For years, several officials (including those in Washington) have presented the argument that trophy hunting actually helps threatened species to thrive, as taxes and fees from hunting contribute funds to conservation efforts. Hunting in areas like South Africa, for example, brings in more than $700 million each year. Over 9,000 new visitors, most of whom hail from the United States, arrive in Africa to take part in annual hunts, and the industry employs nearly 100,000 people.
Up to this point, many have claimed that without big-game trophy hunting, several regions would likely bear few to no native species. Professor John Hanks, who previously served as head of the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa, is one of those people. In a recent interview, Hanks explains:
“I think trophy hunting… is really absolutely essential if we are going to look for long-term future for rhinos in the whole of Africa… There’s hardly a single country anywhere that can afford to run its national parks as they should be run… Here we are in South Africa, one of the richest countries in the continent, Kruger Park has a million visitors a year, and they still cannot afford to defend the rhinos.”
Arguments favoring large hunts are now being challenged in a new report by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee. Entitled Missing the Mark, the 25-page document states that trophy hunting does little to aid endangered or threatened wildlife; in fact, thanks to corrupt management and haphazard refuge programs, continued hunting is actually contributing to the extinction of certain species.
“Trophy hunting… removes a significant number of animals from these rapidly declining populations,” the report claims. “Trophy hunters do not always play by the rules, and the trophy hunting industry needs to be regulated and held accountable for there to be any hope of a consistent conservation benefit… In assessing the flow of trophy hunting revenue to conservation efforts, we found many troubling examples of funds either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation in the first place.”
Over the past several months, U.S. attempts to preserve species in Africa and Asia have grown stronger. Earlier in June, the country announced a near total ban on all elephant ivory products designed for use in commercial trade, and following the death of a lion at the hands of an American dentist in 2015, the Obama administration placed African lions on the endangered species list, thereby putting greater burdens on hunters aiming to import live lions or lion parts.
But while protective measures are being taken, there is still a lot more to accomplish. The attempt to shield lions is several years past due, according to conservationists, who have been petitioning to list lions as “endangered” since 2009. Furthermore, these efforts are only coming after the discovery that lion populations could potentially fall by half within the next 20 years. So indeed, the U.S. holds a great responsibility when it comes to enforcing environmental change.