The Hunting Debate

Lions in the wild – for how long?
Lions in the wild – for how long?

Pressure is mounting for a ban on the import of hunting trophies to the EU and the USA. It is rare to find a well-reasoned article in the international press about hunting. Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian newspaper, makes the case for sustainable wildlife ranching, and points out that the important thing is to protect species, not individual animals.

While, as he says: “A dentist from Wisconsin goes hunting in Zimbabwe and bags its most famous lion, Cecil….  some 23,000 African elephants were killed illegally in 2013 and more than a thousand rhinos in South Africa alone in 2014” but: “There is no sign that the ban on ivory trading adopted 20 years has done anything to help endangered species. The war on ivory has proved no more effective than the war on drugs”.

Jenkins is appalled at the idea of killing any animals for pleasure, but notes that animals get killed and that he also eats meat. “The morality of a concern for someone else’s wildlife is curious”, he says. “If Africa’s elephants became extinct – which is unlikely – I would certainly be sorry, but on the scale of global misery I am not sure how sorry….What would Britain’s reaction be if Africans arrived to abuse us for not protecting 'the world’s' red squirrels?”

Jenkins argues that the only way to stem the trade, as with drugs, is to stem the demand, and that where there has been modest success in protecting animals, notably in South Africa and its countries like Namibia, it has come from exploiting the market, from turning poachers literally into gamekeepers, usually financed by trophy hunting.

Two years ago, he reports, Tanzania’s director of wildlife, Alexander Songorwa, pleaded with CITES not to list his lions as endangered “on behalf of my country and all our wildlife”. Because lion hunting provided his revenue for conservation work.

Visits to African game reserves have convinced Jenkins that the entire continent cannot be made a militarised safari park, and that sustainable wildlife ranching in South Africa and persuading communities to protect wildlife is the way to go.

Steve Felton
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