Niki Rust is a PhD candidate in Carnivore Conservation at the University of Kent. Diogo Veríssimo is David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Georgia State University. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors. CNN is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.
So if hunts are conducted following these rules, can trophy hunting really help conserve lions? Some argue that even if this were the case, the practise still shouldn’t be allowed because it involves killing a charismatic and threatened animal for fun. Opponents suggest that non-lethal alternatives such as photographic tourism should be the main way in which conservation is funded. But there are a number of problems with this argument.
Tourism isn’t the answer
Hunters are willing to go to remote and unstable areas that most photographic tourists are unwilling to venture into. Far more photographic tourists would have to travel to Africa than hunters to make up the same level of revenue, so the carbon footprint from all that air travel would surely have a significant environmental impact. It should also be noted that the potential for nature tourism is not equally distributed, with the industry often focused only around a few locations. This leaves other regions without access to tourism revenue. Oh, and let’s not forget that wildlife reserves can also kill lions.
If the goal is to preserve populations and species (as opposed to the welfare of individual animals), countries with healthy wildlife populations should be able to use their natural resources to cover the costs of management. This is particularly the case in countries such as Zimbabwe,one of the poorest places in the world.
How hunting helps
Zimbabwe has a tradition of using trophy hunting to promote wildlife conservation. Through the CAMPFIRE program, which ran from 1989 to 2001, more than $20m was given to participating communities, 89% of which came from sports hunting. In more recent times, populations of elephants and other large herbivores have been shown to benefit from trophy hunting.
Zimbabwean trophy hunting generates roughly $16m of revenue annually. While it has been rightly pointed out that only 3% of this goes towards local communities, the ethical implications of removing this money without a clear alternative need to be examined.
Read more: CNN