The Dallas Safari Club has auctioned off the life of a black rhino for $350,000.
In light of this recent atrocity, trophy hunting has come to the forefront of the social consciousness. The elitist hobby of killing for the thrill has been going on since the 19th century, with nearly 18,000 participants a year.
Today, with the black rhino population in serious decline, each life is crucial to the species. It is a wonder that anyone could place higher value on their death, than their life. Endangered species are labeled as such to provide them extra levels of protection. Hunting them to “save” them flies in the face of logic.
Yet, some argue that hunting helps conservation. What do they mean by that?
Countries condone trophy hunting for a couple of reasons:
1. to make money – the money brought in from the hunting fee goes toward community conservation
2. to help control wildlife populations – keeping wildlife at reasonable numbers for the health of the species
3. to rid areas of “problem” animals – i.e. elephants or cape buffalo that destroy crops
With human/wildlife conflict a growing concern, many countries permit trophy hunting where only older males or repeated crop or cattle raiders are targeted. This provides a win-win for the village: the pest animal is removed and they receive monetary support.
Is it working? How much money is the community receiving? And how do they spend the money?
According to David Hulme, author and conservationist, its working well in terms of conservation. Zimbabwe is having high conservation success, primarily because of the hunting community.
“Here in Zimbabwe hunters have been on the frontline of the poaching wars. They were at the forefront of massive rhino evacuation exercises, moving them from the Zambezi valley to safer areas. Pretty much the only rhino left in Zimbabwe are in the large conservancies, owned and operated by hunters.
Hunters here in Zim also organized and carried out the first ever live adult elephant translocation exercise, moving whole herds from drought stricken Gonarezhou national park to the conservancies.”
The Save Conservancy in Zimbabwe, an area Hulme is quite familiar with, is one such example.
“The conservancy used to be denuded cattle land and is now the largest privately owned conservation area in the world, at 1 million acres. In 1990 there were a handful of lions there, now there are hundreds, 20 odd rhino, now there are 130, 20 odd elephants now there are 1500, no buffalo now there are thousands.. “said Hulme.
And what about the community? The Zimbabwe government is currently backing a project that allows trophy hunting of elephants, warthogs, giraffes, buffaloes and impalas. The project is well established, with the hunting fees being used to build a school and a clinic. This added income is especially helpful to the people during the dry season, when crops and livestock are not viable.
It’s hard to argue with the wildlife growth or community benefit. It’s been working in Zimbabwe for years. Yet what seems to be helpful in one area is a disaster in another.
South Africa remains the largest trophy hunting industry on the continent. Frustratingly, they are one of only two countries to allow the legal hunting of rhinos. Of course with the rhino being endangered and this being home to the remaining 90% of them, this is a nightmare.
Encouraging legal hunting, while trying to crack down on illegal hunting (poaching) seems difficult, if not impossible. Rich foreigners with cash in hand stepping into impoverished communities make it all too easy for corruption to flourish. In the end, it comes down to money. The communities need it, the hunters have it, and the animals are the product to be bought and sold.
Thank you David Hulme for reminding me the world is more than black and white.