Botswanan president Ian Khama has announced that as of 2013 no hunting licenses will be issued. Botswana is one of the African countries severely affected by the recent rise in poaching and it is hoped that the ban will make it difficult for poachers to launder their kills out of the country. The country has been commended by the WWF for “taking a leading role among African nations in advancing wildlife conservation”.
According to the conservation group, recent findings revealed that some wildlife species have declined by as much as 90 percent over the last decade and hunting is one of the main culprits – along with poaching and uncontrolled veld fires. The worldwide conservation crisis seems to be reaching a tipping-point, with Africa being particularly affected and even conservation-conscious countries like Tanzania losing up to 30 elephants a day. However, Botswana’s ban has divided conservationists, with many arguing that hunting helps to empower and develop local communities.
The debate is not a new one to wildlife management. Kenya enforced a similar ban in 1977, where one-third of the wildlife has been lost in the past 20 years. But the problem in Kenya, as well as Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa, is that anti-poaching and conservation measures require heavy funding. The resources needed to tackle the problem at its current level are massive, and advocates of hunting suggest that the industry contributes much needed revenue to the conservation of endangered animals.
On the surface, this is plausible: total revenue of approximately R1.1 billion was generated in 2010 by the trophy hunting industries in South Africa. But sustainable conservation solutions need to go beyond a simple equation, says International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) spokeswoman Rosa Hill. She states that “there is very little evidence that the funds raised from killing wildlife are ploughed back into conservation,” and adds that hunting has unseen effects on animal populations. The conservation benefits, she believes, do not outweigh the shortfalls. The question remains: do wild animals need to be assigned a monetary value to survive the strain of a growing economy and population?
The hope is that photographic safaris will successfully provide the much-needed revenue currently offered by trophy hunting, but the effects of the ban can truly only be measured in the long-term.