How Hunting Pays for Conservation in Africa

I have written about hunting in Africa before… but it was about 10 years ago, and most of the links are now dead. So, with the death of Cecil the lion, it is time to revisit it. Why killing lions like Cecil may help conservation –

(This isn’t really an issue. It is really just a smokescreen. The death of one lion, versus the deaths of people (how many thousands?) due to our current failures in Syria. How many Christians have been killed by ISIS? How many girls have been sold as slaves by ISIS? Let’s talk about lions! Then there is the new energy policy…)

Conservation is not free. And in Africa that holds true. It costs money to combat poachers. If an animal becomes a “problem” (by killing livestock or threatening people) funds are needed to relocate it, and hopefully funds are available to reimburse the owners of that dead livestock. Because if the owners are not reimbursed, and the animal is not relocated, then those folks whose livelihoods (and perhaps their lives or their family) are threatened will kill the problem animal on their own.

Campfire is an organization that combats that situation. By raising money through sanctioned hunts, they pay for game wardens, secure habitat, deal with problem animals and reimburse folks in the event that an animal does kill some of its livestock.

This is a fairly accessible article on Campfire from Global Eye. Global Eye is a magazine aimed at students sponsored by the Cambridge University Land Society, and seems to have the stamp of approval from the Royal Geographic Society.

The CAMPFIRE movement, designed and managed entirely by Africans, began in the mid 1980’s. It encourages local communities to make their own decisions about wildlife management and control. It aims to help people manage natural resources so that plants, animals and people – the whole ecosystem – all benefit. It helps provide legal ways for such communities to raise money by using local, natural resources in a sustainable way. As a result, many communities now actively protect local wildlife, seeing it as a valuable asset. In some areas locals have even provided them with emergency food and water in times of shortage.

Five main activities help provide extra income to local communities:

  • Trophy hunting: About 90% of CAMPFIRE’s income comes from selling hunting concessions to professional hunters and safari operators working to set government quotas. Individual hunters pay high fees to shoot elephant (US$12,000) and buffalo and are strictly monitored, accompanied by local, licensed professionals. Trophy hunting is considered to be the ultimate form of ecotourism, as hunters usually travel in small groups, demand few amenities, cause minimal damage to the local ecosystem, yet provide considerable income.
  • Selling live animals: this is a fairly recent development. Some areas with high wildlife populations sell live animals to National Parks or game reserves e.g. Guruve district raised US$ 50,000 by selling 10 roan antelope.
  • Harvesting natural resources: a number of natural resources e.g. crocodile eggs, caterpillars, river-sand and timber are harvested and sold by local communities. Skins and ivory can be sold from ‘problem animals’ (individual animals who persistently cause damage or threat and can legally be killed).
  • Tourism: in the past most revenue from tourists has not gone to local communities. During the 1990’s pilot projects have been set up and 5 districts now benefit from tourism. Development of specialist areas e.g. culture tourism, bird watching and visits to hot springs are planned. Some local people are employed directly as guides or run local facilities for tourists.
  • Selling wildlife meat: where species are plentiful e.g. impala, the National Parks Department supervise killing and selling of skins and meat. However, this only raises fairly small sums of money.

In fact now there are efforts underway to understand how best to copy the success of Campfire. The CAMPFIRE programme in Zimbabwe: Payments for wildlife services.

But none of this will stop people from pushing to “END HUNTING!” Because they don’t really care about lions. Or elephants. They just love their liberal friends and want to claim more liberal credit.