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Before you read on I must make it very clear that I do NOT support hunting tourism or trophy hunting. Similarly, when I ask people whether hunting tourism is acceptable the quick answer is always ‘NO’. However, I also believe there must be an important reason why countries offer their wild animals and also most valuable tourism assets to be hunted and killed.
The sad news that Namibia has recently granted permits to hunt the rare desert elephants, that are uniquely adapted to living in the dry conditions, stunned me and spurred me to write this blog. I knew that a country that has been celebrated in the past for its wildlife conservation efforts with their creation of communal conservancies to prevent poaching and has a conservation mandate written into its constitution will have a strong reason to offer these hunting permits. So, for my opening blog I thought I would investigate a little deeper. Offering a bit more than a simple ‘NO’. An argument that can be followed with ‘its not right because…’ or ‘its ok because...’ or ‘I still cant make up my mind‘People seem to enjoy hunting as canned hunting rises in popularity. Minor celebrities have been pictured in the past hunting in Africa posing next to their kill. Melissa Bachman (hunting’s pin up girl) was the first that I saw, sitting smiling next to what was once an incredible male lion. More recently, football fan Axelle Despiegelaere, L’Oreal’s to be model, was also found to be a fan of game hunting but was quickly dropped from the modeling contract. Melissa Bachman and Axelle Despiegelaere received public backlash which followed by hate campaigns suggesting that the general public consensus is that hunting is wrong.
However, huge sums of money are still payed for the right to kill. The Dallas Safari Club auctioned of a license to kill an endangered black rhino which was sold for a hefty $350,000 dollars. It transpired that the rhino was actually an older none breeding male, however, many would argue that this is spreading the message that endangered species are worth more dead than alive. Furthermore, the money was destined for conservation efforts in Namibia and the organisation has apparently raised millions of dollars donated to other conservation efforts.
In support of this argument, Save the Rhino (a charity dedicated to conserve endangered populations of rhino) also believe that trophy hunting is a viable conservation approach but only if conducted within the permits rules and regulations which could be open to abuse.
In the case of the desert elephant the Namibian government released 9 licences that were purchased to kill 9 Bull elephants. This angered the general population and began petitions against the permits. They suggested that much of the circulating information are ‘inaccurate and false reports’. In a press release the Namibian government estimate that there are around 20,000 elephants in Namibia and that there are 391 desert elephants. However, they refused the existence of desert elephants suggesting they are simply a tourism ploy and that they are no different other African Elephants that are no longer an endangered species in Namibia. Thus, they believe there are plenty of elephants and that ‘recent increases [in population] are well in excess of normal growth rates’.
Due to numbers and problematic bulls the Namibian government has proposed the Elephants are a potential threat to conservation efforts and possible conflicts with local people. To prevent over population and prevent human-animal conflict they have provided consumptive and non-consumptive utilization rights to rural community’s (240,000 people). In other words hunting quotas are designed to balance animal species which brings in equity for the local population in the form of trophy hunting that has been a fundamental contributor to conservation. This is a argued to be sustainable use of wildlife resources and that it will not effect the growth of the elephant population. The elephants are a very important source of income for communities which has provided an incentive to look after this valued asset. The communities within these communal conservancies have the right to manage and utilize these quotas as they feel fit. Unsurprisingly, trophy hunting is popular in Namibia because it generated at least $19.6 million which 24% of this income goes to the poor segments of society.
The Namibian reacted with counter arguments to the media stories, angry conservationists and the upset general public. But, what I really want to know is who decides these animal quotas? The desert elephant population was challenged by the Conservation Action Trust and other independent estimates that suggest there could be fewer than 100 apposed to the 391 as suggested by the Namibian government. These discrepancies between independent studies and the perpetrating organisation are not uncommon. Recently an independent investigation into Australia permits for coal dredging close to the great barrier reef found the governments environmental impact process dramatically flawed. So who can we trust? Are the ‘experts’ really just regurgitating the ruling organisations agenda, they do fund their research after all?
To sum up in a bizarre twist, can hunting could be good for conservation and species population by adding value to its survival and donating money to conservation efforts? Of course we are not talking about necessity like the San People in Botswana, we are discussing a hobby. But it is well known that conservation works best when it creates jobs, involves the local population and generates an income. Is providing permits that factors in age and sex for hunting to reduce problem individuals a sustainable form of conservation. Attracting high paying visitors will obviously encourage landowners to accommodate endangered species and provide more areas for them to roam. But I do believe that there are more sustainable means in protecting these incredible animals, but while people are paying these huge sums of money the innovative sustainable methods are not going to get a look in. So perhaps, instead of focusing on the Namibian Government and the local populations, perhaps direct disagreements on the paying customers who keep trophy hunting alive.
As always I welcome your comments and love to hear peoples opinions.
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