Big game hunting in Africa is economically useless - IUCN
In Tanzania 26% of the territory creates 0.22% of GDP - Big game hunting
Big game hunting is a hugely inneficient use of land resources.
November 2011. Today in sub-Saharan Africa, very large areas are used for big game hunting (approximately 1.4 million km²), which is 22% more than all national Parks of the region. Therefore, it is an important component of African rural landscapes. This study clarifies the role of big game hunting, with an emphasis on West Africa. The data gathered has been analysed to clarify the pertinence of big game hunting according to conservation, socioeconomic and good governance criteria.
Regarding conservation, big game hunting shows mixed results. Some areas are geographically stable, and wildlife populations are significant, but this is not the norm. Large disparities are seen between areas. Where management levels are similar, the conservation results from big game hunting are lower than those of neighbouring national parks or reserves. Hunting areas are less resistant to external pressures than national parks, and thus will play a lesser role in future conservation strategies. An undeniable positive result is that the conservation results that are obtained are entirely financed by the hunters, without support from donors and often without government commitment.
Big Game Hunting and Gross Domestic Product
An important item of data for analysing development is Gross Domestic Product (GDP): in
absolute terms, per unit of surface area and per capita. The table above presents the figures
for the main big game hunting countries.
16.5% of land creates 0.0001% of jobs
The economic results of big game hunting are low. Land used for hunting generates much smaller returns than that used for agriculture or livestock breeding. Hunting contributions to GDP and States' national budgets are insignificant, especially when considering the size of the areas concerned. Economic returns per hectare, for the private sector and for governments are insufficient for proper management. Returns for local populations, even when managed by community projects (CBNRM) are insignificant, and cannot prompt them to change their behaviour regarding poaching and agricultural encroachment. The number of salaried jobs generated (15 000 all over Africa) is low considering that 150 million people live in the eight main big game hunting countries, and that hunting takes up 16.5% of their territory. To summarise, the hunting sector uses up a lot of space without generating corresponding socio-economic benefits.
Good governance is almost non existent
Good governance is also absent from almost the entire big game hunting sector in many countries. Those who currently have control of the system are not prepared to share that power and undertake adjustments that would mean relinquishing control. They attempt, thanks to a fairly opaque system, to keep a largely exhausted management system going. This position serves individual interests, but not those of conservation, governments or local communities.
Hunting as a conservation tool
Hunting used to have, and still has, a key role to play in African conservation. It is not certain that the conditions will remain the same. Hunting does not however play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance.
The question, however, can be summarised today as: can we do conservation better than big game hunting has up until now, in those areas where big game hunting is practiced? This is not at all sure, all the more so in that big game hunting pays for itself.
The advent of consideration of environmental services and sustainable financing makes it possible to envisage financing these networks from a new angle. The environment is increasingly seen as a global good which cannot be used exclusively for individual interests or those of a minority.
In modern protected area networks, hunting areas still have an important role to play in conservation: that of financing and maintaining the peripheral areas around conservation blocks.
The scale of big game hunting in Africa The People
Around 18,500 tourist hunters go big game hunting in Africa every year. Hunts are organised by approximately 1,300 organisations that employ around 3,400 guides and 15,000 local staff. On average, a hunting safari organisation will only have an average of 14.5 hunt clients per year and each guide will only take 5.5 hunters out annually.
Big game hunting areas take up huge areas of land: for the 11 main big game hunting countries, the surface area occupied is 110 million hectares, in other words 14.9% of the total land area of these countries. In addition to these hunting areas, protected areas occupy, in these 11 countries, 68.4 million hectares, i.e. 9.4% of the national territory. The sum of the hunting areas and protected areas therefore represents 24.3% of the surface area of these countries. This leaves a proportion of the country for human habitation that is difficult to reconcile with the development of these countries, the population density of which averages 34 people per km.
Tourist hunters kill around 105 000 animals per year, including around 640 elephants, 3 800 buffalo, 600 lions and 800 leopards. Such quantities are not necessarily reasonable. It can e noted for example, that killing 600 lions out of a total population of around 25 000 (i.e. 2.4%) is not sustainable. A hunting trip usually lasts from one to three weeks, during which time each hunter kills an average of two to ten animals, depending on the country.
The annual turnover for big game hunting in Africa is estimated at $US200 million, half of which is generated in South Africa and the rest in the other countries of Sub Saharan Africa. The contribution to the countries' GDP is 0.06% for the 11 main big game hunting countries.
The contribution to national budgets is also low: one percent of the land classified as big game hunting territory contributes 0.006% to the government budget. The contribution of hunting to the national budget is highest in Tanzania, where it is still only 0.3% and uses 26% of the national land area.
Returns per hectare in big game hunting areas
On average, big game hunting generates a turnover of $US1.1/ha in the 10 big game hunting countries (excluding South Africa), which is very low compared to agricultural use (300 to 600 times more), in a context where the peripheral zones of protected areas are already occupied. This figure does not reach the minimum ratio for the cost of developing a protected area (at least $US2/ha), and can be seen as the sole explanation for the gradual degradation of hunting areas. The local community's share is around $US0.10/ha (or 50 FCFA/ha), explaining their lack of interest in preserving hunting areas and their continued encroachment and poaching.
Low productivity of big game hunting
On average for these 11 countries, the surface area occupied by big game parks is 14.9% of national territory, and the contribution of big game hunting to the GDP is 0.06%. This makes the economic productivity of these hectares very low. This information shows that hunting is not a good option for land use, in particular in a context where priorities are to reduce poverty and establish food security. However, big game hunting (unlike small game hunting) is essentially carried out on land exclusively reserved for that purpose.
The least productive countries per hectare are Ethiopia (hunting areas have virtually disappeared there), Burkina Faso and Benin (where hunting trips are very cheap), Cameroon (where hunting areas are under high pressure from agriculture). These are the countries where closing down of hunting could make the biggest contribution to development by freeing-up land that is not very economically productive (but what would the consequences be for conservation?). These are also the countries where it is most difficult to change local communities' attitudes to conservation, due to the lack of any gain for them.
Find a more productive and eco-sensitive option
Those who are doing the best economically-speaking are Namibia and Botswana. And yet, Botswana decided that better value would be obtained from running safaris and they closed down hunting in the Okavango in 2009. This option should be studied in more depth in the other countries.
What is the place for big game hunting in this context?
The socio-economic contribution and the contribution to development of big game hunting are virtually nil. Therefore, the main overall interest of big game hunting lies in its value as a conservation tool. It is this value that should be increased by better integrating hunting into conservation strategies.