Trophy or sport hunters often claim they provide an important service and source of income for conservation. But game hunting can be very damaging to wild populations, as well as causing significant suffering.
Game or trophy hunting is big business in many parts of the world. It has long been promoted as a means of controlling wildlife populations and a conservation tool, particularly in Africa. However, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that most game hunting does nothing more than make a few people very wealthy, while disenfranchising local communities, and in some cases damaging wildlife populations and even whole ecosystems.
What is it?
Game hunting is the practice of hunting wild animals for “sport”, and is a form of consumptive wildlife utilisation. It is big business, with hunters often travelling great distances and paying large amounts of money to “hunt” wildlife.
Hunters may wish to hunt the game in order to obtain “trophies” from the animals they hunt, such as big African mammals, or bear or deer in the USA and Europe.
In some circumstances, the object of the hunt is consumed, for example game bird shooting in the UK and Europe.
What you should know
Game hunting is big business…
- According to the League Against Cruel Sports, customers of UK and European travel companies have slaughtered over 9,000 bears, more than 2,500 highly endangered leopards and nearly 4,000 African elephants over the past 15 years.
- 10 million pheasants are reared and released each year in the UK, Ireland and the Low Countries of Northern Europe, to supply the shooting industry.
- An estimated 15% of Canada and Alaska’s wolf population of 6,000-7,000 is killed annually. Many of these are shot from helicopters.
- Estimates put the total value of trophy hunting in sub-Saharan Africa in excess of US$200 million. Wealthy hunters will pay large sums to hunt individual animals; in South Africa in 2005, the highest price paid for a lion was US$29,500, and over US$46,000 was paid for a single rhino. In Botswana, Tanzania, and Namibia, trophy hunting generates approximately 0.1% of Gross Domestic Product.
- While hunting advocates claim the hunting industry supports conservation by providing income from wildlife and therefore incentivising local people to protect it, in Africa the industry is generally poorly regulated, with little of the income reaching local communities or being used directly for conservation benefit. Quotas are often set arbitrarily, with little scientific basis. In Tanzania, the populations of Eland, Lion and Leopard have been declining because of overhunting in recent years.
- For some species there are restrictions on the animals which can be targeted. For example, so-called “surplus males” are targeted in species such as lions and antelope, although there is growing evidence that this practice may disrupt populations and reduces breeding success.
- Many hunting operations in Africa breed animals on “farms” or “ranches”, or move them from one area to another, in order to release them specifically so they can be shot for a fee. Such “canned hunting” or “put-and-take” practices do not benefit conservation, and may be damaging. In South Africa, around 1,000 lions were shot each year in “canned hunts”, and there were approx. 120 lion breeders and around 3,000 lions in captivity awaiting their fate, until the practice was banned in 2009.