Hunting And Conservation

As more and more species are added to the endangered list, so conservation becomes of ever increasing importance.

Hunting and conservation are inextricably linked in this debate, and you may or may not agree with our conclusions in this respect.

Please do not disregard this important issue though.

Whilst on safari, enjoying wonderful game viewing and photographing it, you will rarely hear any discussion of the flip side of this coin – hunting. Nevertheless many camp owners and hosts have either been, or still are, hunters, but there seems to be a conspiracy of silence such that this is a topic that is rarely, if ever, discussed, since most of the guests staying at such places will view it with displeasure.


The Debate

It has to be recognised that there are many people all over the world, not just in Africa, who view the hunting, and killing, of wild animals for pleasure as a perfectly normal form of enjoyment, and this viewpoint has to be respected. It is just that, in Africa, the viewing of such magnificent wildlife seems so much at odds with its slaughter for enjoyment (rather than for food). You only need to type something like ‘African hunting safaris’ into Google to discover a huge number of websites that, frankly, turn our stomachs.

We can emphasise with, and understand, the classical ‘ethical hunting’ ethos, in which the hunter will use all his skill to track his quarry on foot, sometimes for days, at a (small) risk to himself, until finally getting into a position to take his shot, even though we, ourselves, could never bring ourselves to actually make the shot. However the other extreme is the hero who, for example, shoots a drugged lion confined within a small compound, from the safety of the other side of the fence, and then returns home to brag about his big game hunting exploits. If this is you, my friend, then you are a very sick person indeed.

Does this mean that AfricaAway is against big game hunting? Strangely enough, no! The sad truth is that trophy hunting can provide a source of jobs and income in areas where these are desperately needed, giving local communities a reason to protect wildlife and habitats that might otherwise be sacrificed to rural villagers’ need to put meat on the table, earn money from poaching, or develop the land for domestic cattle pasture. We say ‘can’, since in many instances the astronomical fees paid by foreigners to be given a license to bag their quarry just disappear into the pockets of the hunt operators concerned, with little tangible benefit to the local community.

However, run correctly, with much of the proceeds put to work in the local community, there is no doubt that hunting can be a powerful economic force in conserving threatened species. In fact, many of the highly influential wild-life conservationists of a century ago were themselves primarily hunters, who recognised at an early stage that, unless steps were taken to conserve such creatures, then they could end up with none left (for them to hunt!). Put succinctly: there are few free lunches in the world, and none in the underdeveloped countries, hanging on at bare subsistence level, and therefore, albeit reluctantly, we have to conclude that: The game has to pay its way!

This conclusion may be a surprising, and, to many people, unacceptable one, but nevertheless it is shared by growing numbers of conservationists. The world is largely governed by market forces, rather than sentimental ones, and we have to accept that there is a place for hunting in this context. To those of you who see nothing morally wrong with hunting anyway, we would merely point out the number of people who, after a lifetime of hunting, report having suddenly become sickened with what they were doing, on seeing a freshly slaughtered wild animal through new eyes, and have renounced this activity for good. There is hope for everybody!