moment its head snaps backward and explodes with smoke from my bullet.”
Eduardo Gonçalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, said: “Hunting lobbyists are presenting themselves as conservationists. It is part of a concerted effort by the industry to peddle the lie that shooting animals for ‘sport’ is ‘conservation’.
“Conservation Force lobbies and litigates to block, strip and reduce protections for animals that hunters like to shoot. It has filed over a dozen legal challenges to conservation laws, and is demanding that the status of vulnerable wildlife be downgraded to make it easier for hunters to kill them and bring the trophies home.
“It wants to deregulate conservation and liberalise laws that protect wildlife. It wants the number of animals that can be hunted, and the places they can be hunted, to increase. To do this it promotes the supposed ‘conservation benefits’ of trophy hunting of lions, leopards, zebras, and rhinos.
“Conservation Force’s board includes leading trophy hunters. Their sponsors are firms connected with the trophy hunting industry. Their donors include hunting groups whose interests Conservation Force has promoted at CITES meetings.
“The group’s leader, John Jackson, has been on dozens of big game hunts, shot multiple elephants, and has a personal trophy room filled with stuffed zebras, giraffes, bears, and cougars.”
Gonçalves continued: “He has travelled the world giving talks to pro-hunting audiences on how to build ‘public acceptance’ for ‘sustainable use of wildlife’.
“Conservation Force’s agenda has nothing to do with conservation. In the era of supposed ‘fake news’, Conservation Force is the ultimate Orwellian misnomer. It’s mission is to defend hunters’ so-called “rights”.
“Institutions and individuals who have succumbed to its charms need to wake up. There are serious questions to be answered by CITES and IUCN about how trophy hunting interests have been allowed to work their way into the heart of decision-making processes affecting vulnerable wildlife. Organisations like Conservation Force should be barred, not feted.
“We’re facing a global extinction emergency with up to a million species under threat. They include some of the hunting world’s favourite targets. Thanks to the industry’s lobbying efforts – and the naivety of officials at CITES and IUCN – a cruel colonial pastime has successfully persisted to the present day and is compounding the crisis facing endangered animals.
“If trophy hunters really are interested in conservation, they should forfeit the huge amounts of money they pay to go on luxury hunting Safaris to kill animals for entertainment and instead donate that money directly to genuine conservation work”.
The Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting has published figures showing that CITES has permitted international trade in trophies of tigers, black rhinos and animals that have gone extinct in the wild such as the scimitar-horned oryx and the Arabian oryx, which was wiped out by hunters in 1972. British trophy hunters are among those who have shot these endangered animals for trophies.
It is prohibited under CITES to trade ‘Appendix I’ listed species unless there are exceptional circumstances. However these restrictions do not apply to trophy hunters as trophy hunting is considered by CITES to be a non-commercial ‘sport’ and is therefore exempted.
There has been a surge in popularity in trophy hunting of some critically endangered species. Records of black rhino hunting trophies show 11 were taken in the 1980s, two in the 1990s, 26 in the 2000s, and 81 from 2010 to 2017.
Black rhino trophies included feet, bodies, skins and genitalia, as well as horns. British trophy hunters were among those to have hunted black rhino.
Despite tigers’ status as one of the most endangered mammals on earth, CITES records show tiger trophies being traded with CITES’ permission as recently as 2016. At least two of the tigers shot for sport had been bred in captivity in South Africa.
The IUCN responded in a statement: “Trophy hunting is badly run in some sites by some unscrupulous individuals and has caused problems, and this poor practice requires urgent action and reform, but trying to ‘demonise’ hunting diverts much needed attention from real conservation problems.”
“Conservation Force has not ‘worked its way into the heart of decision-making processes’ in IUCN. Conservation Force is one of more than 1,000 IUCN members and does not have disproportionately any more influence than other organisations – a number of prominent animal welfare organisations are also members of IUCN.”
A spokesperson for Conservation Force provided the following statement: “Most of this article is a shotgun attack against Conservation Force. Of course, the force is a conservation organisation. It is a registered public charitable foundation with published wildlife, habitat and associated rural community missions and purposes.
“The second negative insinuation is that Conservation Force is somehow not up front about it’s connection with hunting. To the contrary, we are proud hunters and broadcast the fact. Regulated hunting is the force for conservation underlying the name Conservation Force.”
This article is based on a press release from the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.
For decades, the public has been fed the myth that trophy hunting is absolutely necessary for sustainable conservation in Africa. Some sections of the academy, as well as the hunting lobby, continue to argue that banning trophy hunting will have a negative effect on wildlife biodiversity.
Their rationale is that trophy hunting contributes a significant amount of revenue, which African countries rely on for funding wildlife conservation. In essence the argument is: a few animals are sacrificed through regulated quotas for the greater good of the species. This opens the door for Western tourists to shoot charismatic mega-fauna and make a virtue of it.
In reality, trophy hunting revenues make up a very small percentage of total tourism revenues in Africa. For most African countries with an active trophy hunting industry, among them South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia, the industry generates only between 0.3% and 5% of total tourism revenues. Clearly, trophy hunting’s economic importance is often overstated.
It’s also claimed by proponents that local communities benefit significantly from trophy hunting. The evidence suggests otherwise. A 2013 analysis of literature on the economics of trophy hunting done by Economists at Large, a network of economists who contribute their expertise to economic questions that are of public interest, showed that communities in the areas where hunting occurs derive little benefit from this revenue. On average communities receive only about 3% of the gross revenue from trophy hunting.
Another line of argument is that non-consumptive forms of wildlife tourism are not lucrative enough to sustain conservation efforts. The hunting lobby has therefore built a narrative where hunting is the only viable means of financing sustainable conservation in Africa.
I recently completed a book chapter in which I explore these and other claims made by the hunters, focusing in particular on how they choose their words to rationalize and sanitize their pastime.
Trophy hunters often claim that they kill animals because they love animals. They rationalize their choice, for instance, by arguing that trophy hunting allows broader animal populations to be conserved.
As I argued in my chapter, the paradox of killing an animal you allegedly “love” cannot be resolved in the sphere of ethics.
In the chapter I explore the words that are used by hunters as euphemisms to describe trophy hunting, while avoiding the word “killing”. Examples include words like “harvesting” and “taking” that serve to sanitize killing. This “euphemization” is exemplified by Walter Palmer, who shot the beloved Zimbabwean lion, Cecil, in the infamous “Cecilgate” incident. Palmer issued a statement in response to the outcry, stating:
To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite…
This choice of words isn’t accidental. The effect is that we lose sight of what’s actually being done to lions, rhinos, elephants, and other precious species.
The proponents of trophy hunting claim that there are no viable alternatives for Africa. They suggest that non-consumptive forms of wildlife tourism such as photo-safaris, where tourists view and photograph animals, do not generate sufficient benefits to justify keeping the wildlife habitat. If we stop trophy hunting, they say, wildlife will lose its economic value for local communities. Wildlife habitat will be lost to other land uses.
The truth is that well managed, non-consumptive wildlife tourism is sufficient for funding and managing conservation. Botswana, for example, which in 2014 banned all commercial hunting in favor of photo-tourism, continues to thrive. In a 2017 study, residents of Mababe village in Botswana noted that, compared to hunting, which is seasonal, photographic camps were more beneficial to the community because people are employed all year round.
Trophy hunting is not the solution to Africa’s wildlife conservation challenges. Proper governance, characterized by accountability, rigorous, evidence-based policies and actions, and driven by a genuine appreciation of the intrinsic – not just economic – value of Africa’s majestic fauna, is.