HomeOpinion & AnalysisAfrican wildlife conservation impossible without international hunting

African wildlife conservation impossible without international hunting


By Emmanuel Koro

WHY should African rural communities co-existing with wildlife and not deriving benefits from it bother conserving wildlife that damages their crops, kills their livestock, loved ones and destroys property?

This is the key wildlife conservation question that African States should have addressed when they gained independence from colonial rulers.

During colonial times, rural communities were forced to coexist with wildlife despite the fact that they did not benefit from it.

Under independent Africa, it became undemocratic, violation of human rights, political suicide and a wildlife conservation disaster for any government to force rural people sharing the land with wildlife to conserve wildlife without benefiting from it. The communities would predictably refuse to co-operate.

“Decades of colonialism in Africa alienated its people from their traditional use of wildlife,” chairman of the Sadc wildlife technical co-ordination unit Matthew Matemba said in his foreword for proceedings of the regional natural resources management conference, held in Botswana’s tourist town of Kasane in 1995.

“The majority of poachers ended up in the hands of ‘game guards’ and eventually went to the gallows.

“This situation sparked decades of antagonism and resentment between the so-called “game officers” and local communities.”

Communities co-existing with wildlife protested the lack of benefits by poaching it.

This demonstrates that resistance by authorities led to the viability of poaching in Africa.

Richard Fynn and Oluwatoyin Kolawole said poaching, as an act of resistance, was achieved through informal rural social networks.

Most independent African States were aware of the wildlife conservation resistance from communities not benefiting from wildlife they co-exist with. To avoid a wildlife conservation disaster, international hunting became a widely accepted solution to wildlife conservation, particularly in wildlife-rich southern African countries.

In 1995, the Sadc natural resources management programme was used to shape a future where international hunting should be included on the region’s wildlife and habitat conservation agenda.

“It was quite clear during the Kasane Sadc natural resources management programme proceedings that local communities’ participation in the management of wildlife resources did not only restore decades of lost confidence and trust in States, but also  resulted in a highly charged sense of responsibility and ownership of wildlife by rural communities,”  Matemba said.

Today, international hunting is being practised with great wildlife and habitat conservation support and success from rural communities co-existing with wildlife and benefiting from it. In African States involved in international hunting, wildlife conservation co-operation has resulted in less poaching and an increase in wildlife populations. This was revealed in presentations by government, safari hunting companies and rural community representatives who attended the Victoria Falls November 2019 Safari Club International Foundation African wildlife consultative forum.

“It must be understood that hunting is the economic engine for sustainable conservation of iconic wildlife,” CEO of Safari Club International, Switzerland office Antoine Spillmann, in a September 2020 published paper entitled: Trophy Hunting, said. “In the United States, game wardens’ salaries come from State conservation services which are largely funded by hunting related income.”

The international wildlife hunting socio-economic benefits that communities co-existing with wildlife are receiving in post-independent Africa include financing the construction of much-needed rural infrastructure ranging from roads, clinics, schools to boreholes.

Notably, the Western animal rights groups are the biggest threat to African wildlife conservation success in Africa.

In order to raise millions of dollars that are hardly sent to Africa to support “wildlife conservation,” they spread propaganda that international hunting threatens wildlife with extinction and then seek financial donations to support their high lifestyles and not to conserve wildlife in Africa.

A ban on international hunting blocks the flow of international hunting revenue into the continent. This threatens to take away both the socio-economic and wildlife and habitat conservation benefits that international hunting brings.

Despite opposition from Western animal rights groups, international hunting is an internationally recognised wildlife management and conservation method.

The UN Convention on international trade in endangered species of fauna and flora species allows hunting of all wildlife, including endangered species as long as it is not harmful to the hunted population. Old wildlife bulls that are no longer of reproductive value are the ones that are hunted. When the old male predators are no longer able to actively hunt their own prey, they start moving into rural communities for easy prey that includes humans and livestock. This increases human-wildlife conflict. That is the other reason why such animals need to be cropped out.

Unfortunately, Kenya is working against international wildlife hunting. This is against the wishes of the Kenyan people co-existing with wildlife and would like to benefit from it.

Recently, the governor of Kajiado County in Kenya, Joseph ole Lenku, threatened to order his people to start killing wildlife unless they are given much better benefits from wildlife conservation,” said Fynn and Kolawole.

Kenya’s self-inflicted wildlife conservation crisis is best highlighted by a continued sharp decline in its elephant population. Wildlife conservation experts say the crisis will never end as long as communities settled next to Kenya’s national parks and nature reserves don’t benefits from hunting.

According to South Africa-based African elephant management specialist Ron Thomson, Kenya has been captured by Western animal rights groups.

Thomson said Kenya signed an almost unbreakable anti-international hunting contract dating back to its independence from colonial rule in the 1960s under which the Western animal rights groups committed to continuously fund the Kenya Wildlife Services in exchange for a permanent international hunting ban.

“Kenya is in a bind and, even if they wanted to, they cannot get out from under the animal rights influence.”

The threat of animal rights’ anti-international hunting culture in Africa is real. They captured Botswana under former President Ian Khama, who then banned international hunting in 2014. It resulted in wildlife revenge killings, lion poisoning and increased poaching.

The local communities protested the Khama international hunting ban. President Mokgweetsi Masisi lifted the hunting ban in 2019 and chased away Western animal rights groups from Botswana.

However, the threat of Western animal rights groups’ money-powered anti-international hunting ban dictatorship in Africa remains. Resident Western animal rights groups are reportedly using Kenya as the “launch pad” to spread anti-international hunting influence on the continent.

However, they have failed to ban hunting in other east African countries, including Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. In west Africa, they failed to ban hunting in Cameroon. They have also failed to ban it in some north African countries, notably Morocco where 3 000 international hunters go hunting annually.

To persuade Kenya to lift the ban on international hunting, pro-international hunting African countries, communities and NGOs have continued to showcase to it the wildlife, habitat and socio-economic benefits that flow from international hunting.

At the start of the 21st century, rural communities in southern Africa, working with George Pangeti of the Safari Club International and the Africa Resources Trust now called Resource Africa, invited Kenya to come and witness the necessity of international hunting to wildlife conservation in the region.

The Kenyan delegation that included government officials, politicians and rural communities and Kenya Television Network was impressed with the hunting benefits that it witnessed. They visited hunting communities of Zimbabwe’s Hwange district, Maun and Chobe in Botswana and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. Accompanied by their Environment deputy minister, the Kenyans were expected to return home and recommend to Parliament the re-introduction of international hunting as a necessity to wildlife conservation.

Sadly, it never happened in a country that has been long captured by Western animal rights groups. It was ignored. It remains to be seen when Kenya will learn that wildlife conservation success is impossible in Africa without international hunting.

  • Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading