Informing The Debate on Trophy Hunting

Stephen Wiggins Article 5 Comments

On the 30 June 2020, Dr Dilys Roe, Chair – IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) [and Board Member of advocacy group, Resource Africa UK] and Dr Amy Dickman, Director – Ruaha Carnivore Project, University of Oxford, presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Shooting and Conservation, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP (‘Benefit in Kind’ listing the British Association for Shooting and Conservation duly noted).

The “Informing The Debate on Trophy Hunting” consists of 30 slides, which supplied the APPG with ammunition relevant to the November 2019/February 2020 “Consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies” (where the results are awaited….[Update] Results link).

There are a number of concerns raised by the presentation to this APPG, with the assertion that those with an opinion opposed to trophy hunting “Often comes down to (ill-informed) moral argument” (slide 27). The implication being that despite “The UK public hates trophy hunting & wants a ban” (slide 2), this is an ill-informed position in the presenters’ opinion. Such derision of public opinion (and dismissing an abhorrence of trophy hunting as “ill-informed“) has consequences when one relies on public support, as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has now discovered.

In my opinion (so not libel, or defamation of anyone), the presentation by Roe and Dickman is demeaning of the public, seeks to close off debate, is beneath the office of the presenters, lacks a credible claim to impartiality by not giving credence to all sides of the debate, discounting science that does not fit the presenters’ narrative.

It should be noted that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does not have a clear policy with regards to trophy hunting:

…as an organisation IUCN has not adopted a policy in favour of or against trophy hunting” (attributed to Acting Director General of IUCN, Grethel Aguilar, January 2020)



In October 2019 it came to light that, a 2017 legal opinion of the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) Ethics Specialist Group (ESG) stated:

Trophy hunting is not consistent with “sustainable use”. And even if it were, “sustainable use” is not the sole criterion for the decision on eligibility of organizations seeking IUCN membership. The critical question is whether trophy hunting as it is practiced by individuals and promoted by certain hunting organizations may be consistent with IUCN’s general objectives as expressed in Articles 2 and 7. This is clearly not the case. Any other view would threaten IUCN’s credibility for providing moral and ethical leadership in conservation policies. It would certainly undermine the many efforts of IUCN members to promote a just and sustainable world” – “Compatibility of Trophy Hunting as a Form of Sustainable Use with IUCN’s Objectives,” IWB, 2 October 2019

So, the IUCN is divided on policy with regards to trophy hunting, but the SULi (a part of the IUCN) supports hunting where it is sustainable (ref. “Informing decisions on trophy hunting,” IUCN 2016 – though this pro-trophy hunting document’s content is debateable) – the question is, how is that ‘success’ categorically proven and regardless, such support contradicts the WCEL’s legal opinion – that support for trophy hunting undermines the IUCN’s credibility to promote a just and sustainable world.

However, I do agree with the presenters’ slide 4, the reality of trophy hunting is complex, so let’s take a look at a few of the slides.

Slide 6, “What is trophy hunting?

Slide 6 suggests that the IUCN (as a whole) has a preference, stating “conservation hunting [trophy hunting] – reflects important IUCN principles” [and public statements (May 2019) made by Roe et al. that “In fact, the IUCN has a clear policy of supporting sustainable use of wildlife, including hunting“], but that is not the IUCN’s stated overall position (see above)  – which is far more ambivalent at present it would seem. The “principles” referenced are the IUCN SULi’s, not the IUCN’s as a whole – the distinction is important and any presentation of a clear IUCN policy on trophy hunting is disingenuous. The Born Free Foundation are IUCN members and they clearly do not have a preference for trophy hunting, which is not reflected in Slide 6’s projection of a solid IUCN stance on the issue.

In addition, the IUCN SULi supports (for example) the farming and slaughter for skins and other derivatives of saltwater crocodiles under claims of conservation, creating more crocodiles to be skinned. But the IUCN SULi (slide 6) is happy to confirm it is against canned/captive breeding of lions – both models fit the same sustainable utilisation ideology, captive breeding for commercial purposes (trophy hunting and the lion bone trade), but one has generated more moral and ethical backlash perhaps against its lack of conservation credentials, hence canned/captive lion breeding is declared bad by the IUCN and the SULi, but the practice continues regardless of IUCN Motion 009:

Terminating the hunting of captive-bred lions (Panthera leo) and other predators and captive breeding for commercial, non-conservation purposes” – “NOTING that the great majority of hunters regard ‘canned shooting’ as an ethically repugnant embarrassment” – IUCN’s Motion 009 (WCC 2016 Res 13)

So where does the boundary of “sustainable utilisation” ideology versus moral/ethical acceptance lie within the IUCN’s and/or the SULi’s code – and what happens when “sustainable utilisation” inevitably morphs into industrial scale exploitation (crowding out any redeeming principles)?

Slide 8, “Is trophy hunting driving species to extinction?

This slide seems to be missing some information for the “ill-informed” (sic) – but setting a target of ‘not actually driving a species to extinction’ seems like a pretty low aspiration:

IUCN Red List, Lion (Panthera leo)  – “Threats” Trophy hunting cited as having “… times contributed to population declines in Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe (Packer et al. 2009, 2011, 2013), Cameroon (Croes et al. 2011) and Zambia (Rosenblatt et al. 2014).  Panthera leo is only listed as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List. Is the reluctance to uplist the African lion to CITES Appendix I (or IUCN Red List as “Endangered” or above) because the African lion is such a popular income generator as a hunting trophy?

The continent wide population of Panthera leo is perhaps 23,000, but a lack of genetic resilience makes the population susceptible to stochastic events and trophy ‘harvesting’ attrition:

These authors [Manuel et al. 2020] caution that “although conservation efforts are contributing to increasing population size after centuries of decline, their remarkable lack of genomic diversity suggests that they could be extremely susceptible to inbreeding depression and genetic erosion, as well as future pathogen outbreaks” – “Genetic Diversity and Relationships of Living and Extinct Lions,“ JD Supra, 5 June 2020

Evolutionary ecologist Robert Knell has cautioned that:

“Trophy” animals tend to be the most evolutionarily fit and possess the high-quality genes a population of animals need to adapt quickly to a changing environment, says evolutionary ecologist and lead author Robert Knell. “They also father a high proportion of the offspring. But if they’re killed before they can spread their ‘good genes’ around, this reduces the overall fitness and resilience of that population”…………”Our results here contrast notably with these effects of ‘normal’ predation and reinforce the point that the sorts of selectivity associated with human predation can lead to uniquely severe impacts on harvested populations” where a trophy harvesting rate of just 5% of under age male lions can have a devastating impact of the survival chances on lion populations (Knell et al. 2017 ).

IUCN Red List, African leopard (Panthera pardus) ‘Vulnerbale’ – “Threats” “Leopards are also targets for trophy hunting. If poorly managed, trophy hunting can be detrimental to the population, especially when permits are focused in one geographic area and targeted individuals are in their prime, territorial, reproductively active (Balme et al. 2010). Leopard trophy hunting has been reviewed or closed in Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia within the last five years” and “Where livestock and game farms have been created, Leopards may feed on these commercially valuable prey causing conflicts with farmers. These farmers may be intolerant to Leopard conflict and kill the Leopards for real or perceived threats to their lives and livelihoods (Stein et al. 2010, Athreya et al. 2011). Recent reports from northern Iraq suggest unsustainable levels of Leopard removal (Raza et al. 2012b).” Also see comments under slide 22.

IUCN Red List, African elephant (Loxodonta africana) – ‘Vulnerable’ – “Threats” “…is the reported increase in human-elephant conflict, which further aggravates the threat to elephant populations.” It is debateable if elephant trophy hunting reduces human-wildlife conflict, or exacerbates it  – see comments under slide 26 below.

There is clear scientific evidence (Chiyo et al. 2015, Coulson et al. 2018) that elephant trophy hunting targeting elephants with larger tusks, (prized by trophy hunters and hunting association award schemes) has led to a decline of tusk size in African elephants as the elephant gene pool becomes depleted.

IUCN Red List, White rhino (Ceratotherium simum) ‘Near Threatened – “Threats” “The main threat to the population is illegal hunting (poaching) to supply the illegal international rhino horn trade. It is estimated that currently around 95% of rhino horn sourced in Africa for end user illegal markets in SE Asia are from this source (Emslie et al. 2019).” See comments under slide 9 and how rhino trophy hunting is being abused (pseudo hunting) to obtain rhino horn.

IUCN Red List, Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) – ‘Critically Endangered – “Threats” “The main threat to the species is illegal hunting (poaching) to supply the illegal international rhino horn trade” – see comments under slide 9 and how black rhino trophy hunting quotas potentially undermine alternative conservation efforts, slide 23 “The World Bank – Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB)” section.

IUCN Red List, Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) ‘Vulnerable’ – “Threats” “…illegal hunting (poaching)…illegal hunting for meat and hide..”

At the national level, poaching for bushmeat is identified as one of the factors contributing to the recent decline of giraffe populations” – Giraffa camelopardalis [Giraffe] to Appendix II of the Convention

Giraffe have also become targeted for ‘sustainable utilisation,’ via trophy hunting with the giraffe’s skin turned into furniture coverings (with demand mainly stemming from the USA):

Wild-sourced giraffe specimens accounted for 99.7% of specimens imported to the USA from 2006-2015 (39,397 of 39,516), about 95% of individual giraffes imported to the USA from 2006 to 2015 were for hunting trophy purposes. The top exporter of giraffe specimens for hunting trophy purposes was South Africa (3,065 or 60.8%). The top country exporting wild giraffes and their parts to the USA was South Africa (31,245 specimens representing at least 2,207 giraffes) – Giraffa camelopardalis [Giraffe] to Appendix II of the Convention

At the 2019, CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP18), Proposal 5 was accepted at Committee, 22 August 2019. This proposal uplisted “Giraffa camelopardalis [Giraffe] to Appendix II of the Convention,” thus enhancing (in theory) the species’ protection from unregulated exploitation.

Note: November 2019, South Africa, Eswatini, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, DRC and Zambia filed “Reservations with reference to the amendments to Appendices I and II of the Convention and related communications” to self-exempt themselves from the up-listing of the giraffe to Appendix II

But many pro-trade advocates argue that the administrative burden of compliance will be a drain on vital conservation funds and the giraffe as an overall species population across Africa is not threatened by the attrition. However, the IUCN Red List classes the giraffe as “Vulnerable,” with the species’ population in decline at some 68,000 remaining globally, with the four main threats being habitat loss, civil unrest, poaching and ecological changes. Legal demand for giraffe skins via trophy hunting (and/or pseudo hunting) legitimises demand and therefore, potentially encourages poachers also seeking to profit.

IUCN Red List, African buffalo/Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) ‘ Near Threatened’ –Population trend” decreasing to between 398,000 and 401,000, but is still subject to trophy hunting attrition (some 17,000 trophies exported to the US alone, 2005 – 2014), with the ‘harvesting’ of the best animals leading to a genetic decline in the species (Wilfred 2013, Muposhi et al. 2016Jake et al. 2019):

The selective nature of trophy hunting may cause changes in desirable phenotypic traits in harvested species. A decline in trophy size of preferred species may reduce hunting destination competitiveness thus compromising the sustainability of trophy hunting as a conservation tool….Trophy sizes for Cape buffalo and African elephant were below the SCI minimum score” – Muposhi et al. 2016

All of this science suggests that there are fewer Cape buffalo in the general population that meet the criteria, the implication being that trophy hunting has selectively harvested away the population’s historic traits, the issue with the desire for the ‘best trophy’ (sic) – the flaw being that older males may have worn down horns and, thus, smaller trophies for hunters. This encourages hunters to kill younger, prime age bulls that do not have worn horns.

The presenters might also want to look at Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) also only classed as ‘Vulnerable’ (IUCN Red List), but facing extinction by 2100 – but anyone can still go and kill one as a hunting trophy, and with the added attrition perhaps help speed the species along towards extinction in the wild.

Slides 9, “Hunting can be a positive force for species” and Slide 10, changes in estimated numbers of rhinoceros

I don’t see how slide 9 proves anything to support trophy hunting – species number increases may have been greater in the absence of any trophy hunting?

Slide 10 refers to Project ’Operation Rhino’, launched in the 1960s, aimed at increasing rhino populations by moving some of the last remaining rhinos to game reserves across South Africa and the African continent.

The wild African rhino (White and Black rhinoceros) species suffered near collapse in population at the approach of the 1900s – due to over-hunting and poaching, with as few at 50 wild White rhino at the turn of the century (Taylor et al. 2017):

South African populations of black and white rhinos (subspecies C. s. simum), both of which had been nearly extinct in the year 1900 due to uncontrolled hunting, grew in numbers over the last 100 years and were not exposed to the same high levels of poaching seen in countries to the north”  

So the inconvenient truth is that uncontrolled hunting caused the rhinos’ demise in the first place, so lauding the fact that hunting did not push the species to extinction seems a little disingenuous.

As the rhino populations started to recover in the reserves, more land was needed. Private game farms were incentivized to take surplus rhinos, but in return the ban on trophy hunting of white rhino was lifted with ‘controlled’ hunting re-introduced in the 1970s. This encouraged the private game farmers to breed rhino stock.

So, since the 1960s South Africa has allowed the privatising of South African wildlife by a dominant, white, game farming cartel (Hübschle 2016)  to take control of responsibility (and accountability) for breeding and controlling ‘stock,’ with a tight-knit secrecy within the industry that obscures transparency in terms of the size of operations, objectives, rhino horn stockpiling, illicit behaviour and ethics etc:

what happens behind this game fence is my business…” – Hübschle 2016, page 259

Poaching of rhino has of course been an historic issue [regardless of trophy hunting’s presence and claimed protection], with demand for rhino horn for ornamental and ‘medicinal’ purposes (Traditional Medicine of no proven efficacy duly noted). The CITES 1977 ban on international trade in rhino horn and linking pressure to comply with the ban upon trade, ie. the United States applied pressure for non-compliant countries to comply with rhino horn trade ban during the 1980s (Bell 2020) – China’s rhino horn trade ban was enacted in 1993 – and rhino poaching numbers dropped to zero/single digits by 1994.

Total Number of Rhinos Poached Throughout Africa, 1986 – 2016 (Bell 2020)

The total number of rhinos in Africa in 1978 was 65,000. The total rhino population in 1987 had plummeted to just 4,000. (Reference: John Hanks Operation Lock page 38 and many journals from that era). 61,000 rhinos were poached in just 9 years, equating to an average of 6,777 rhinos poached each year for each of those 9 years. Average horn set sizes in those days was around 7kgs per rhino which would equate to an average of 47 tons of rhino horn poached each year for 9 years. But towards the end of this period the rhino population was already below 6,777, meaning that a lot more rhinos had to have been poached in 1978 because they were more numerous. Statistically we can therefore calculate that around 70 tons of rhino horn were poached a year in that period around 1978″ – Bell, 2020 “Rhino Panel Submission

However, once CITES Appendix I exemptions were sought to exploit rhino populations for trophy hunting from 1994, then the loop-hole has always existed to allow pseudo hunting to obtain rhino horn, plus it sent out the message that rhino were now a legitimate commercial commodity – which allowed demand to flourish from 2007.

Where there is demand, there is poaching seeking to also profit from the commodity.  South Africa’s white rhinoceros received exemption to Appendix II listing for trophy hunting and live exports (with caveats) in 1995:

For the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies. All other specimens [including derivative products] shall be deemed to be specimens of Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly

Prior to 2007, rhino poaching figures in South Africa remained low. But in 2009 there was a notable ‘upswing’ in the level of poaching observed in South Africa which rose to a peak in 2014 at 1,215 rhino, but with a slight decline to 1,175 rhino recorded as poached in 2015 (TRAFFIC 2016) – totalling 5,309 rhino lost to poaching between 1980 and 2015.

Note: Rhino horn was prescribed as a cure for cancer, after rumours perpetuated in Vietnam around 2006/07 cited the miraculous cure of a prominent Vietnamese official attributed to the taking of powdered rhino horn – hence the surge in demand that followed….

Recorded Rhino Poached per Year (1990 – 2019) in South Africa (Poaching Facts)

The argument being, that legitimising trophy hunting of rhinoceros species legitimised demand for rhino commodities (rhino horn), re-igniting and exacerbating the poaching of rhino to meet that demand. Trophy hunting of course includes the use/abuse of pseudo hunting to obtain rhino horn by deception, under the pretence that trophy hunting is a ‘non-commercial’ activity and ownership of the trophy, including rhino horn, has no subsequent detrimental impact on demand – when in reality the horn so obtained becomes a tradeable commodity in destinations such as Vietnam for example.

Nationality of hunters applying for white rhino hunts juxtaposed against average price of hunting trophy between 2004 and 2011 (Hübschle 2017) – Data source: Milliken and Shaw 2012

The question is, would rhinoceros numbers have grown better and been subject to less poaching impact if trophy hunting of the species had not been reinstated and instead rhino had been valued for their intrinsic value, a key part of biodiversity and non-consumptive tourism value alone?

Slides 11, “An inconvenient truth? Wildlife trends in Kenya” and slide 12, “Wildlife trends in a hunting country and a nonhunting country” 

Slides 11 and 12 appear simplistic – Kenya is often cited by pro-hunting advocates as an example of the decline of trophy hunted species if trophy hunting is removed from the equation (elephant hunting was made illegal in 1973, with a complete ban on all hunting (without permits) from 1977). However, the Congressional Research Service, 2019 (page 28) concluded that regarding Kenya:

In some cases, the banning of hunting correlates with animal population declines. For example, in Kenya, which instituted a hunting ban in 1977, almost all the common wildlife species have declined from their previous levels since the ban to 2016. Concurrently, livestock numbers, notably sheep and goats, increased by 76.3% during the same period (Ogutu et al. 2016). Kenya’s population increased from 14.5 million in 1977 to 48.5 million in 2016. Based, in part, on these data, scientists note that demographic pressure and livestock encroachment on wildlife rangelands appear to be the decisive factors leading to wildlife declines in Kenya (Ogutu et al. 2016).”

The scientists behind a 2009 report (Otuoma et al. 2009) concur, that the surge in domestic livestock (a ‘76.3% surge in sheep and goats duly noted’ –  Slide 11 ) has been held largely accountable for the drop in wildlife populations – the three main causes that have been cited for the drop in wildlife numbers are illegal poaching, larger numbers and ranges of domestic livestock, plus changing land use patterns on the ranches. There is no direct mention of ‘trophy hunting’ cited as a cause/effect for the decline in Kenya’s wildlife since 1977 – the trophy hunter’s ‘claim’ appears unsubstantiated, which is perhaps the inconvenient truth referenced in slide 11’s title?

So, is Kenya an example of what will happen if trophy hunting is banned within a country/range state? No, it is not. Kenya would seem to be an example of poor land management, poaching and wanton over-grazing, based on a culture where in the past a man’s wealth and social status was directly linked to owning large herds of cattle, which dominated the grazing available to the detriment of wildlife.

Can the removal of trophy hunting’s control of tracts of land be handled better in any future transition? Yes, of course that is theoretically possible, but is perhaps an inconvenient truth for pro-hunting supporters to countenance.

[Update] As an aside, non-trophy hunting Kenya manages to generate more income from its wildlife areas that could be diverted towards conservation than Tanzania with its wildlife reserves and trophy hunting zones “…… Kenya, tourism, which is mainly generated by the country’s wildlife, recorded a turnover of 2.8 billion USD in 2017 for 429,500 direct jobs. In the neighbouring country, Tanzania, the figures were 1,975 billion USD and 446 000 direct jobs respectively. In the case of Tanzania, 100,000 km² of wildlife reserves and 100,000 km² of classified hunting zones are reserved for hunting (compared with 57,800 km² for wildlife tourism, including 38,300 km² in national parks) but only generate a turnover of around 30 million USD, with around 4,300 direct jobs. It is clear that, in this case, the vast surface areas of hunting reserves and zones do not have a significant socioeconomic impact” –  Chardonnet (IUCN 2019)

[Update] “”Tanzania has the highest number of lions at 8,176, followed by South Africa with 2,070 lions, Kenya with 1,825 [up from a reported 449 in 2014], while Zimbabwe has 1,709 lions to its name,” says part of the report“” – African Travel and Tourism Association, 12 August 2019

[Update] The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was set up in 1989 – “In the three decades since, Kenya’s elephant population has more than doubled to an estimated 34,000, along with 1,258 rhinos…..Last year, for the first time since 1999, Kenya recorded zero rhino deaths to poaching……..Elephant poaching has also reduced from 350 a year five years ago to just 11 in 2020, which is the lowest recorded yearly total ever. “I believe it is not a pipe dream to get Kenya’s poaching level to zero” – “Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade: The former naval officer now leading Kenya’s fight against poaching,” The Independent, 24 January 2021

Note: To reiterate, Kenya does not support trophy hunting, but South Africa earns over $112m USD per annum from trophy hunting (Economists at Large 2013), but still fails despite this trophy hunting income to protect its rhino herds in Kruger National Park from poaching attrition, where recent data reveals two-thirds has been lost over the past decade to poaching.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible to run a successful conservancy that does not support trophy hunting, such as Ol Pejeta in Kenya……

[Update] Much of Namibia’s wildlife is contained within game farms/ranch hunting facilities and conservancies supported by trophy hunting – where selected species (favoured by trophy hunters, thus lacking natural biodiversity) are sometimes held in synthetic environments of variable quality and thus provide an unrecognisable contribution to conservation of truly wild specimens and natural environments. The same accusation could be made for eco-tourism, that it favours selected species – but, eco-tourists do not seek a ‘commercial contract’ that aims to deliver a certain species of pre-selected quality that trophy hunting clearly demands (even extending to examples bred to appeal to the trophy hunter’s exotic tastes):

“some rangeland managers artificially alter the ecosystem by introducing exotic species or manually reducing predators of trophy animals” – Congressional Research Service (2019) (page 16)

So the accusation that eco-tourism negatively effects biodiversity is less credible to a large extent.

Namibia is not immune to commercial pressure that threaten its wildlifedeveloping questionable ‘sustainable utilisation’ exploitive practises or links to poaching and corrupt wildlife practices – ie. trophy hunting is no guarantee of protection against such threats to wildlife/animals and morally repugnant exploitation, eg.:

International concern mounts as the Namibian government put 170 wild elephants up for sale, justified by false population statistics and disputed claims of ‘human-elephant-conflict’ – “Elephant Sale Deadline Looms,” Conservation Action Trust, January 2021

Then there is also questionable value in Namibia’s Game Products Trust Fund and its contribution to recognisable conservation.  Community Base Natural Resource Management programmes in Namibia promote “conservation hunting” – benefitting conservancy residents to “offset losses from crop raiders such as elephants and predators, including lions, they need to receive benefits in return.” However, this is not a panacea:

This paper reports the results of just such an assessment at two CBNRM sites, the Tchuma Tchato project in Mozambique and Kwandu Conservancy in Namibia. While different types of benefits were delivered at both sites, they were largely of low value and low in volume. It appears that the incentives offered are not inappropriate, but are insufficient – too few people benefit directly and the level of benefits is generally too small” – Suich et al., 2013

Never was this doctrine (“If it pays it stays”) more evident than in community-based conservation in Namibia. It is all about money. Financial benefits to the community were the focus. National pride, ethics, aesthetics and sound ecological practices shared a sad second place. If any place at all. Everything must have a price tag” – “End of the Game for Namibia,” Christiaan Bakkes, Africa Geographic, 23 March 2015

Is Namibia’s perceived ‘successes’ repeatable across Africa and a long term solution?:

Namibia is an unusual case in having relatively good governance and very low human population density, so it is unlikely that the successes seen here could easily be replicated across many other African countries. More generally, governance and infra-structural capacity, of which corruption is a factor, are relevant to the delivery of felid conservation as documented by (Dickman et al. 2015), and governance has been highlighted as a key issue with regard to the sustainability or otherwise of trophy hunting operations (Packer 2015)” – WildCRU, p. 27

[Update] A  November 2021 study (Cruise et al.) of Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) model concludes:

“In many areas, particularly in the dry CBNRM-dominated Kunene Region of the country, wildlife populations of many species are declining. Elephant, oryx, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and lion numbers are the large mammals most negatively affected, largely as a result of drought, trophy hunting, own-use hunting, conservation mismanagement and human-wildlife conflict incidents. This region also faces the spectre of the capture, auction and possible export of live elephants which, when the auction goes ahead, will likely threaten the entire existence of this isolated and uniquely desert-adapted elephant population that is already in sharp decline. 

In other areas across the northern region, elephant populations and movements have likewise been adversely affected due to trophy hunting, own-use hunting, poaching and trade. In two additional commercial cattle farming areas, elephants have been earmarked for live captures, auction and possible export…..

Thus, far from being a success-story, Namibia’s much-touted wildlife conservation model, and its adherence to sustainable utilisation of wildlife through community-based management has, in fact, achieved the opposite of what is commonly presented. Overall wildlife numbers are declining, and elephant populations in the Kunene Region are collapsing, while rural communities within the CBNRMs are as impoverished as ever, in many cases, more so” – Conclusions, p51, “Investigation – Efficacy of Namibia’s Wildlife Conservation Model at it Relates to African Elephants,” Cruise, A; Sasada, I, Journal of African Elephants, November 2021

[Update] “Why researchers Cruise and Sasada were right about Namibia’s natural resource management programme,” Daily Maverick, 8 February 2022 and “Botswana’s wildlife management fails communities — report,” Don Pinnock, Daily Maverick, 7 July 2022

[Update] “A trophy hunting propaganda film from the UK lobby” – “Someone from an “independent” podcast created a trophy hunting propaganda film that followed a non-hunter’s two-week journey through Namibia interviewing local people….“”Beyond The Trigger” distorts the reality of trophy hunting in Namibia by focusing mainly on the benefits to communal area conservancies and failing to add important context……..While it may be technically true that Dalton’s [the film maker] podcast is independent, it’s blatantly dishonest and misleading to describe the film that way. The entomologist responsible for his trip, the Community Leaders Network Secretary guiding his trip, and the conservation foundation funding his trip all had a specific agenda – fighting trophy hunting import bans,” Wild Things Initiative, 25 October 2022.


Slide 14, “Local livelihoods benefits

‘As little as 3% of hunting income trickles down to local communities’ is a well-known figure from “The $200 Million Question,” Economists at Large, 2013  – [“Research published by the pro-hunting International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, supported by other authors, finds that hunting companies contribute only 3% of their revenue to communities living in hunting areas“] – not sure that makes it a myth? Of course rural income from trophy hunting varies greatly [however, a claimed “100%” of hunting revenues going to local communities is clearly implausible with  no supporting evidence cited], as so do the consequences – trophy hunting and income to rural communities (or no income) does not guarantee human wildlife conflict is eradicated, for example:

Brent Stapelkamp worked within WildCRU for 10 years on the ‘Hwange project’ in Zimbabwe (now at Soft Foot Alliance’s inspiring “Mobile Bomas” project). Stapelkamp (2016) provided (IWB 2019,  Appendix 1) a welcomed, fundamental insight and perspective on that work, identifying patterns in the data that point to lion trophy hunting having a much wider negative impact; where trophy hunting of key pride members acts as a catalyst driving surviving pride members into human/wildlife conflict.

Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE programme (established 1981) was introduced to distribute dividends derived from trophy hunting to local communities. In a 2007 study (Kamhorst et al. 2007) communities that should have benefited from the CAMPFIRE programme reported that dividend had not been received since 1997, with no discernible additional benefits for employment or improved infrastructure – corruption has eaten away at CAMPFIRE’s promise/revenue.

Stapelkamp also illuminated on CAMPFIRE, a scheme supposed to enrich local communities from trophy hunting had become corrupted –  in reference to Macdonald et al., 2016:

….the Author references Campfire and says that [findings] suggest that if trophy hunting was to become unviable in Zimbabwe that thousands of households would lose [their] benefits from the scheme. Campfire is a “four letter word” here on the peripheries of the protected areas precisely because the people see no benefit whatsoever. To mention campfire in a community meeting is to invite being chased away with sharp objects! The corruption so deeply entrenched in our wildlife policies and systems [it] is going to take years to sort out and honestly speaking our lions don’t have the luxury of time!”

In September 2019, the Zambia Community Resources Boards (ZCRB) released a press statement expressing their deep concern over the fact that the communities have not been given their share of either concession fees or the hunting revenues. According to Felix Shanungo (ZCRB President), the communities have received no concession fees since 2016 and no hunting revenue since last year.

The IUCN/PACO (2009) reported that the economic benefits to local communities of hunting areas are minimal, employment opportunities are poor and the wildlife contained within hunting areas are far less well protected than wildlife contained within protected, non-hunting areas:

On average, big game hunting redistributes $US0.10 per ha of potential village land classified as a hunting area. Again, on average, each inhabitant can therefore hope to gain $US0.30 per year (in other words 150 CFA F/year). These very low figures are comparable with those of the Campfire Programme in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it should be highlighted that this money does not always reach the beneficiaries (mediocre governance) and that it is most often used for community actions…Such low benefits do not motivate local communities. Therefore, it is in their interests not to respect the hunting area boundaries and to poach” – page 18

As regards conservation, big game hunting gives mixed results:…The results of conservation, for the same level of management, are lower than those obtained by neighbouring national parks” – page 106

So, at best, benefits to local communities from trophy hunting (where such benefits actually exist) are  sporadic and the situation far more complex than that projected in slide 14.

[Update] Indigenous Maasai communities are being forcibly evicted (yet again) from ancestral lands (for example) to make way for the trophy hunting industry’s self-serving interests in Tanzania, or reportedly displaced for safari operator Thomson Safaris and sister company Tanzania Conservation Limited that purchased disputed land in Loliondo, Northern Tanzania, in the 2006:

Northern Tanzania is faced with evictions as UAE firm seeks to turn ancestral land into a trophy-hunting ground. More than 70,000 Indigenous Maasais reside in northern Tanzania, and they are all facing displacement after the government revealed plans to lease the space to a UAE-based company, [Ortello] Business Corporation (OBC), to create a hunting reserve for elite tourism….On Friday, June 10, 2022, Tanzanian security forces fired at Maasai farming communities. The gunshots came in the context of an eviction operation leaving Maasai people terrorized and feeling unsafe… all this happened for the sake of clearing the land to turn it into a hunting corridor” – “Ancestral land of Maasai people trophy-hunting grounds for UAE royals,” Al Mayadeen News, 12 June 2022

The evictions have sparked concern, with a team of UN-appointed independent rights experts warning that “it could jeopardize the Maasai’s physical and cultural survival. “This will cause irreparable harm, and could amount to dispossession, forced eviction, and arbitrary displacement prohibited under international law,” they said in a statement”….”Thousands of Maasai families were evicted from Loliondo in 2009 to make way for an Emirati safari company, Ortel[l]o Business Corporation, to organize hunting expeditions. Following allegations of corruption, the government cancel[l]ed the deal in 2017 – “Maasai forced out of Ngorongoro reserve for UAE ‘elite tourism’,” Al Mayadeen News, 12 June 2022

The report specifically exposes the devastating impact of two foreign companies on the lives and livelihoods of the Maasai villagers in the Loliondo area of the Ngorongoro District — Tanzania Conservation Ltd (TCL), a safari business operated by the owners of Boston-based high-end safari outfitter Thomson Safaris; and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Ortello Business Corporation (OBC), which runs hunting excursions for the country’s royal family and their guests” – Losing the Serengeti: The Maasai Land that was to Run Forever,” The Oakland Institute, 3 May 2018

In Loliondo, Arusha Region, Maasai communities face constant pressure of eviction from their ancestral land, which the Ortello Business Corporation seeks to use for commercial hunting. In late 2018, despite court rulings, the violence and evictions continue” – “Maasai vs. Otterlo in Loliondo,” Indigenous Africa, Michigan State University, 3 October 2020

Slide 17, “Trophy hunting is NOT a major threat to lions overall

This slide brushes over the flaws in the cited documents (which are outdated regardless – being some 14 years old – a lot has happened in the intervening period since publication), for example:

Conservation Strategy for the Lion in Eastern and Southern Africa,” IUCN/SSC Cat
Specialist Group, 2006

Chapter 4  – “Threats” states that “Trophy hunting was excluded from this analysis due to the difficulty of separating potentially negative biological impacts on lion populations from improperly managed offtakes from potentially positive socio-economic impacts on lion conservation” – so how does quoting trophy hunting’s ranking “6th out of 9” threats have validity when trophy hunting was excluded? Plus Table 3.6 – “Assessment and ranking of threats for LCUs in Eastern and Southern Africa” has numerous anomalies – for example, the columns “scoring every threat for the number of times it ranked first (3 points), second (2 points) or third (1 point)” don’t actually add to the threat scores given in Table 3.6 in all cases, ie. “Habitat Conversion” superscript first, second and third ranking points awarded sums to 62, not 32 (?)……..Serengeti Mara’s entries, rated “Habitat Conversion,” ‘None’ – no threat in 3rd place (1 point), but “Trophy Hunting,” ‘Some’ threat in 7th (no points), “Disease,” ‘Some’ threat was ranked 2nd (2 points) – surely ‘Some’ risk/threat (even if it is Trophy Hunting) must rate higher than ‘None’ in anyone’s “right-thinking” logic?

There are other flaws in the methodology and clear errors which will be explained in another forthcoming article (see article link here).

Conservation Strategy for the Lion in West and Central Africa,” IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, 2006 – has similar methodology flaws and is outdated anyway, but hardly mentions trophy hunting, “Other factors increasing the vulnerability of small lion populations include trophy and traditional hunting of lions, as well as the trade in lion parts for traditional medicine.” However, there are more trophy hunting Lion Conservation Units (LCU) in the study area now than there were in 2006 – more data to assess trophy hunting’s threat in the present is needed, plus the genetic distinction of lion populations is lacking:

As there is a lack of consensus on the classifications of lions, conservation efforts in parts of Africa could be compromised. For example, the lions in West and Central Africa should be characterized as ‘critically endangered’, but as their status, as a separate lion subspecies [Science Daily, 2016] remains unacknowledged they have not been officially recognized as endangered.  It is clear that lion conservation would benefit from a better understanding of lion subspecies, and conservationists should acknowledge genetic distinctness of lion populations in their current and future projects” – Alert

As an example, Chardonnet (IUCN 2019) found that of the big game hunting zones in Tanzania, 72% are now classified as “depleted” and useless to hunters, containing no game species. In hunting areas in Tanzania that still contain lions, despite a six-year minimum age limit, in 2015, 66.7% of the lions shot were five years old or under. There were simply no lions of the correct age left to be shot, which suggest trophy hunting is a significant threat – ranking trophy hunting’s threat badly in 2006 and still citing it as valid some 14 years on is not good science – also reference “Trophy Hunting in Africa is in decline, and no longer pays its way,” National Geographic, 8 March 2019.

Slide 18, “Not true that TH = decline, no TH = secure lions,” slides 20 and 21, “Major benefit of trophy hunting is habitat protection” 

Slide 18 (“Not true that TH = decline, no TH = secure lions”), it would need to be established how the data has been prepared and presented – percentages can be deceptive without due weighting. For example:

The largest increase in Zimbabwe’s lion sub-populations noted by  WildCRU’s research (2016)was in Gonarezhou, the nonhunted population, which had a 7,900% increase..,” the “lowest level [of lion sub-population increase] was in Hwange [where trophy hunting attrition persist], but even that was 86% [which the authors still think is credible].” Would the Hwange % have been higher without trophy hunting attrition is the question if the pursuit is high lion population growth? By that rationale, then we need more Gonarezhou non-hunted growth rates.

Gonarezhou only has a tiny lion population, the increase of 79 lions, from 1 lion (meeting a migratory lion of the opposite sex one assumes) and the population expanding to 80 gives the 7,900% increase. So any increase is significant and disproportional with small populations – again for example in Namibia, “Kunene (the area where trophy hunting occurred), which had an increase of 3,933% [over 21 years], going from an estimated 6 lions in 1993 to 242 lions in 2014” (WildCRU’s research (2016)).

This works in reverse for large, populations that grow for example – 79 lions more in 921 population, to 1,000 lions is a growth rise of just 8.58%, but it’s the same 79 lion increase. But any growth rise in a trophy hunted population would be even more, in theory, without trophy hunting attrition (unless one believes that in the absence of trophy hunting, then the whole population would be killed for lack of the ‘value’ trophy hunting imparts and their habitat confiscated) – the growth in trophy hunted populations then comes down to sustainability – is the population well understood and are the hunting quotas set by science, not dominated by detrimental economic incentives?

[The issue that needs to be resolved, by analysing the base data is how much did any population declared as increasing/decreasing actually increase/decline by, and how was that established? How does say 15 trophy hunting concession populations increasing by 15%, equate to 10 non-trophy hunted populations increasing by 50%, or vice-versa? Raw data and how it’s interpreted (and weighted) is key, not the integer number comparison of how many populations increased, or decreased and when aggregated, how that % comparison looks as per slide 18’s presentation]

Of course, there are many more variables than just trophy hunting impinging on any given lion populations’ stability, growth, or decline – prey availability, disease, human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, poaching etc. – so any chart declaring “Not true that TH = decline, no TH = secure lions” is simplistic if the full reasons for a noted population decline are not fully explored and understood [Our ultimate goal should be to really understand the threats to each population and aim to reduce those, based on science rather than emotion].

The absence of trophy hunting in a given lion populations’ decline is not conclusive scientific proof trophy hunting would somehow have halted that decline (which seems to be the implied message in slide 18). There is little doubt, decline would be even more pronounced in a non-trophy hunted population in decline if trophy hunting is introduced and also impinges on the given population. This opinion is also concurred by Whitman et al. 2004Milner et al. 2007Knell et al. 2017:

we asked the question of how this might change when those highest-quality males are removed by “selective harvest.” It’s prohibitively difficult to test these ideas with real hunted populations, so we developed a computer simulation which allowed us to examine what happens when you take these animals out of a population.

Our results are clear – and worrying. If the environment is relatively stable, then even quite severe harvesting of high-quality males is sustainable. But if the population is already stressed by a changing environment, then removing even a small percentage of the best males can lead to extinction…..The trouble is, almost all animal populations today are facing increasing stress from changing environments.

This goes against the conventional wisdom. Since there is usually little paternal care of offspring in these animals – and because it seems reasonable to assume that females will not have problems getting fertilised if we remove, say, 15% of the males – it is usually assumed that trophy hunting and similar selective harvests are unlikely to drive animals to extinction when only a small proportion of males are hunted. Our results suggest otherwise” – Knell et al. 2017

However, the converse is given for a trophy hunted population in decline – the advice advocated  by Dickman et al. (6.5, page 74) is a 3 year hunting moratoria to allow the population to recover, which suggests any lion populations’ chances of stability/growth would be better served in the absence of trophy hunting attrition in the first place (all other factors, variables, threats and risks not being unduly exacerbated).

Slide 21 cites Tanzania – so perhaps this is the second country suggested at Slide 19 where “Wild lions only increasing in 2 countries: both use TH” (?).

However, trophy hunting may well protect habitat, but it does not guarantee to protect the inhabitants.

For example, in Katavi, Tanzania the estimated lion numbers were recorded as zero in 2014, from a population of 1,118 in 1993 (UNEP, 2015). It should be noted, that from 2010, 41 adult males (less than five years old) had been “harvested” for trophies in Katavi. Could this excessive trophy hunting of young male lions have been the end of the Katavi sub-population? (Kiffner et al. 2009)

Trophy Hunting was reported to have contributed to population declines outside of (and within some) protected areas of Tanzania (Lindsey et al. 2013) and was considered by Packer et al. 2011 to pose the greatest threat to the populations in Trophy Hunting areas.”

In August 2019, a summary in the press from a pre-published paper titled ‘State of the Lion: Fragility of a Flagship Species’ (Dickman et al., Oxford University, WildCRU) gave the following statement:

Tanzania has the highest number of lions at 8,176, followed by South Africa with 2,070 lions, Kenya with 1,825, while Zimbabwe has 1,709 lions to its name,” says part of the report. Mozambique and Zambia have 1,295 and 1,095 lions respectively” – “Tanzania has largest number of lions in Africa, new report says,” ATTA, 12 August 2019

In terms of Tanzania, then the “8,176” given by Dickman et al. in 2019 is an implied decline of over 50% from the “16,800 (Mesochina et al.2010), with the latter still used as the Tanzanian benchmark (as far as I am aware). 

‘State of the Lion: Fragility of a Flagship Species’ is yet to be published (in peer-review), but the Tanzanian “8,176”  number is mirrored in “Guidelines for the Conservation of Lions in Africa Version 1.0 – December 2018,” but to date, there is no explanation forthcoming about how the numbers given out in 2019 were derived, or indeed if there is a significant lion population decline evident in Tanzania for example and if so, why?

In terms of non-trophy hunting Kenya, then “1,825” (2019) [the Kenyan government recently reporting 2,400] lions from 449 lions in 2014 (IUCN Red List Information, Population, Supplementary Information) in 5 years is a 406% increase, an implied growth rate of 32.5% per annum – which deserves recognition and is perhaps another inconvenient truth to add to slide 11.

Slide 19 – “Wild lions only increasing in 2 countries: both use TH

I only see one country listed on slide 19, Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley Conservancy (B.V.C.), a fenced lion population – not wild, migratory or natural duly noted [maybe the second country is Namibia (?), but that’s not clear from slide 19 – assuming Namibia, then “Our latest data suggest that Namibia holds approximately 750 free-ranging lions in an estimated lion range of 170,000 km2 (Dickman in prep.)“, Macdonald et al. 2016, an implied increase of 46% from 515 lions in 1993, which hardly sounds record-breaking at 236 lions in some 20 years, an implied growth rate of around 2% per annum].

B.V.C opened in 1999 and is a privately owned reserve of some 850,000 acres (3,440 km2) – Lions were introduced as a hunting commodity. The B.V.C. lion population (some 500, 2016) is also monitored for research purposes by Wild Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Oxford University.

Dr Pieter Kat (LionAid) says the 3 400 km² conservancy has about 15 lions per 100 km². The natural density of lions, for example, in the Kruger Park is about 5-6 per 100 km² in the north, which is similar in habitat to Bubye, and 7-8/100 km² in the south. Bubye therefore is more than double the natural density for lions – Annamiticus, 31 March 2016

B.V.C is not without controversy. In conjunction with Martin Nel Safaris, B.V.C sought to raffle a lion for death, or to live in a $150,000 USD target with the sale of 100 tickets to hunters at the SCI Conference, or indeed to non-hunters, with the latter having the option of a “photographic safari” and the promise the lion victim would be collared and form part of WildCRU’s on-going lion research (which as we know, is no guarantee in itself of any given lion’s survival against trophy hunting attrition).

Then there was the “Cecil Effect” debacle in February 2016, when B.V.C claimed it would be forced to cull 200 lions bred because of the fall-out from the outrage and repercussions following Cecil the lion’s killing 2 July 2015.  It should be noted, that Cecil the lion was killed in July 2015, only some 7 months before B.V.C announced a need to cull some 200 of its 500 lions at that time – there is no way that the B.V.C lion population could have expanded by an additional, untenable 200 lions in that time period:

If lions breed at a rate of 5% a year the host population would have needed to be 4,000, which is more than the entire population of lions in Botswana” – A reliable source, deeply involved in lion dynamics has suggested.

Is B.V.C an exemplar of altruistic lion conservation, or a captive stock of lions bred for commercial purposes?

Brent Stapelkamp worked within WildCRU for 10 years on the ‘Hwange project’ in Zimbabwe. Stapelkamp (2016) provided (IWB 2019,  Appendix 1) an insight into B.V.C in reference to Macdonald et al., 2016:

Bubye Valley Conservancy is promoted as a successful example in the appendices because they have seen “an exponential increase” in lion numbers there. The management of the Bubye, as well as the report, make it clear that there is no viable alternative to hunting but go onto say that they have a higher lion density than anywhere else in Africa! I had a personal attack from a hunter at Bubye who told me that he sees 3 or 4 prides of lions in a day there without telemetry, not to mention the rhino and the elephant and the wild dogs etc. sounds to me like the best possible photographic safari location don’t you think?

I wrote a fun little piece called “the quality street theorem” that, if you google it, will explain my understanding of hunters’ attachment to lion hunting.

I argued with the hunter from the Bubye that where his only measure of successful lion management was numbers or density it was not a successful example in my opinion. I told him that a double fenced area was never going to be repeatable over African lion range and that fortress conservation doesn’t work. The author mentions the fact that the human population will virtually double in the next few decades and that that would mean more pressure on resources and I agree but to me places like Bubye are desperately vulnerable to other pressures not mentioned in the report. With a population increase coming, politicians will be under pressure to satisfy land hungry voters and what is more vulnerable to the whims of those politicians than an elitist white enclave that only benefits their elitist clients?

Stapelkamp’s opinion does not seem very supportive of the notion that B.V.C is an exemplar of lion conservation – fortress conservation that provides a service for a few clients. Is B.V.C the viable future of lion conservation as a closed off captive population – it that the vision that Roe and Dickman see as the best solution? If so, it seems a little short-sighted to Stapelkamp (and to me).

Slide 22, “Hunting zones protect more than hunted species

No source cited for the data given – so it remains opaque how this data was derived, or how it supports the implied theory that hunting zones/game farms protect all species within such zones, not just some. Perhaps some species are persecuted to protect others for commercial purposes?

For example, there is no clear data on the retaliatory killing of leopards (Williams S.T. et al. 2017), but in the absence of definitive population data, the CITES Appendix I listed African leopard has been given an unsubstantiated 2020 trophy hunting quota of 2,648 leopards – “Whole skins or nearly whole skins (including hunting trophies).”

Williams, S.T. et al. 2017 study “Population dynamics and threats to an apex predator outside protected areas: implications for carnivore management:

“…..calls into question the sustainability of additive off take through legal mechanisms of leopard removals such as trophy hunting and damage-causing animal destruction permits.”

Furthermore, the report continues “trophy hunting of large carnivores can be associated with elevated levels of human–wildlife conflict and increased mortality from persecution.” This persecution is “often in retaliation to perceived […leopards cause less livestock damage than farmers perceive….] livestock predation or for bushmeat, and this may be driving steep declines in the leopard population

It is estimated that as many as 1500 – 2500 leopards are illegally harvested annually to meet the demand for skins by the Nazareth Baptist ‘Shembe’ Church; The illegal killing of putative DCAs [Damage Causing Animals, as self-determined by livestock/game farmers in their illegal ‘shoot, shovel and shut up’ approach to leopards]  is typically indiscriminate, the scale of which is currently unknown since illegal off-take of leopards is poorly monitored, if at all” – “Leopard Quota Review: South Africa” (AC30 Doc 15. Annex 3), Para 3.e. “Illegal Off-take,” September 2018

It is duly noted that slide 22 does not venture the notion that trophy hunting zones/game farms offer the African leopard protection, or that leopard trophy hunting is not detrimental to the species, as acknowledged in “Roadmap for the Conservation of the Leopard in Africa” (IUCN – Version 1, Annex 4, September 2019) and Jacobson et al. 2016:

“However, it is possible, current levels of off-take are not set sustainably in any country that allows leopard hunting (Balme et al., 2010). Balme et al. (2010) argued that no country has comprehensive and detailed leopard population information combined with an understanding of the impact of hunting on leopards within a proper regulatory framework. Despite the popularity and importance of the leopard to the trophy hunting industry, there is scant research on the impacts of hunting (Balme et al., 2010; Lindsey et al., 2011). However, there is evidence that trophy hunting can negatively impact leopard populations, particularly as hunting can disrupt the social structure and spatial dynamics of leopards and contribute to infanticide (Balme, Slotow & Hunter, 2009; Balme, Hunter & Braczkowski, 2012; Packer et al., 2009; Packer et al., 2010)”

Slide 23, “Why not just replace hunting with photo-tourism?

The Luc Hoffman Institute “Looking beyond hunting and tourism for community benefits study referenced in Slide 23, is actually a thought piece by Melissa de Kock; WWF-Norway, Senior Advisor: Conservation, Climate and Communities – it should be clear, that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been pro-trophy hunting in the past, but that policy has been reversed in WWF-UK and therefore, is potentially under review across the whole of the WWF global network.

But photo-tourism is viable and would be viable in many hunting habitats:

…it is not always clear that the locations where trophy hunting takes place are even financially viable themselves. For example, Lindsay et al. (2012) studied the effect of restrictions on lion hunting on the amount of land where trophy hunting would remain commercially viable across Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. While the study showed that a total ban on lion hunting across all the studied countries would reduce the viability of trophy hunting industries in 14% of the current hunting areas, and a reduction in offtake to previously estimated sustainable levels would reduce viable areas of hunting by 2%, the more interesting finding was that even under existing regulations, trophy hunting was financially viable in only 56% of the total area in which lion hunting was undertaken (Campbell, 2012). This suggests that across 44% of the land used for lion hunting, alternative wildlife uses (like non-consumptive tourism) would be more economically sustainable than trophy hunting.  Why trophy hunting persists at all in these areas is more likely to be a product of political and social pressures, rather than economic ones” –   Economists at Large 2017

Of course alternatives to trophy hunting first need to be openly recognised as a worthy aim and debate of such welcomed, especially by those in the scientific community tasked with considering alternatives, such as the “Lions, Land Use and Alternatives to Trophy Hunting,” WildCRU’s research initiative, where it is duly noted that Dr Amy Dickman is an Associated Member.

Do alternative concepts exist? Trophy hunting arguments are often based upon the money generated (and the assumption of trickle-down economics to local communities guaranteeing a reduction in human wildlife conflict).

However, by that rationale, the animal deaths inflicted by trophy hunters is an unnecessary by-product – only the funding generated is key to conservation by trickle-down economics to sustain “livelihoods” and to give wildlife “value:”

Trophy hunting: Bans create opening for change” (Novak et al. 2019) review of the common  arguments made in favour of trophy hunting “actually describe is how loss of funding may impart these effects [could threaten African biodiversity and livelihoods], without specifying any unique benefits of trophy hunting.”

So, if the necessary funding can be secured by other means to support “livelihoods” and ensure human wildlife conflict mitigation (ie. wildlife “value”), then the animal/wildlife killing by trophy hunters is a repugnant irrelevance, perpetuated to satisfy the trophy hunting lobbies’ need to kill animals in the name of so-called “sport:

Trophy hunting understandably garners strong local support among those who benefit from it, but would a socially, economically, and ethically sustainable alternative that also empowers communities with higher degrees of autonomy and resilience not also receive broad support? We can only speculate, but this seems at least plausible” – Batavia et al. 2018

Novak et al. 2019 contend that “trophy import bans present an opportunity to rethink how we can conserve wildlife in non-extractive ways that are consistent with shifting public opinion.”

The examples Novak et al. offer for alternatives include: use reforms, co-management, and greater participatory stewardship can provide a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable system. Locally adjusted and bottom-up management practices, granting communities land titles, conservation-compatible agriculture, and coexistence approaches can also benefit communities and conservation more than trophy hunting. In addition, tourism reforms could invigorate domestic tourism, minimize leakage of tourism income to foreign investors, and reduce the footprint of wildlife-viewing tourism through green development investment. Diversified nature-based tourism beyond photographing and viewing wildlife could incorporate survival skills/bushcraft training and agritourism, emphasizing local knowledge, cultural exchange, and inclusion of women. Finally, environmental investments could connect would-be micro-investors more directly to wildlife-wealthy communities. Financial strategies such as decentralized markets made possible by blockchain technology could use carbon [carbon offsetting] and biodiversity credits for conserving habitats. Sustainable enterprise development could generate direct financial benefits to local communities.”

The Carbon Habitat project, in Kulera, Malawi seeks to protect biodiversity and support local livelihoods, “by managing natural resources as an asset base, creating long- term sustainable alternative livelihoods, improving biodiversity and increasing food security. The Program promotes financial empowerment through supporting communities in building new sources of income through the development of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) including honey, mushrooms, and other high value crops and small livestock animals” – calls to introduce trophy hunting were rejected in Malawi’s national parks in 2018:

“In 2017 the Malawian government passed a law to prohibit recreational and professional hunting of protected species. Exporting trophies is also illegal, and tough new punishments have been introduced for poaching wildlife or engaging in the illegal wildlife trade. These measures have contributed greatly to Malawi’s growing reputation as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ and the country is gaining popularity as a wildlife tourism destination” – Born Free Foundation

Hon Commodius Nyirenda, MP and Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (MPCC) Spokesperson said in 2018, “Public opinion reflects that of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus: that trophy hunting is not welcome in Malawi.  We value our reputation as a tourism destination too highly.  And – where legal hunting can be used as a cover for illegal wildlife trade and undermine community sensitisation efforts – we believe that the questionable revenue is not worth the associated risks that could ultimately undermine conservation effortsLilongwe Wildlife Trust

Malawi’s action was backed by extensive laws to protect wildlife within Malawi, with the listed species given specific consideration and high penalties for non-compliance:

Elephants, rhinos, leopards, lions, cheetahs and giraffes are all listed species, as are African wild dogs, Nyasa wildebeest and pangolins – the world’s most trafficked animal. A conviction for dealing or possession of a listed species holds the highest penalty – up to 30 years in jail, with no option of a fine” – African Conservation

The harsh deterrents available in Malawi are swiftly used to good effect:

18 Year Sentence Handed Down to Rhino Poacher by Malawian Court,” African Parks, October 2017

Wildlife poaching syndicate sentenced to 56 years imprisonment,” IoL, 20 July 2020

Malawi’s counter-poaching task-force development is supported by the UK Government, and in December 2019, assisted African Parks relocate seventeen Critically Endangered black rhinos “from South Africa to Malawi in one of the largest international rhino translocations to date.”

There is no doubt that hunting occupies large tracts of land/habitat. In sub-Sahara Africa, very large areas are used for big game hunting (approximately 1.4 million square kilometres). This big game hunting area is 22% larger than all the areas designated to National Parks in the same region (IUCN/PACO 2009). However, in an letter to Science, August 2019 (“Trophy hunting bans imperil biodiversity”)  Dickman et al. suggest “more land has been conserved under trophy hunting than under national parks,” but this unsubstantiated ‘conserved’ claim is countered by Treves et al. 2019:

“….this interpretation is misleading because those lands include private lands, protected areas that allowed subsistence hunting, and various other classes of protected areas, not exclusively trophy hunting concessions. In addition, the authors’ prediction that a ban on trophy imports or hunts would indirectly harm biodiversity could be just the converse: Perhaps hunting concessions would be upgraded in protection by catalyzing a governmental rethinking of carnivore management systems. An evidentiary basis for informing controversial policy interventions, such as trophy hunting, demands strong inference with full disclosure of uncertainties and disentangled value judgments from observations or inferences.”

There is no denying, when it comes to habitat the hunting industry currently has control over vast hunting areas and therefore, significant influence, however:

The hunting industry across sub-Sahara Africa generates an income of approximately $230m USD per annum. So, that equates to approximately $230m USD/1.4 million km2, or approximately $164.3/km($1.64/hectare). In contrast, it is suggested (IUCN/PACO 2009, p83) agriculture generates 300, to 600 times more per land unit area, so there is undeniable pressure on habitat/land returns as human population growth will increasingly demand (and will look increasingly economically viable) more land use for livestock and agriculture:

It should be noted that the cost of development/surveillance of one hectare of protected area (excluding tourism operating costs) can be estimated at around 1.5/ha (IUCN-PAPACO, 2009) i.e. $US2 or 1,000 CFA F per hectare. Therefore, with this turnover per hectare ($US1.1) proper development and surveillance of these areas cannot be assured under the current hunting area system (which uses a large proportion of its budget for tourism operation).

This figure remains very low with regard to the surface areas used and it is easier to understand why hunting areas cannot resist agricultural encroachment or firewood/charcoal production which make a much greater turnover: 500 times more according to the calculation of the GDP/ha, and around 300 to 600 times more when the potential agricultural income per hectare is considered

The hunting industry claims that its hunting areas protects habitat, generates revenue for local communities, and provides funds for anti-poaching units (Deere et al. 2011, Lindsey et al. 2012), but trophy hunting income is not the only way to generate such revenues.

Harvey (2019) argues that “Paying community members directly through a carbon credit system, for instance, is far more likely to yield ecological and economic sustainability than trophy hunting. If community members are being paid to keep migratory corridors open and farm in conservation-compatible ways, for instance, threats to wildlife will be significantly reduced……Moreover, these alternatives avoid the governance problems associated with community trusts that are typically riddled with power politics, gatekeeping and in-fighting over how revenues are to be allocated.”

IUCN/PACO (2009) reported that actual economic benefits to local communities of hunting areas are minimal, employment opportunities are poor and the wildlife contained within hunting areas are far less well protected than wildlife contained within protected, non-hunting areas:

Certain conservation strategies have been based on a theory developed around thirty years ago, according to which wildlife had an economic value which would convince local communities to preserve it. All the figures, maps and data consulted show that this theory is in fact untenable and that the economic value is not sufficient to generate the expected behaviour change” – IUCN/PACO (2009), “Conclusions,” page 106

So, apart from saving the habitat, it’s questionable what other benefits the majority of hunting areas actually deliver for conservation, particularly when quotas for trophy hunting “off-take” has also been shown to be excessive (Packer et al. 2009) in many cases, actually perpetuating species’ decline?

In the 2016 report for the United States House Committee on Natural Resources, the conclusion with regard to trophy hunting financing conservation efforts was clear:

In assessing the flow of trophy hunting revenue to conservation efforts, we found many troubling examples of funds either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation in the first place……On the whole, though, the evidence shows that trophy hunting is having negative impacts across sub-Saharan Africa. According to scientists, unsustainably high rates of trophy hunting have caused population declines in African lions and possibly African leopards. Many hunting areas are also fenced, which fragments the habitat into small blocks and alters species migrations” – House Committee on Natural Resources, 2016 – “Missing the Mark – African trophy hunting fails to show consistent conservation benefits

It can also be argued that “Trophy hunting does not provide agency or self-determination. If anything, it deepens dependency on wealthy ‘donors’ (hunters) and crowds out the importance of thinking deeply about more appropriate home-grown alternatives [for real conservation]” – Harvey (2019)

The World Bank – Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB)

The World Bank has launched a Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB) concept proposal as an alterantive means to finance conservation  – South Africa: Wildlife Conservation Bond (P174097), 2 June 2020, a proposal to raise an investment of some $150m USD in black rhinoceros conservation through The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (EPTCA), South African National Parks (SANParks), in conjunction with Wilderness Foundation Africa:

Through the proposed model, financing from the coupon payments of the WCB will be directed to two priority sites for rhino conservation: Addo Elephant National Park [AENP] and Great Fish River Nature Reserve [GFRNR]. Project investments will be used to enhance management of these protected areas to secure and increase black rhino populations, and increase benefits realized by local communities. Funding will be directed to these two project sites to implement conservation and adaptive management activities that seek to maximize net rhino growth rates over five years. The WCB will draw-in US$13.76m funding from the GEF’s [Global Environment Facility] non-grant instrument (NGI) window to pay the WCB bond holder a final success payment based on independently verified rhino growth (“Contingent Success Payment”)”

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. GEF funding to support the projects is contributed by donor countries. These financial contributions are replenished every four years (see GEF Replenishment documents) by the 39 GEF donor countries” – Global Environment Facility, Funding

The key performance indicators and the planned conservation success payments as a result are defined as:

  • Number of black rhino population in target sites (annual increase of 5% by the end of the project) – Note: The AENP and GFRNR host two priority black rhino populations and are collectively responsible for protecting around 80% of the Eastern Cape’s black rhino, 18.5% of South Africa’s estimated 2,000 – 2,046 black rhino population – so an estimated 375 black rhino under management in the proposed WCB scheme;
  • Area under improved management (153,141 hectares);
  • Number of direct beneficiaries disaggregated by gender as co-benefit (increase from 624 to 4,172);

The black rhino growth rate at each site is assessed over the period and independently verified. At the end of the 5-year term, the [International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)]  IBRD Bond is redeemed at par and bond investors receive their principal back”……“the conservation success payment will be directly proportional to the growth in the rhino population, to be capped on the upside at 1.83% per annum (reflecting a 3.67% annual growth target in the rhino population)” –  “Project Information Document (PID),” World Bank, 28 April 2020

The incentives to invest in the bond are summarised as, with the planned bond launch Q4 2020, or beginning of Q1 2021:

The project will directly contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 “Life on land” by mobilizing and increasing financial resources for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation (SDG 15.A) and enhancing global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities (SDG 15.B). The project will also contribute to the following goals: protection of important habitats for carbon sequestration (SDG13 Climate Action) and supporting a major tourism industry and a thriving commercial agricultural industry (SDG8 Decent Work and Economic Growth) which creates jobs in the local region (SDG1 No Poverty) and feeds people (SDG 2 Zero Hunger). The community engagement elements will also highlight gender equality (SDG5). The project will additionally support SDG17, Partnership for the goals” – “Project Information Document (PID),” World Bank, 28 April 2020

The investment concept at a 5% annual target increase on 375 (2020 estimate) in South Africa’s black rhino population under management at the AENP and GFRNR potentially equates to a population increase to 479 in five years when the WCB matures. At the upper 6.5% rhino population growth rate, this equates to an increase to 514 in five years.

South Africa moved from 5 black rhinos a year to “harvest” up to 0.5% of South Africa’s black rhino population (CoP18), with a population of around 2,000 that equates to around ten black rhino per year at today’s species’ population level in South Africa.

Therefore, it is questionable if the proposed WCB concept to raise the black rhino population on two named reserves in South Africa, then increases black rhino to South Africa’s overall population thus raising the black rhino trophy hunting quota – in other words, the additional 104 to 139 black rhinos financed by the WCB means another black rhino could (rounding up 0.5% x 139 = 0.695 rounded up to 1 rhino) potentially be added to South Africa’s overall trophy hunting quota.

Unless there is an exemption of the AENP and GFRNR black rhinos financed by the proposed WCB adding to South Africa’s trophy hunting quota, then this raises a potential moral and ethical dichotomy, particularly if the WCB ambitions are scaled up to increase black rhino populations by more than 200  – the WCB conservation of black rhinos is potentially financing as a by-product the death of another black rhino as a hunting trophy.

Black rhino trophy hunts, due to their rarity sell for some $350,000 or more, for the pleasure of executing a given black rhino. So, this offset is potentially going to benefit a hunting outfitter as a by-product of the WCB financing, unless there is an exemption for the AENP and GFRNR black rhino project enhancing South Africa’s trophy hunting quota. Which just shows how alternative concepts are incompatible with parallel trophy hunting attrition.

Do alternative concepts exist? Yes – the lengthy, by no means exhaustive list above are alternatives to be explored and debated. However, the constant dismissal of photo-tourism as an alternative in many cases is unjust – for example, luring a photogenic lion from the protection of a national park to be killed for a trophy in a bereft hunting concession for $50,000 USD does not fund the conservation investment made (see comments under slide 25).

Slide 24, “Removing TH without alternative increases threats

The conclusion drawn is from one sample – the Ruaha Carnivore Project where Dickman has an active role. All such projects have links and potential influences that support their work of course – regardless of such links, the science and impartiality are key to credibility, but a sample from one source is hardly conclusive scientific proof – but supports a pre-conceived theory.

However, the ‘threat’ lions (and other large predators) pose to livestock etc. is often exaggerated and not as bad as perceived, so killing-lions, or suggesting trophy hunting lions in retaliation as a means of appeasement is potentially an overreaction and requires a nuanced approach, not just killing lions, as Dickman herself has said “action should be taken to also address the social and cultural drivers of conflict, rather than merely focusing upon reducing wildlife damage”:

We conducted 262 semistructured interviews with villagers around Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park. The surveys provided data on respondents’ perceived problems with wildlife, knowledge, reported killing of carnivores, and their socio-economic characteristics. 98.5% of people perceived a problem with wildlife, and respondents viewed large carnivores as significantly more problematic than other species, due to the threats they posed to livestock and humans. Despite this, only 7.3% of people admitted to having killed any large carnivores. Depredation was widespread, having affected 61.1% of households, but was less important than other forms of stock loss – monthly recall data revealed 1.2% of stock were predated, compared to 9.1% lost to disease and 2.8% to theft. Although experience of depredation significantly predicted negative attitudes towards carnivores, it was not the most important factor. The study raises the possibility of ‘contagious conflict’, where perceived problems with one group of species were strongly associated with perceived problems with others. Furthermore, factors such as ethnic group and religious beliefs were significant predictors of perceived problems. This study suggests that effective conflict mitigation should involve measures to improve attitudes towards a broad range of species, rather than a single taxon, and that action should be taken to also address the social and cultural drivers of conflict, rather than merely focusing upon reducing wildlife damage” – Dickman et al., 2014, “Carnivores, culture and ‘contagious conflict’: Multiple factors influence perceived problems with carnivores in Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape”

Attitudes towards large carnivores among local people tend to be negative, principally due to the actual or perceived risk of depredation upon livestock (Dickman et al., 2014), even though carnivore depredation accounts for modest stock loss, particularly when compared with diseases (Dickman et al., 2014)” – Mbiba et al. 2018

This slide also fails to explain how trophy hunting moratoriums are promoted to help over-harvested lion populations recover:

In cases where hunted lion populations continue to decline, then even relatively short moratoria (e.g. 3 years) have proved effective at markedly improving the status of lion populations in hunted areas (Loveridge et al. 2016, Mweetwa et al. 2018)” Guidelines for the Conservation of Lions in Africa Version 1.0 – December 2018, 6.5, page 74 – Amy Dickman, Matt Becker, Colleen Begg, Andrew J. Loveridge and David Macdonald

How can such moratoria work, if “Removing TH without alternative increases threats” – perhaps Slide 24’s blanket statement based on one area of study needs some caveats that it is not conclusive proof, or the proof provided that discredits  Loveridge et al. 2016, Mweetwa et al. 2018.

Slide 25, “If wildlife has no economic value, it will be removed

Rather a sweeping statement that supports trophy hunting’s valuation of wildlife.

Regardless, trophy hunting does not correctly value wildlife when putting a price on a given animal’s head as a trophy and fund the actual conservation costs. For example,  Packer et al. (2013) calculated that the minimum of $2,500 per square kilometre per year should be applied to protect a lion population (at half its potential size) in an unfenced area. A Hwange National Park lion, such as Cecil, by the time he was 12 years old (as he was when killed for a hunting trophy in July 2015) occupied around 500 square kilometres, the average range of a lion in Hwange (Loveridge 2018).

Therefore, the investment made in Cecil’s protection within Hwange National Park could well have exceeded $1 million a year (500 square kilometres x £2,500 per square kilometre per year x 12 years = $15m).

The bottom line is, trophy hunting grossly undervalues wildlife and kills wildlife from photo-graphic tourism areas – which clearly does nothing to support the claim that trophy hunting serves to protect habitat and biodiversity in areas not fit for photo-graphic tourism.

Slide 26, “Those killings far higher than TH, indiscriminate

It is assumed that “those killings” implies that in the absence of trophy  hunting valuing wildlife, then wildlife will be killed wantonly by rural communities.

Retaliatory killings are also driven by other wildlife trade forces, regardless of trophy hunting’s ‘value’ on a given target species. Everatt et al. (2019) concludes that the captive lion industry/canned huting/lion bone trade is potentially increasing demand for lion body parts and derivatives, with ‘conflict killings’ of wild lions being used as an excuse to harvest lion body parts to try and profit from the demand/trade – so trophy hunting being used to appease and create ‘tolerance’ and prevent retaliatory killings is being undermined regardless.

In addition, studies (Loveridge et al., 2017Beattie et al., 2020) have shown that there are non-lethal, non-consumptive alternatives that can work to reduce human-wildlife conflict.

Dickman’s own studies (Dickman et al, 2019) have deduced that tolerance for lions was greater in non-trophy hunting Kenya’s Massailans, than in Ruaha, trophy-hunting Tanzania, or in Hwange, trophy-hunting Zimbabwe:

In Maasailand, 88% of the respondents expressed a desire to see current lion populations maintained, while only 42% of the respondents in Ruaha and only 5% of the respondents in Hwange expressed this desire.More respondents reported predation by lions (lion predation) on livestock in Maasailand than in Hwange; personal benefits from conservation were greatest in Maasailand; and exposure to conservation education was highest in Ruaha. The Hwange findings were confounded by Zimbabwe’s political and economic climate. In Ruaha and Maasailand, communal and individual conservation benefits influenced desired changes to lion population. Once variation between sites was controlled for, twinning personal benefits and conservation education together was most likely to increase an individual’s desire to see current lion populations maintained.” – Dickman et al, 2019

What are we to deduce from Dickman et al, 2019, as given above? Perhaps that that trophy hunting exacerbates intolerance to the targeted species where the threat of livestock depredation is exaggerated (Dickman et al., 2014)?

The theory that trophy hunting can reduce human wildlife conflict is espoused in “Landscapes of Fear” (Cromsigt et al. 2013), whereby the theory is that having trophy hunting in a region scares elephants (or other targeted species) away from the human settlements within that hunting concession. Even if that theory holds true, then by default this ‘fear’ would potentially drive trophy targeted species into conflict in other areas (in search of resources such as food and water) where the targeted population feels safer, thereby perpetuating the risk of human wildlife conflict in that ‘safe area’ – perhaps many elephants migrated into Botswana (when it had a trophy hunting moratorium) from neighbouring KAZA countries (Kavango Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), which spans Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe) for fear of being hunted or poached in their home ranges – driving the elephants back again for ‘fear’ of being trophy hunted in Botswana does not reduce human wildlife conflict risks in the KAZA region.

As Dr Mike Chase (2018) stated, trophy hunting problem wildlife does not alter the risk of future human-wildlife conflict without tackling and mitigating factors – ie. trophy hunting a problem, hungry elephant that has trampled crops in search of food, or water does not stop the next elephant doing the same, if the underlying lack of adequate elephant habitat is not addressed:

The African Wildlife Foundation estimates that between 2001 – 2015 some 81,572 African elephants were killed for hunting trophies. At an estimated average $15,000 USD per elephant hunting trophy multiplied by 81,572 elephants, that’s an income of some $1.224bn USD (or some $87m USD per year). The Congressional Research Service (2019) states at Table 1 that the average fee established from nine hunting outfitters is now at $45,013 USD for an elephant (which would equate to some $3.67bn USD derived from the trophy hunting of 81,572 elephants, or some $262m USD per year).

Yet in 2019, elephants were still dying in the wild from an historic lack of conservation investment, such as avoidable lack of water and food, because the drilling of long promised bore holes has yet to happen in drought regions in Zimbabwe and Botswana. So where is the conservation funding/spend to deliver conservation of elephants from the conservatively estimated $1.2bn USD gained from trophy hunting elephants between 2005 – 2015?

Trophy hunting has a poor public image in general, but elephant trophy hunting is particularly poor as despite the mass attrition, the income derived seems to give little conservation return (as illustrated above).

However, trophy hunting can exacerbate human-wildlife conflict regardless (not reduce it). For example, elephant trophy hunting can increase human wildlife conflict, as evidenced in Botswana in 2019,  with unethical hunting practices clearly evident in Ngamiland where local elephants have been hunted –  detrimental to elephant conservation with dominant bull elephants removed, thus opening up local herds to delinquent behaviour and a reduced gene pool. Local Ngamiland communities were not informed of the hunting, do not benefit and are against the hunting in their area, which they say is likely to increase the potential of human wildlife conflict as the local elephant herds are negatively disrupted and angered by humans hunting with guns, thus endangering the local community that have previously co-existed with the elephants.

Slide 27, “Often comes down to (ill-informed) moral argument

Regardless, since when has a moral argument (ill-informed (sic), or otherwise) not been valid? Arguments against legal apartheid, or legal slavery were often morally based, so what is wrong with anyone having a ethical, or moral objection to legal trophy hunting (perhaps backed by informed analysis)? Where is the proof that it (public opinion one assumes is the implied target) “often” comes down to an ill-informed moral argument anyway?

The UK public’s opinion against the issue of trophy hunting has been acknowledged for at least the past four years – a campaign to suddenly dissuade the “ill-informed” (sic) against such strongly held-views is somewhat belated:

It seems that public opinion, in many places, is strongly against trophy hunting, particularly of threatened species” – Macdonald et al., 2016

Batavia et al. 2019 make clear that any pro-hunting advocates that espouse policy being “based on science, not feelings of “repugnance”” establishes another dichotomy. Batavia et al. 2019 contend that policy “requires both understanding the likely results of a policy (science) and evaluating whether those results are desirable (values)“ – ie. where such “values” must be weighed against current moral and ethical norms, not the assumption that morals and ethics are to be somehow disregarded when it comes to trophy hunting – trophy hunting’s self-exemption from morals and ethics is not a given:

“…….if a few animals are shot because a few wealthy people can afford to shoot them, and this ensures (speculatively) that the land is not converted to agriculture or other non-wildlife uses, then it is morally acceptable to allow trophy hunting.

But this backdoor appeal to consequentialism assumes that outcomes would be worse in the absence of hunting and ignores the importance of respect for individual animals (and the fact that removing the most impressive individuals has deleterious ecosystem and population-level impacts)” – Harvey 2019

Slide 28, “Whose morals & rights matter?

Not sure what message this ’emotional’ slide it trying to portray – is it that protestors against trophy hunting are causing children to starve somehow and that such protestors are somehow responsible for a man’s loss of his arms?

I assume it’s the emotional nudge that trophy hunting provides meat for rural communities, because without trophy hunting, no local person would be able to kill an animal and supply a village with meat  – but why does it need a foreign trophy hunter to pay to fly in and kill an animal in the name of ‘sport’ to feed a village? If it is legal to kill the meat donor animal in the first place, why can’t the villagers kill it themselves and harvest the meat directly? Is it because if a villager kills the donor animal on their doorstep it is called poaching, but if someone pays third-parties for the privilege (sic) of killing the donor animal and donates the meat to the local community that’s then called conservation?  Where does the moral boundary lie – or is it more about the parties that profit from the donor animal’s death than any moral debate and the feeding of local communities?

Plus of course, there is the human health risk of eating meat from a slain trophy, such as a lion. Both captive and wild lion populations suffer from bovine tuberculosis, with high levels of infection in Kruger posing a conservation risk. Lions were previously thought to be a dead-end host for the disease, but recent research suggests infected individuals can transmit the disease to other lions. Tuberculosis infects and kills millions of humans per year (World Health Organisation, tuberculosis fact sheet) – the WHO lists bovine tuberculosis as one of the seven neglected zoonoses perceived to pose severe threats to public health.

Therefore, lion meat, or derivative product consumption represents a clear human health risk (Modlin 2017) and potentially public health liability, with the potential passing of TB to humans via wildlife/livestock handling (“Roadmap for Zoonotic Tuberculosis,” World Health Organisation) and  directly from infected livestock during the slaughter process – research shows bovine tuberculosis is “a concern for vulnerable communities” in South Africa.

Of course, the meat would need to remain fit for human consumption, despite the meat donor animal in question being trophy hunted/slaughtered in an unlicensed, open air ‘abattoir’ and when trophy hunted wildlife, such as elephants can harbour diseases of unknown origin – not to mention the whole zoonotic disease debate stemming from COVID-19 and wildlife consumption.

But, slide 28 seems to suggest that all trophy hunting should be accepted because it potentially provides meat to children in local communities (despite any obvious human health risks).

[Update] Note: ‘Voices’ purporting to speak on behalf of Africans have been found to be funded by Safari Club International (“Reply-Guys Go Hunting: An Investigation into a U.S. Astroturfing Operation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” – Stanford Internet Observatory, 8 October 20220, p 13 – 14) employing fraudulent ‘false flag’ initiatives to spread dis-information on social media platforms.

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Above is an example of Safari Club International’s (SCI’s) “False Flag Astroturfing” – Let Africa Live was found to be funded by SCI, with personas fabricated to populate pro-trophy hunting content on facebook etc. Let Africa Live had more than 35,000 likes and 38,000 follows. “Facebook removed four Pages about hunting, wildlife, and conservation (Proud American Hunters, Humankind Society, Let Africa Live, and Hunters for Trump). These Pages promoted pro-hunting content, including so-called sustainable hunting practices in Africa

Reply-Guys Go Hunting: An Investigation into a U.S. Astroturfing Operation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” Stanford Internet Observatory, 8 October 2020

Safari Club International’s Plan to Colonize Africa’s Hunting Grounds,” IWB – Jared Kukura, Wild Things Initiative, 31 October 2021


Slide 29, “Same arguments about hunting will be relevant in UK

This slide implies that unless pheasant shooters for example, in the UK support lion trophy hunting in Africa, then the “antis” will somehow conspire to bring all sports hunting down. This is not a scientific argument (but one that plays to emotions).

Each ‘sports’ hunting case should be assessed on its merits (or otherwise). Trying to group ‘all for one, and one for all’ is not a dissimilar approach to Safari Club International (SCI) seeking to lobby European Union policy on trophy hunting by corralling “European hunting organizations, pet trade organizations, circuses, zoos, farming associations, cosmetic/medical laboratories, fur trade companies, and others” behind the SCI’s cause as a united animal exploitation lobby.

Each has to be debated on its own terms, but the fact a hunting lobby such as SCI sees common ground with circuses, vivisectionists and fur farmers speaks volumes for the formal trophy hunting lobbies’ moral compass.

Slide 30, “Our key recommendations to UK Government

The United Kingdom’s “Consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies” officially closed on 25 February 2020. Slide 30 advocates for:

  • Rather than an outright ban, revise trophy import criteria to enhance conservation, which would be welcomed by responsible professional hunters and othersImports should be permitted if they meet strict ethical & sustainability criteria, including demonstrating meaningful conservation benefits, with habitat conservation as a key criterion

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) – the UK’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Scientific Authority – needs to be resourced to assess on a case-by-case basis. How are the criteria for ‘permitted’ and ‘not permitted’ trophies to be set? Most relevant data comes from the range states where a trophy is harvested, how can the JNCC independently assess such data as valid and not a fiction to support a notion of sustainability? Or should the JNCC continue to rely on the validity of a CITES issued permit as proof, when the corruption of CITES’ processes is well known? Who will fund the detailed analysis required for each case to assess “strict ethical & sustainability criteria, including demonstrating meaningful conservation benefits, with habitat conservation as a key criterion?”

As a result, it is difficult to confidently conclude that any particular trophy import would enhance the survival of a species“ – “Missing the Mark – African trophy hunting fails to show consistent conservation benefits, page 21

Who will police for fraudulent trophies (Ammann 2015, EMS Foundation 2018) ‘harvested’ in one non-sustainable region, but transported over a border and a paper based CITES permit obtained suggesting compliance with import criteria?

It should be borne in mind that the trophy hunting industry has had decades to reach the promised nirvana of universal “well-regulated” trophy hunting, but has failed through greed, corruption and a masquerade of ‘conservation’ imperatives. Allowing a system of subjective assessment and convenient loop-holes to perpetuate is unlikely to serve conservation.

  • Invest long-term, significant funding to help develop and implement viable alternatives for trophy hunting areas, particularly in light of COVID-19 impacts

Despite a presentation promoting trophy hunting, there is a plea for funding of alternatives for trophy hunting areas. If the presenters believe in trophy hunting so much, why seek funding for alternatives? Regardless, isn’t the “Lions, Land Use and Alternatives to Trophy Hunting,” WildCRU’s research initiative supposed to be working on alternatives anyway, or is UK Government funding being sought to bolster that work?

The “COVID-19 impacts” are presumably that trophy hunting had been impacted by the lack of trophy hunters on the ground harvesting wildlife and that tourism income reliant habitat has impacted anti-poaching efforts.  More wildlife attrition is unlikely to restore wildlife subject to a surge in poaching activity.

  • Provide long-term, significant funding to address the real threats facing lions and other species – particularly habitat loss, which also affects human and planetary health.”

A distinct, lion emphasis throughout the presentation – with this statement implying that the “real threats” facing lions does not include trophy hunting. But trophy hunting’s ranking (2006) is clearly poor and outdated (Slide 16) and lions have been adversely affected by trophy hunting attrition, so it is a ‘real threat’ (Chardonnet (IUCN 2019and Brink et al. 2016 highlighted the negative impacts that trophy hunting has had on the lion populations:

The primary threats to large felids across Africa are thought to be retaliatory killing and habitat loss (Riggio et al. 2012, IUCN 2006, IUCN 2008, Fitzherbert et al. 2014). However, over-hunting is also a possible cause of concern, especially in felid species like the lion where infanticide is common (Caro et al. 2009, Whitman et al. 2004)

Furthermore, the suggestion is that “only recently” (really?) “has enough evidence been gathered to suggest…..”:

“……that trophy hunting of lions is having a negative impact on populations (Packer et al. 2011, Packer et al. 2009, Loveridge et al . 2007, Kiffner et al. 2009). Lion trophy hunting specifically targets adult males and sport hunters are extremely efficient in locating their quarry. This has large impacts because the males that replace the hunted individuals in the pride kill any cubs they have not fathered (Packer et al. 2011). Recent research from Zambia suggests that lion trophy hunting could be sustainable with a strategy that combines periods of recovery or no hunting, a minimum age of at least seven years for trophy lions, and a quota of 0.5 lions per 1000km2 (Creel et al. 2016). If lion ‘hunting is conservation’ (sic) as claimed by the pro-hunting advocates, then why is “no hunting” recommended as a means of recovery from the hunting attrition (Creel et al. 2016)?

MPs and others have a responsibility to educate themselves about this topic and the impacts of import bans, and take informed actions to protect people and wildlife, addressing genuine concerns of the UK public

Yes, MPs should be well informed before any decision (hence the public consultation that took place and calls for evidence). The presenters’ “genuine concerns of the UK public” is a touching end note, having called the publics’ genuine outrage at trophy hunting “ill-informed” at slide 27.


Further Reading

The rise of trophy hunting disinformation deniers,” Wild Things Initiative, 9 March 2023

Top sustainable use activists mislead and misinform at policy briefing – YouTube,” Wild Things Initiative, 30 January 2023

Upcoming IUCN SULi webinar to discuss a totally unbiased trophy hunting project,” Wild Things Initiative, 14 September 2022

IUCN SULi is supporting a narrative-changing ‘hunter advocacy’ program,” Conservation Action Trust, Jared Kukura, Wild Things Initiative, 19 July 2022

Botswana’s wildlife management fails communities — report,” Don Pinnock, Daily Maverick, 7 July 2022

Ban on trade in trophy hunting memorabilia,” EDM 19, 12 May 2021

SICK SPORT Brit trophy-hunting boss boasts of deals to shoot endangered animals – bragging they are ‘plentiful’ in Covid crisis,” The Sun, 13 February 2021

Is ‘celebrity power’ undermining global conservation efforts?,” IWB, 22 January 2021

Celebrity power undermining global conservation efforts, scientists warn,” The Guardian, 15 January 2021

So many things missing from the balance of this article, it’s hard to know where to start…..”Hostile dispute over trophy hunting fuelled by ‘myths driven by emotion and morality that ignore critical facts’

The ‘facts’ do not support all species’ exploitation as hunting trophies:

  • The abysmal moral and ethical standards of trophy hunting are not even mentioned in the article – animal cruelty and suffering is inherent in trophy hunting and should not be ignored, or dismissed as an ’emotional’ side-issue – for many, animal cruelty is front and centre in any assessment of trophy hunting;
  • Trophy hunting depletes the target species’ gene pool, specifically targeting the best examples thus reducing the species’ chances to thrive, trophy hunting does not exclusively target the old or the weak examples of a given species;
  • The trickle-down economics of trophy hunting to supposedly give wildlife ‘value’ to rural/local communities is derisory (less than 3% of trophy hunting’s income) and is not proven to protect wildlife from human wildlife conflict;
  • Trophy hunting is a business model driven by factors that relentlessly pursue profiteering, conflicting with and often overriding conservation concerns with devastating consequences;
  • Protecting habitat does not always corelate with protecting the wildlife inhabitants if over-exploited for trophy hunting’s pleasure seekers – hence, many ex-hunting concessions are now depleted of viable trophy animals…….

The negatives of trophy hunting’s impacts are endless, but are hidden by its advocates behind trophy hunting’s veil of myths, internal conflicts of interest, half-truths, outright lies and self-delusion – Also reference: Consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies” and “Call for evidence on the scale and impacts of the import and export of hunting trophies (December 2019) and Submission to the High-Level Panel – ‘National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998) National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (June 2020).

Boris Johnson has broken the whopping promise he made to Brits a year ago today,” The Canary, 14 October 2020

What We Learned from Facebook’s Takedown of Safari Club International-Funded Disinformation Campaigns,” Jared Kukura, Wild Things Initiative, 12 October 2020

The Trophy Hunting Industry’s Latest Tone-Deaf Argument About Racial Inequality,” Jared Kukura, Wild Things Initiative, 11 August 2020

Beware the Trophy Hunting Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” Jared Kukura, Wild Things Initiative, 8 August 2020

Pro-Trophy Hunting ‘Experts’ Threaten Detractors to Silence Criticism,” Jared Kukura, Wild Things Initiative, 3 August 2020

Petition – “Boris Johnson – Ban the Import and Export of Hunting Trophies Now!

Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Letter to the Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, “Trophy Hunting Imports,” with House of Commons and House of Lords signatories, 20 July 2020


Science for Success—A Conflict of Interest? Researcher Position and Reflexivity in Socio-Ecological Research for CBNRM in Namibia,” Stasja Koot, Paul Hebinck and Sian Sullivan, Routledge, 23 April 2020

Consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies,” IWB, 4 November 2019


Funding secret of scientists against trophy hunt ban,” The Times, 25 October 2019

Note: “08417-19 Cooney et al. v The Times,” The Independent Press Standards Organisation, Complaint Concluded, 24 April 2020

This Lion Expert Was Banned From Tanzania for Exposing Corruption,”  National Geographic, 16 September 2015

The BIG LIE about lion trophy hunting,” Africa Geographic, 10 August 2017








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