UK hunting trophies bill would be damaging to Africa
Controlled hunting of wildlife not only supports communities, it actually improves conservation efforts and should not be outlawed, argues Charles Jonga, Director of the CAMPFIRE Association in Zimbabwe
On Friday 17 March, the UK Parliament is due to vote on a private members’ bill that would impose a total ban on the importation of hunting trophies.
While the politicians who support a total ban do so with the best intentions, this is a huge mistake and runs counter to the scientific evidence proving that regulated and licensed hunting can play an important role in conservation. It also infringes upon our right to self-determination as independent nations. We’re calling on Africans to speak up to tell the UK Government to listen to the scientists, respect our sovereignty, and think again about imposing a policy which would be damaging to our continent.
A total ban on trophy hunting is opposed by conservationists and community groups across Africa, including the one I’ve led for the last 18 years. The Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) Association Zimbabwe works with rural communities across the country to help them participate in their local economy through the wise and sustainable use of natural resources.
Licensed and regulated hunting ensures that there are strict quotas, set at sustainable levels. It provides governments, communities, and private landowners with clear incentives for animal conservation in protected areas.
Zimbabwe, like other southern African nations, has permitted licensed and regulated trophy hunting for several years with no adverse impact on animal numbers (and in fact quite the opposite), which confirms that hunting is sustainable, and is not a threat to the conservation of species. It also maximises the revenue generated, which can be re-invested into anti-poaching measures and helps to sustain local economies.
Our CAMPFIRE programme enables hunters to pay an extensive fee to be allowed to kill one large game animal. The hunts are supervised by qualified professional hunters (who have trained for 3-4 years) who subscribe to a code of ethics.
12% of land in Zimbabwe is part of the CAMPFIRE project, across 58 districts. Active hunting takes place in 15 of these districts. The CAMPFIRE programme benefits 2.4m people in 200,000 households that actively participate in the programme, with a further 600,000 who benefit indirectly from the investment in social services and infrastructure projects
A minimum of 55% of all income generated through the programme is allocated to communities, with the remainder going towards supporting the delivery of the programme. This investment in communities helps to combat poaching. For example in the Dande district, 40 elephants were killed by poachers in 2010, but thanks to investment in anti-poaching measures, this number fell steadily, but significantly, settling at around two elephants per annum.
On average, communities in major CAMPFIRE areas receive about $1m every year. Since 2007, these communities have operated their own bank accounts, receiving direct payments from safari operators, streamlining the process to speed up the money getting to them.
This money has been used to offset the costs of living with wildlife (such as property damage) and to invest in projects bringing long-term benefits – such as medical clinics, drilling boreholes, purchasing farming equipment, and erecting fences to protect land and property from the wildlife. Because of the proceeds from trophy hunting, children in rural areas have access to good quality education, in schools built with CAMPFIRE funds.
It is not just rural African communities who benefit from trophy hunting. The UK permits domestic trophy hunting, with a number of rural communities depending on this income to sustain their local economies. Which begs the question, why one rule for the UK and a different one for Africa?
UK politicians should acknowledge this inconsistency and drop any plans for a total ban. Instead, they should look to only prohibit the importation of trophies from activities that hamper conservation efforts – such as poaching and canned hunting. This ‘smart ban’ approach has the backing of globally recognised conservation groups, academics and African community groups including my own.
African governments, community organisations, activists and anyone else that believes our continent should be able to determine our own policies without foreign interference, need to make their views known. Using whichever avenues are available to you, we need you to speak up and demand that the UK listen to African voices when making decisions that will affect our lives, our livelihoods, and our ability to effectively manage and protect our wildlife.