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|Posted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:53 am Post subject: Big game trophy hunters 'help to save rare species'
Big game trophy hunters 'help to save rare species'
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter
Benefits outweigh the cost in animals
Sportsmen pay thousands for kills
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The slaughter of thousands of animals in Africa by big game hunters is supported by conservationists who maintain that the sport protects wildlife.
Lions, leopards, elephants and crocodiles are among the trophy species being shot by hunters from Europe and the US. Even the critically endangered black rhino finds itself in the crosshairs.
However, a study concludes, the overall toll on big game is more than matched by the benefits.
Hunters are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for the chance to shoot trophy species. The money they bring in to the 23 African nations that permit trophy hunting provides jobs and encourages people to preserve the landscape rather than turn it into farmland. According to a report in New Scientist, a proportion of the money reaches conservation organisations, who use it to promote wildlife and protect the natural habitat.
The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, concludes that where game areas are well managed, the death toll from hunters is outweighed by increases in animal populations made possible by conservation initiatives.
Hunting money was directly responsible for the recovery of at least three rare species in South Africa — the bontebok, Damaliscus dorcas, black wildebeest, Connochaetes gnu, and Cape mountain zebra, Equus zebra — and assisted the recovery of southern white rhino numbers.
“Trophy hunting can also play an important role in the rehabilitation of wildlife areas by permitting income generation from wildlife without jeopardising population growth of trophy species,” the study adds.
“Financial incentives from trophy hunting effectively more than double the land area that is used for wildlife conservation.”
The money generated by trophy hunting is seen as particularly important in areas that are unable to attract tourists. Simultaneously, the presence of trophy hunters encourages local people to put in place anti-poaching measures.
The study, by a team of scientists from Orleans University, France, and the University of Zimbabwe, Harare, estimates that at least 540,000 square miles of land in Africa are protected because of hunting, more than double the area of national parks in sub-Saharan Africa. They calculate that trophy hunting is worth more than £100 million to Africa.
There are, however, a range of problems to overcome, the researchers say: in some parts of Africa the hunting is inadequately managed, while in Asia its overall effect remains detrimental to conservation.
Mark Wright, of WWF, said that while the wildlife organisation regarded hunting as “an 0option of last resort”, it could have a positive effect on wildlife.
In particular, he said, in many areas where there was no eco-tourism, it provided a source of income far less damaging than the alternative of illegal and uncontrolled poaching.
Rather than take the “high moral ground”, he said, conservationists needed to be practical and accept that hunting could be the lesser of two evils.
Nethertheless, some conservation groups remain opposed to big game hunting and point to Kenya, which has banned hunting yet attracts £500 millionof eco-tourism a year.
Will Travers, of the Born Free Foundation, said: “I’m totally opposed. For me an animal is a treasure alive and a carcass dead.
“I think hunting and killing an animal for so-called sport, for fun, is a tragedy of the human psyche and something we should have grown out of.”
Legal trophy hunting in 23 sub-Saharan African nations is worth £100 million annually
Each year 18,500 trophy hunters visit Africa to shoot game
540,000 square miles are devoted to trophy hunting
Elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, zebra, rhinos impala, warthog, bongo, giraffe, wildebeest, crocoldiles, springbok, kob and mountain nyala are all considered fair game by trophy hunters
South Africa has the biggest trophy business, with 8,530 hunters a year yielding £50 million in revenue
Trophy hunting was banned in Kenya in 1977. The nation now earns £420 million a year from eco tourism
Quaggas, a type of zebra, were hunted to extinction in the 19th century. The blue buck, an antelope, became extinct in the 18th century