POLL: Can African trophy hunting support conservation?

POLL: Can African trophy hunting support conservation?

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The recent media frenzy over the killing of two named lions in Zimbabwe has brought undue focus to African big game hunting. While conflicting versions of exactly what happened prevail, we will let the legal system determine first if these actually were illegal acts and secondly where guilt lays.

The media coverage predictably spawned global outrage over the killings which then spread to calls for outright bans of future lion and big game hunting. Before reaching a judgment on the future of big game hunting, Safari Club International feels strongly that it is important for all to understand the background and facts of big game hunting.

First, one must realize that Africa is a big place – at over 30 million square kilometers it is over three time the size of the entire USA. Africa consists of 54 independent countries with a population of about 1.1 billion people which is projected to double again to over 2 billion within the next 25 years.

POLL: Can African trophy hunting support conservation?
Eastern Cape Hunters Safari Company

The vast majority of tourists visit only the cities and national parks which occupy only a fractional percentage of the total continental area where games drives of Kruger, Etosha, Hwange, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti provide ample photo opportunities for their “wild” African experience. Photos are shown, distributed and published resulting in the public perception that all of Africa is covered with abundant game animals.

However, in the vast majority of Africa, animal densities are nowhere near what is seen within these parks and photo tourists are simply not willing to spend a week or two in the bush in the off chance that they may get a photo of a lion, leopard or elephant. In truth, much of the remaining area of Africa is undeveloped with no power grid, no water system, primitive roads if any, and much of the area with no law enforcement.

The rest of the continent is rural agricultural based lands where people try to feed the burgeoning population by farming and rearing livestock. As the African human population skyrockets, more and more land is needed to support this growth resulting in lost wildlife habitat. Also with the human population increase, poaching increases and big game animals are poisoned, trapped and snared since they are in direct competition with livestock.

In the background, the safari hunting industry has quietly operated for well over a century and has now grown to an over $200 million dollar annual industry. Much of the remote habitat in Africa, never visited by photo tourists, is leased or owned by safari operators and conservancies for the purpose of hunting.

Vance and Maureen with Maureen’s first African trophy – a great Zebra.

Typically a safari operator will purchase hunting rights from the government for a concession area which may or may not be close to a national park. Government game managers then assign him a “quota” of animals he is allowed to take during the year. The quota is based on population field surveys and is determined to be a sustainable off take that will not compromise the overall population.

It is then up to the safari operator to market his concession and attract clients willing to pay for the right to hunt there. This system gives resident animals a distinct value and hunting them will result in substantial economic benefits to support continued game management, national park operating costs, conservation programs and support of local communities. The safari operator also now has a vested interest in his resident animals and will support regular anti-poaching patrols to ensure healthy populations continue to exist.

All of this is driven by hunting client dollars in a user-pays context and as an extension of the North American Conservation Model. The model prohibits illegal harvest of animals, selling of game meat, allocates wildlife by law and provides for science-based management.

This model, developed by Teddy Roosevelt and other conservationists now over 125 years ago is the reason why U.S. whitetail deer populations have risen from near extinction to now over 32 million, why pronghorn antelope recovered from a few thousand animals to now over 1.1 million and why North American elk populations recovered from 40,000 to now over 1 million – and many other success stories.

To date, the system has also worked to protect African wildlife in a similar context by providing the necessary economic incentive to support big game management. Currently in South Africa private land areas over twice the size of the combined national parks are used for big game hunting with the result that plains game species numbers now are higher than at any time in history.

What happens when there is no hunting? In this case, resident wildlife has no value to the local communities and there is no incentive to conserve them. The test case examining the results of hunting closures has been run time and again with consistent results. Tanzania banned hunting from 1973 to 1978 and wildlife populations suffered. Zambia halted hunting from 2000 -2003 and poaching went rampant.

Similarly, Kenya has banned hunting since 1977 with the result that wildlife populations outside of the park system have collapsed. Lion numbers have fallen from over 20,000 to now just 2,000 during this no-hunting period. Botswana has banned hunting for the past two years and current field reports confirm significant increases in poaching.

Both the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the IUCN have long recognized that trophy hunting represents the wise and sustainable use of wildlife and can be consistent with and contribute to conservation, because the social and economic benefits derived from use of species can provide incentives for people to conserve them and their habitats.

After pictures and just plain marveling over the size of beauty of the animal, I did what any bowhunter would do – I shot it with an arrow.

These are not new arguments or new facts, they were well understood over 100 years ago, have been practiced by Safari Club International members and are best articulated in this 1905 quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“In a civilized and cultivated country wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wild life, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”


Alan W. Maki received his BSc. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from the University of Massachusetts, his MSc. in Environmental Toxicology from the University of North Texas, and holds a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Management from Michigan State University.

Dr. Maki has authored and co-authored over 250 publications and reports and 6 books on numerous aspects of environmental quality, fate and effects of chemicals in the environment, ecological risk assessment, toxicology, wildlife and aquatic biology.

Active in a wide range of professional organizations, Dr. Maki is a former member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Science Advisory Board and has served on numerous advisory panels for EPA Office of Research and Development. He is a former President of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and has served on National Academy of Science panels concerned with the assessment and management of ecological risks, and panels to review environmental contamination issues in Eastern Europe.

He is a lifelong hunter having hunted on all continents and has completed 23 African safaris to sub-Saharan countries. Dr. Maki is an international hunter, currently serves as Corporate Secretary for Safari Club International and as Chair of the Conservation Committee where he stewards over 60 conservation programs concerning big game species worldwide.


This article was first published by The Daily Caller on 11 Sep 2015.

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Louise Dickinson

we are on the brink of the 6th Wildlife extinction because there are more African Animals stuffed or on plaques in the USA homes than there are walking around alive and in Africa . This Trophy Hunting demand from the USA is so aggressive it is massacring wildlife into extinction and destroying ecosystems and the food chain in Africa is collapsing . TH at the side of poachers have just about killed the natural world in Africa in less than 40 years . And qiuite frankly i wish soon a few of these bastards were sent home in body bags… Read more »

Delbert Smith

Ross you followed the lies told about the hunt in Zim. learn the truth.

Delbert Smith

Absolutly, it has in RSA and Namibia and look at the Whtietail and elk and bear populatiosn in the USA!!

Next do you have the peoples persmission to use their phtos in the article?

Maria Manuela Lopes

Hunters always use a fallacious arguments.

Ruth Jacob

How can killing animals help to save their species???

Hubert Mollaret

I live in Zambia and I can tell you there's almost no wildlife left outside national parks, there are human settlements everywhere in the bush and human pressure is increasing day by day with more people destroying wild habitat for crops, pasture, wood, charcoal and bushmeat. So the GMA where hunting happens are bound to disappear because of demographic pressure which is a major concern for future conservation efforts in Africa. Hunting predators and endangered species doesn't make sense, it's an anachronism and it's not sustainable in Africa where poaching has become a profitable business associated with arms, drugs, mining… Read more »

Iain Gibson

People who need to hunt wild animals for "pleasure" are clearly either dysfunctional or suffering from a psychological disorder. I'm seriously contending this, not just firing insults. On a superficial level you just need to look into the eyes of the hunters in the trophy pictures illustrating this article. Combine that with a society (the USA being a prime example) where a minority elite sector of the population is so rich it can't think of better ways to spend its fortune than to engage in the opportunities provided by companies like Safari Club International. If they and their clients are… Read more »

Linda French

The system of Trophy Hunting and the below written subject on it by Chris Hallamore sounds just like the Hunters what us to beleive. With all his comments you still have poaching! Animals are being killed by hunters, and poachers, so the system does not work. There is no need for trophy hunting period.

Nina Stavlund

Hunting generally is not necessary and it shows that hunting in any country on the planet is not sustinable. The only correct way of hunting would be with a camera.

Ross Kardon

Thank you for telling the truth about why Africa desperately needs ecologically sustainable trophy hunting to pay for conservation. I also posted a comment that I would like to see your feedback on.

Sue Lesmond

The only good hunter is a dead one.Lets instigate global hunt the hunter travel experditions.Payback is most certainly required, to enable these POS hunters to be able to exprience the slow,painful death that they deserve.An eye for an eye is most certainly required.

Ross Kardon

Luring Cecil the lion out of a protected area violated the ethic of fair chase hunting. But, on the continent of Africa, trophy hunting is still absolutely necessary to help save Africa's remaining wildlife from extinction. If Walter Palmer went to a designated safari hunting area and shot a lion in a fair chase hunt. then I would not have been against Dr. Palmer hunting a lion for the trophy. I am glad Namibia allowed for that old Black Rhino, that was beyond breeding years, to be harvested for the trophy because the $350, 000,00 paid, went to help to… Read more »

Simon Tucker

Because criminals exploit unregulated markets is no excuse for rich, psychopathic humans to be given the opportunity to kill wild animals anywhere. Anybody who wants to pick up a gun and kill a wild animal for fun is a sick human being who deserves to be put down (euthanised – not insulted). Poachers are despicable – but they are usually working to feed their families and following the Capitalist tradition. The answer to poaching is simple: make the price so high it becomes too expensive to follow. By that I mean: kill the poachers and treat their families as accessories… Read more »

Jan Fischer Rasmussen

I think it can – but only under very precise and strict rules – and only if businesses that do not adhere to these rules are outlawed

Chris Hallamore

I sent an email requesting the editors publish this article and I thank them for publishing the article. However the anti hunting editors have published the article with photos intended to influence the readers view. In every sector of commerce there are extremes. Breeding lions to hunt behind fences for example doesn’t contribute towards wildlife conservation. The cheerleader with her lion is a disgrace to the Safari Industry. As a young man in Zimbabwe there were very few wild animals on private land. There was no Safari Hunting – that took place in East Africa. The wild animals on large… Read more »