Hunting, especially African hunting has always been an incredibly emotive and often misunderstood subject amongst people from the western world. The reality of the matter is that most people live in a fairly cosseted environment where their only contact with the wilderness areas of Africa is through the ‘not always entirely accurate’, television and other media. Walt Disney has a lot to answer for by way of anthropomorphism!
So let’s take a look at some of the realities of life in Africa. Despite what most media and Walt Disney will have you believe, hardly any African animal ever dies of old age. Everything eats everything else in the African bush and the ecosystem of Africa is extremely sensitive and requires careful, scientific management if the wild places and it’s inhabitants are to survive into the future for coming generations to enjoy
The hunting safaris that we offer to clients are high income for the country involved, and low impact for the environment (which is the opposite of photo safaris) and are all part of the game management programme run by the government of whichever country the hunt takes place in. All animals hunted, prior to the hunt have all been issued with the necessary (local, national and international) licences and permits that are required to be issued by the relevant Parks Board and CITES (Confederation of International Trade in Endangered Species). All clients are also accompanied at all times by a fully qualified and licenced Professional Hunter during their safari. These Professional Hunters are all regulated, examined and licenced by the relevant National or Provincial Parks Boards and/of Game Departments. These Professional Hunters are a group of highly qualified, knowledgeable and very professional men and women. All are also members of the relevant national Professional Hunting Association of that particular country (i.e. Professional Hunters Association of South Africa).
A hunting client will pay a large sum of money to cover his camp expenses, which pays for his full board accommodation and camp, hunting services and the many and all the varied Government levies imposed on the hunter and his companions. This camp, (which would not be there if it were not for the hunter) provides employment for many local and international staff. (Chefs, maids, cleaners etc) He will then pay a sum of money for each animal that he hunts. This sum is used to pay wages to the hunting staff (local and Professional) to pay for vehicles which are maintained locally by local labour) and a large percentage is paid to the relevant Parks Board or Game Department, who use it to fund further game research and conservation.
The hunter also spends considerable additional amounts of hard currency and provides further employment ‘in country’ with local taxidermists, hotels, airlines and air charter companies etc.
All animals that are hunted are animals that would otherwise need to be culled to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. If one species is allowed to flourish too much it means the decline and possible demise of other species. This happens for example when one species consumes all of one type of tree or bush to a height where the smaller species are unable to reach to feed. When this occurs, the species that is causing it needs to be culled to maintain the balance of the eco-system. If the dominating species is not controlled in numbers, then not only will grazers and browsers suffer, but also the predators and scavengers and eventually, even the dominating species itself may eat itself out of its habitat resulting in mass die off by starvation. Examples of this might be the rise and fall of lion populations in the Masai Mara of Kenya where hunting is not allowed, or a more shockingly graphic example would be the crash of Elephant and other game populations that occurred in the Tsavo region of Kenya during the drought of 1971 when the Government refused to cull some of the respective populations to ensure sufficient food supplies for the remainder. As a result, many thousands of Elephants and a huge number of other game animals in the area died out. The story of this shameful example of political correctness and mismanagement is eloquently told in the book ‘The End of the Game’ by Peter Beard.
One of the best examples of using hunting as a responsible conservation tool used to be found in the CAMPFIRE project of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean Parks Board regularly met with a delegation of locals from each area and the licenced hunting operator for that particular area. And would then decide on how many of each species can be healthily maintained by the ecosystem, and therefore how many of each species can be hunted whilst maintaining a healthy balance of age groups and sex. They would also often decide on the level of trophy fee to be charged for each animal of each species. These locals not only benefit from the hunting by gaining the meat from these animals and a percentage of the profits. The hunters also provide regular employment for them and the money is used to finance schools, hospitals, and safe fresh water bore holes etc, free from such diseases such as bilharzia and amoebic dysentery (both of which kill and maim many people in Africa). Since the political and economic collapse of Zimbabwe the CAMPFIRE project is in decline and consequently game populations are suffering enormously from uncontrolled poaching. Some areas have lost over 60% of their wildlife populations
By involving the local populations, the Parks Boards ensure that the local populations will find it more profitable to conserve the wildlife rather than find them in the position where they have to turn to poaching the game to feed their families. In African countries where hunting does not happen due to political upheaval or is banned, the game has no value to the local populations. Consequently the locals only see the game as something that competes with their own survival by eating their crops and further polluting their own water supplies. When this happens, history shows that the game is quickly wiped out by illegal poaching.
Where African hunting is practised in a properly controlled manner, it can and does produce large financial and conservation benefits. Revenues from hunting where a portion is given to the local communities, not only improves the material condition of that population, but it also gives them a stake in the wildlife as an incentive to conserving it. This means that poaching and illegal killing is dramatically reduced. The licensing system allows populations to be effectively monitored and controlled by the relevant Game Department or Parks Board.
Compared with the random and indiscriminate slaughter carried out by poachers, selective culling by hunters can and does lead to a healthy and balanced population and prevent one species flourishing to the detriment of another. In many parts of Africa, wildlife has now been recognised as a valuable resource, providing it is managed wisely. Hunting makes a crucial and essential contribution to that. It also helps resolve the conflicting interests of human and animal populations. It is in those countries where sport hunting does not take place that the wildlife is at greatest risk.
One of the greatest and most successful examples of modern species recovery was achieved by KZN Wildlife when they succeeded in saving the white rhino from extinction. This rescue was made possible largely by allowing a few males who were past breeding age and attacking and killing younger bulls to be hunted by sport hunters. The high fees from these hunts have financed most of the KZN Wildlife White Rhino breeding and research project and the same thing is now being achieved for the black rhino in an identical manner by the same organisation.
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