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Hunting as a conservation tool

The case for hunting as a means to saving wildlife
By Mayra Duarte of Bahr El Jebel Safaris

Human population of Africa is exploding. The search for food and space to grow crops and graze cattle is becoming a problem throughout Africa. Encroachment into National Parks and wildlife reserves is a constant battle for wardens in practically every country.

This elephant was killed by 
poachers, and its tusks were 
hacked off. Is it possible that if 
controlled hunting were allowed, 
there would be much less 
poaching and that local 
communities would benefit more
from wildlife?
Wildlife does not understand or recognise park boundaries and moves freely in and out of most of their sanctuaries. You cannot build a fence around an African wildlife park. So what is the answer, when humans look at park lands and wildlife as a source of food?

Controlled trophy hunting
As much as it sounds like a contradiction to many people, controlled trophy hunting can hold the answer to this situation. Pure capitalism takes over in the minds of the people that live in and around the parks and reserves of Africa, when they benefit from limited trophy hunting. What if the wildlife that passes through their crops or cattle grazing area has more value to them, than their crops or cattle? Obviously those people will then protect that wildlife from their own people.

Economic benefits
Many countries permit trophy hunting next to the parks, where only older males or repeated crop or cattle raiders are targeted. The resulting meat and a fee are given to the local population that has a much higher value than their cattle and crops. This is taking place around most major parks in Africa right now.

Abhorrent killing of wildlife
The killing of wildlife is abhorrent to the minds of many people in the Western World. To the true trophy hunter this feeling, believe it or not, is shared. The trophy hunter is not short sighted, they too want the animals to thrive in great numbers into the future.

Wasted resource?
An example is the situation I observed, in a country in Eastern Africa, where 6 adult buffalos left the park and entered into a farm where a new crop of corn was growing. The owner of the farm called the park. The park sent 2 rangers with AK47s, the buffalo were destroyed and the meat sold for 50 cents (US$) per pound. Nobody benefited and no doubt the situation will repeat itself.

A trophy hunter would have paid the farm about $2000 per animal plus the meat. If this situation existed no doubt the farmer would have considered the buffalo another asset of his farm, called in a trophy hunter, selected one individual and driven the others back into the park. Trophy hunters, by their nature, once they have their trophy, do not want to shoot another animal, allowing the remaining animals to be driven off.

Lions killing cows - Poisoning helps no one
Another example in the same country: A group of lions continued to raid a tribe's cattle, so the tribe poisoned the last cow killed for the lions to eat when they return to the kill. Several lions died from the poison. If a trophy hunter had been called in, they would have killed one lion, and driven the rest back into the park. The tribe would have recovered the value of the cow plus a profit, and realized that live lions do have a value after all. Furthermore, lions, like most animals, can sense when an area is unsafe and so do not return

Wildlife in Africa must have a value to the people of Africa if the wildlife is to survive in sustainable numbers into the next century. Wildlife does not exist in a vacuum; there are considerable pressures on all species which increase as human populations increase. Careful management is the only answer, where the tourist benefits and the people who live next to parks also benefit.