Trophy Hunting Needs an African-Centred, Solution-Oriented Discussion

There has been some debate – again – about trophy hunting in Africa. In part this is because of a recent letter to Science, by Amy Dickman and others [and with 128 signatories – see DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz0735], where they state that bans on trophy imports may undermine conservation efforts in Africa. There are presently CITES restrictions on trophy imports to western nations, as one may expect. But not blanket bans.

There were a number of letters in response to Dickman et al – all negative [in views toward hunting]. Less than 6% of all authors had an African affiliation. I was part of a team that prepared a letter in response to Dickman et al – and this was published as an eLetter, not a full letter. I have copied and pasted this below [title as above]. The link to the eLetter is here

The recent letter by Dickman et al. [1] discusses biodiversity impairment of bans on trophy hunting imports. The authors summarise the benefits of trophy hunting in Africa, such as land protection for large mammal populations and monetary income for rural communities [2]. Inevitably, this letter will re-spark the debate between advocates and opponents of trophy hunting in Africa and the resulting conservation outcomes. Therefore, instead of ending their letter stating that hunting is repugnant for some, while science is requested by others, we argue that it is more constructive to point towards practical solutions and raise the standards of trophy hunting practices.

Certification of the African trophy hunting industry may be such a solution to facilitate sustainable and ethical hunting practices. In a nutshell, integrating effective compliance and wildlife monitoring, participatory management, and a landscape approach for sustainable conservation into a certification scheme may help to achieve important conservation and community-development objectives [3]. The recent IUCN ‘Guidelines for the Conservation of Lions in Africa’ also advocate certification of hunters as a solution-oriented way forward [4]. Lessons learned from established certification schemes of tropical agroforestry crops such as cocoa and coffee suggest that stakeholder acceptance and communication between them is key [5].

The international hunting community demands sustainable hunting practices, which is needed to raise the bar in trophy hunting. However, progress on the debate can only be made when the missing African perspectives are explicitly accounted for. For example, African scientists have stated that trophy import bans have local negative outcomes [6]. Mechanistically, policy instruments could encourage the involvement of local voices in the debate. Ultimately, people on the ground need to participate in the discussion on how regulated trophy hunting can be a viable solution for African wildlife and rural communities alike.

1. Dickman, A. et al. Trophy hunting bans imperil biodiversity. Science 365, 874–874 (2019).
2. Di Minin, E., Leader-Williams, N. & Bradshaw, C. J. A. Banning Trophy Hunting Will Exacerbate Biodiversity Loss. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 31, 99–102 (2016).
3. Wanger, T. C., Traill, L. W., Cooney, R., Rhodes, J. R. & Tscharntke, T. Trophy hunting certification. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, 1791–1793 (2017).
4. IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group. The Guidelines for the Conservation of the Lion in Africa. (2018).
5. Tscharntke, T. et al. Conserving biodiversity through certification of tropical agroforestry crops at local and landscape scales. Conservation Letters 8, 14–23 (2015).
6. Mbaiwa, J. Effects of the safari hunting tourism ban on rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in Northern Botswana. South African Geographical Journal 100, 1–22 (2018).