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Trophy hunting: a controversial practice

Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)

Trophy hunting is considered an important form of revenue for many poor countries in Africa.

What is trophy hunting?

Trophy hunting generally includes the killing of carefully selected animals (such as wild ungulates, rhinos, elephantslions, cougars and bears). This is officially licensed by the government at the national level and by CITES at the international level. The trophy is the animal (any part of the body) that the hunter keeps as a “souvenir”. It is a booming industry and it is legal. There are several restrictions on the species that may be hunted, where and when to hunt them, and weapons that can be used. Recently the law, in some African countries, is equalising some game species to domestic species making farming, culling and hunting a more acceptable practice. 

Trophy hunting is a global practice.

Hunters come from all over the world and hunt all over the world.

In the scheme below you can find the most commonly used species as trophy in five different Countries.

ZIMBABWENAMIBIASOUTH AFRICAMEXICOCANADA
African elephantElephantAfrican buffaloBlack bearMountain lion
African lionLionAfrican lionMountain lionMountain caribou
African leopardLeopardAfrican elephantM. Carman deerMountain goat
Cape buffaloCheetahSouthern white rhinoWhitetail deerMule deer
Baboon MonkeysCape buffaloAfrican leopardDesert mule deerMoose
GiraffeGiraffeCrocodileCrooki mule deerWhitetail deer
HippopotamusHippoHippopotamusCoues deerElk
CheetahBaboonBaboonDesert sheepBlack bear
CrocodileCaracalWildebeestBrocketGrizzly bear
Greater kuduKuduBlesbokBarbary sheepDall sheep
ImpalaOryxBushbuckGould’s turkeyWolf
WarthogBlesbokBushpigWild pig
DuikerSpringbokCaracalPeccary
ElandImpalaDuikerQuail
WaterbuckRoanElandDuck
GrysbokKuduGemsbokDove
Blue wildebeestHartebeestGiraffe
ZebraWarthogImpala
ZebraJackal
SteenbokKlipspringer

Trophy hunting is an important tool in wildlife preservation, but it can not be considered as a conservation tool itself. Similarly to other industries, trophy hunting has to deliver measurable improvements in different sectors, like: tourism, rural area development, economic and ecological sustainability, in order to be considered a valuable asset. Trophy hunting and ecotourism have many similarities and, if well managed, the hunting tourism meets the concepts of ecotourism. Hunting tourism can be considered the least invasive form of ecotourism because trophy hunting can contribute to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. In recent years, several international conferences focused on developing principles, guidelines, criteria and indicators for a global sustainable hunting tourism. Trophy hunting may further be a valuable asset for indigenous people since it can reduce rural poverty by conserving the environment and by increasing economic returns from tourism.

Minimum acceptable requirements for trophy hunting

As Dr. Grimm wrote in his article:  “Trophy Hunting for Endangered species“, there are minimum parameters for proper conservation. Hunting trophies may be helpful for the proper conservation of endangered species and it can only be regarded as acceptable in individual cases, provided that at least all the following minimum requirements are satisfied (as well as national regulatory requirements):

  • Animals are removed on the basis of a management plan for adaptive wildlife. This can be changed at any time;
  • Trophy hunting provides direct local conservation benefit (i.e. avoiding agricultural or residential settlement in the hunting area);
  • Local communities receive a financial benefit from trophy hunting
  • Control programs for predators are not implemented to increase trophy animal populations;
  • The introduction of non-native species (both whole populations or individuals) is prohibited for the purpose of hunting trophies.

In addition, through on-going projects, all of the following requirements should be fulfilled in the medium and long term period. These criteria must indeed be respected when introducing trophy hunting into new areas or when planning to extend hunting to species that have never been targeted before:

  • Poaching is effectively eliminated
  • The effects of hunting trophy on the genetic, behavioural and reproductive success ecology of the target species are studied
  • A fully protected area without any hunting influence is available as a reference zone for research
  • A fully protected area in the immediate vicinity of the hunting areas is available to serve as a sanctuary for the hunted species

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