Trophy Hunting: The Oxymoron of Conservation

When done legally, trophy hunting is a lucrative trade that can support and benefit local and national communities on the African continent.

Following the killing of Cecil the lion in 2015, many have called for the prohibition of so-called ‘Trophy Hunting’ in Sub-Saharan Africa. Vegans and wildlife activists alike would argue that the moral implications of killing an innocent animal should disregard the discussion entirely. However, this is not poaching, which is illegal. This is a highly lucrative trade which benefits thousands of people and is essential for conservation efforts in this region of the world

Trophy hunting is incredibly expensive, it costs $20,000 just to obtain a licence to hunt in South Africa for 15 days and then it costs thousands more to actually kill an animal. On average it costs $50,000 to hunt and kill an animal under license. That $50,000 is highly beneficial to the local community and to conservation efforts. It will pay for washing facilities, toilets,and sewage in the community in which the hunters stay and live with; it will also pay the park rangers’ salary to stop poachers. 

South Africa made $112million in 2013 from big game hunting, and the price to hunt has only increased in recent years, to hunt a hippo it will cost $40,000 and to hunt a lion or a leopard it will cost $70,000. Likewise the meat after the game has been subdued is distributed to local villages after the hunters themselves have ate.

Similarly these animals are not picked at random, most of the time it is because they pose some immediate threat to the local community. Giraffes may look cute to us in the zoo, but for Masai cattle herders in Kenya they are competition for water. A single elephant can trample an African farmers crops in one night and in Zimbabwe villagers rejoice when a lion is killed. They understand that these apex predators can do a lot of harm to both their livestock and children if left unchecked. 

In Botswana in 2013 hunting was banned and as a result leopards, hyenas and lions took a huge toll on villagers since they were left free to roam and regularly attacked livestock. However since last year trophy hunting has been reinstated with large cat and elephant hunting licenses being admitted sustainably. This was shown when only 400 elephant licenses were allowed in 2019, considering that the country has over 130,000 elephants. 

It is estimated that hunting-related tourism supports over 53,000 jobs across sub-Saharan Africa, from Park Rangers to tour guides. 1.4 million km2 is conserved for hunting and contributes to $426 million in GDP for the region. 

Simply put trophy hunting and hunting related tourism is beneficial for the region when done legally and with conservation efforts in mind. While corruption may occur and the rules may be broken; as was the case with Cecil the lion, these are anomalies in an otherwise crucial system which benefits both the local and nation community in these countries.

When done legally, trophy hunting is a lucrative trade that can support and benefit local and national communities on the African continent.