The reaction of the Botswana Government to a black rhino hunt in Namibia has thrown the conservation/hunting square-off into stark relief.
For those unfamiliar with the matter a Texan hunter, Mr Corey Knowlton, paid $350,000 to hunt a bull of this critically endangered species. Arguing that the money will be used for conservation and to the benefit of local communities many hunters, Mr Knowlton included, claim they are at the forefront of conservation.
In contrast non-hunters are frequently accused of being impractical but, as a Botswana Government press release (below) makes clear, why couldn’t the money Mr Knowlton spent be used to translocate the animal into Botswana where the species has enjoyed military protection to the extent that rhino populations are on the increase there?
The statement pierces the obfuscation that often clouds the conservation-hunting question.
Regardless of how successful Namibia has been with conserving black rhino (the country is home to approximately 2020 of the 5,000 in the world), the fact that the species is critically endangered is of global concern, and therefore everybody’s business.
The recent announcements by Emirates SkyCargo of their embargo on lion, rhino, elephant and tiger hunting trophies highlights the issue further. As a major air carrier between Africa and Asia (the prime market for wildlife body parts and a major driver of the decline in these species) this intervention can be effective if all concerned play their part. Lufthansa has also joined the fray by announcing a similar embargo on all hunting trophies from Africa.
The time has come for hunters to prove their intent.
With a few exceptions trophy hunting is an unAfrican past-time so it’s hard for many of us to understand why anyone would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill an animal. Nevertheless, there is a case to be made where hunting of non-threatened species can be an aid to conservation as an alternative to less sustainable practices.
But what of endangered and threatened species?
Here many African governments are lured by the money. Another case in point is Zambia where the reintroduction of big cat hunting was recently announced. Of the 30,000 lions left in Africa Zambia only had an estimated 2,500 when it banned lion hunting in 2013.
Jean Kapata, the Zambia Tourism and Arts Minister said: “Safari hunting is the most profitable and good for off-take of wildlife and if properly handled, everyone could benefit.”
But what if African treasures were worth more alive than dead? If the money that Zambia hopes to earn from killing lions could be spent on keeping them alive, and employing local people, wouldn’t that be the win-win?
With human migration currently topping the news headlines and job creation heading the list on most governments’ agenda the time is right to rethink the dead and the living values of African wildlife.
Non-consumptive tourism is often brandished as the answer. A report published by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust estimates that a single elephant contributes USD1.6 million to an economy over its lifetime. But is it enough?
We need to move away from the single track thinking of ‘if it pays it stays’ and the tyranny of either/or. We need to raise the issue to a cultural and, indeed, spiritual level . How much is a cultural icon worth? How much is a work of art worth? How much is creation made by the Creator worth? Here new and inclusive thinking is required.
Elephant, lion and rhino are fighting for their lives. How can anyone justify their killing as vital to their continued existence?
Having banned hunting in the country last year the Botswana Government has thrown down the gauntlet to hunters – if you have the money available for conservation why not invest it in the living?
With the news that Lalibela, in South Africa, also intends to hunt a rhino this week the objection is all the more pertinent.
P.S. The Lalibela rhino has had some reprieve with a court interdict on its hunting until conservancy members can reach consensus.
PRESS RELEASE: SHOOTING OF RHINO IN NAMIBIA
(22/5/15) – The Government of the Republic of Botswana notes with alarm the CNN documentary portraying an American hunter, Mr. Corey Knowlton, shooting one of the world’s most endangered species, a black rhino, in Namibia.
We would have hoped that the amount of money he paid for the hunt could have been used instead to relocate the rhino to a country like ours, where we would have welcomed such an initiative and put the rhino in anarea it would not be a threat to other rhinos and contribute to our tourism and education efforts.
We therefore appeal for such consideration in future.
As for Mr. Knowlton, whose actions and unconvincing attempts to justify them, is not welcome in Botswana.
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