By Katarzyna Nowak
While positive steps have been taken by governments to protect elephants and their ecosystems, private hunting companies are working hard to undermine the potential gains.
Recent regulatory controls include a U.S. ban on the import of elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe. These two African elephant range states (the former officially in the “Gang of 19”) are still largely characterized by elephant population declines, poor (but improving) adherence to CITES directives, and corruption in the hunting sector (see below on “Hunting Violations”), as well as among government authorities who implement wildlife regulations (see recent article by WCS’s Elizabeth Bennett; also, recent findings by WildLeaks).
Texas-based Hunting Club Bucks U.S. Government
Tanzania’s Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu, recently visited Texas at the invitation (and presumably on the bill) of the Dallas Safari Club (DSC), which then released the following statement: “Tanzania’s top wildlife official…says that the U.S. ban on importing ivory would not curb illicit trafficking…but instead benefit poachers.”
It is worrying that the U.S.-based club is lobbying foreign governmental officials to fight back against regulations imposed by its own government administration.
Fight back on what grounds? How can balanced observers not suspect self-serving politicking to benefit short-term financial interests?
And what does the DSC not grasp about Obama’s “whole of government approach” toward tackling wildlife trafficking, which requires national and international cooperation and partnership?
According to the U.S. Judge’s 12-page decision to uphold the ban, “The agency’s announcement did not prohibit anyone from hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe or Tanzania or anywhere else; it did not bar plaintiff or its members from organizing elephant hunts or earning income by providing services to hunting enthusiasts; and it did not restrict anyone’s ability to support the conservation of elephants.”
In the meantime, The Humane Society is advocating that the ban be broadened to include all African countries that allow elephant hunting.
“If American trophy hunters were sincere, they could invest their wealth directly to fight illegal killing,” wrote Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in a CNN opinion piece in June 2014. “Against tremendous pressure from a small cadre of hunters and others who want to trade in ivory, including the folks at Safari Club International [SCI\, the United States has taken strong steps against the trade in ivory goods.”
Sport Hunting of Little Benefit to Local Communities
Last year, Economists at Large released a report that rippled through conservation circles and thoroughly refuted claims that sport hunting is a large industry that benefits local communities and national economies.
Tanzania and Zimbabwe featured in their analysis, which found that hunting revenue in these two countries expressed as a percentage of tourism revenue was a mere 2.3 percent (Tanzania) and 3.2 percent (Zimbabwe), with non-consumptive tourism (in other words, game viewing, with animals neither caught nor killed) making up the balance.
And these were the top two countries of the nine included in the analysis that are benefiting from non-consumptive tourism. If tourism revenue is expressed as a percentage of GDP, Tanzania’s equals 6.1 percent, and Zimbabwe’s, 6.4 percent.
Interestingly, the country with the highest gain from hunting at the time of the report was Botswana, at 11.7 percent (hunting revenue as percentage of tourism revenue). Despite having relatively more to lose, Botswana banned trophy hunting last year after concluding that “The shooting of wild game for sport and trophies is no longer compatible with our commitment to preserve local fauna.” More....