/ 23 April 2023

British trophy hunting ban bill will harm African wildlife

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Balancing act: Human-wildlife conflict occurs when populations expand and one management tool is hunting, which also raises income for locals in Zambia. Photo: Alexander Joe/Getty Images

African wildlife’s destruction was sealed when British pop stars, comedians and animal rights groups fund­raising industry NGOs recently influenced their parliamentarians to vote for the hunting trophies imports ban bill, ignoring the harm it causes to African wildlife and habitat conservation. 

Amy Dickman, an Oxford University conservation biologist, together with other British scientists and conservationists worldwide, have warned against this ill-informed decision. The British parliamentarians’ decision to vote for the ban is viewed by many in the conversation and hunting world as “moment of madness”. 

They rejected a scientific wildlife management approach, involving the sustainable harvesting of excessive wildlife populations in specific ecosystems so that large wildlife populations don’t exceed the carrying capacities of their ecosystems. 

Hunting helps control wildlife overpopulation and prevents leaving wildlife with insufficient water and food supply and even space to exist. Yet, this is the ecological disaster that the British parliamentarians have just set in motion. They apparently don’t care about wildlife conservation but do care about increasing their popular ratings, fundraising opportunities and political votes. 

For the animal rights fundraising industry NGOs, the wildlife conservation crisis that scientists have warned would break out is good news, particularly in Africa where there are the Big Five that they can use as species in peril and ask for donations. For the record, many have not saved a single elephant in the wilderness. They selectively focus on elephants in zoos, to whip up public emotions and then ask for donations. Shame.

International hunting is a management measure supported by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora Species. It’s also supported by a big international NGO, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). According to the WWF 1997 Quota Setting Manual, the main purpose of a quota is to identify the number of animals that can be killed without reducing the population.

Science is not about votes of parliamentarians and public referendums. Neither is it about the support of animal rights groups fundraising industry NGOs, comedians, politicians and pop stars. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, resulting in millions of people dying, it didn’t take votes to decide on vaccines and other scientific measures that needed to be observed to save human lives.

Why then, in the 21st century, do we see the United Kingdom, which helps fund poverty alleviation, reject one of the ways that African hunting communities use to alleviate poverty by banning hunting trophy imports into the UK? 

In an intense human-wildlife-conflict scenario, people in the Southern African Development Community would struggle to profitably grow crops and safely store their agricultural produce. Wildlife would have nowhere to run and get wiped out through revenge killings. 

Where in your country, British parliamentarians, will you accommodate southern African wildlife? You neither have the scientific wildlife management know-how, space, appropriate vegetation, nor love for African people and wildlife. 

The acting director of Zambia’s department of national parks and wildlife management, Andrew Eldred Chomba, recently said, “One of the disadvantages of conservation success is that it results in elephant overpopulation that leads to human-wildlife conflict and our people continue to be killed by elephants.”

It’s against such a challenging scenario as is the case in most hunting communities of Southern Africa that international hunting is used as a wildlife management tool to control the wildlife population and to raise income for these communities.

No wonder that, before the 17 March British parliamentarians’ vote for hunting trophy imports ban, elephant-overpopulated Botswana warned the British government that the legislation would harm its wildlife and negatively affect people’s livelihoods. 

“If the bill is passed by parliament, it will affect Botswana’s wildlife management,” said a press release from Botswana’s ministry of environment and tourism. 

“It will also increase the risk of poaching and human-wildlife conflict, negatively impacting, for example, the largest herd of elephants that Botswana supports.”

Ishmael Chaukura, of Zimbabwe’s Masoka wildlife producer community, which boasts a school built from revenue raised from hunting that has produced medical doctors, nurses, accountants, and other professionals, said, “The hunting trophies imports ban bill shows that the British aren’t genuine conservationists, but pretenders and they don’t respect African wildlife producer communities and their leaders. 

“They can ban hunting trophies imports into the United Kingdom but can never stop hunting in Africa.”

The British parliamentarians have already approved the hunting trophies imports ban into the UK. The bill will be discussed in the House of Lords in May or June. Although it is unable to prevent bills passing into law except in certain limited circumstances, the House of Lords can delay bills and force the House of Commons [parliamentarians] to reconsider their decisions.

Therefore, it remains to be seen if the House of Lords can get the parliamentarians to reconsider their decisions.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.