THE campaign by African civil society groups against trophy hunting, including the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), is gaining traction, with the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill that bans the importation of hunting trophies now at committee stage in the British House of Lords, The NewsHawks has learnt.
In June, CNRG director Farai Maguwu was among 103 wildlife conservation experts throughout Africa — including Botswana, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe — who sent an open letter to members of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, urging them to support a Bill to ban the importation of hunting trophies to the UK ahead of a parliamentary debate on the issue.
While several pressure groups have been in support of the Bill, first passed by the House of Commons in March this year, the British trophy hunting industry has mounter a well-resourced counter lobby campaign in an attempt to preserve the practice of trophy imports.
According to a committee stage briefing seen by The NewsHawks, the trophy industry has been positioning trophy hunting as “a necessary evil”, claiming that it generates vital revenue for community development and local conservation efforts.
This has seen amendments to the Bill being proposed to allow hunters to continue to import trophies, including of endangered animals such as elephants, rhinos and polar bears, if they can meet certain criteria around purported “conservation benefit”.
However, civil society says trophy hunting has not been beneficial to host communities, worsening conflict and poverty. “The purported benefits of trophy hunting to local communities are highly exaggerated. Trophy hunting makes up only a tiny fraction of economic activity, estimated to be as low as 0.03% of GDP across 8 trophy hunting nations in southern Africa. Of this small percentage, often very little makes it to the local households,’ according to the committee stage briefing by civic society.
“Removal of animals can have ripple-effect negative conservation impacts, such as increases in infanticide in territories where male lions are killed, and the disruption of complex social or territorial structures of animals including African elephants and leopards. Trophy hunting has also been linked to other negative impacts including genetic erosion, as animals are taken out of the gene pool, and phenotypic changes (alterations of physical characteristics) e.g., horn size.” It added:
“These impacts in turn can also compound other threats that species face, including climate change, habitat degradation and poaching. Trophy hunting industry claims that funds derived from trophy hunting reduce poaching, are also generally unfounded.”
As previously reported by The NewsHawks, trophy hunting has been worsening human-wildlife conflict in Zimbabwe, while increasing the wanton killing of elephants. The country has been losing close to 1 000 elephants per year to killings, according to CNRG director Maguwu.
“It is very serious in that every year we put up about 500 elephants for slaughter by trophy hunters. The hunters usually target the biggest of elephants in the herd and then take whatever they want as a trophy back to their country,” Maguwu told The NewsHawks.
“It is a practice that is very much supported by many governments in Africa, and they say that it is meant to sponsor conservation. Governments give licences for people to come and do that. “So, this is a very endemic problem in that every year, at least 500 elephants are put up for trophy hunting. Add to that, we have got poachers which means that we may be losing at least 1 000 elephants per year. Very soon, elephants will be an endangered species.”
Maguwu said local communities are also bearing the brunt of hunting and poaching activity. Zimbabwe has an estimated 82 000 elephants, which is more than twice the national target population envisaged in the 1980s.
The population has grown exponentially since the 1990s, but illegal killings have continued. The increase in the elephant population has put a strain on resources and has led to increased conflict between elephants and humans.
In 2022, a total of 60 people were killed by elephants in Zimbabwe, compared to 72 in all of 2021. Zimbabwe’s overtures to pull out of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) have also been projected to increase the wanton slaughter of endangered species such as elephants and rhinoceros mostly by criminal syndicates.