The Controversy Over Trophy Hunting in Africa

Updated on October 1, 2019
Rupert Taylor profile image

I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

A kudu bull is carefully posed for the hunter's selfie.
A kudu bull is carefully posed for the hunter's selfie. | Source

There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to humans killing wildlife; some people love doing it, and others find it abhorrent.

Cecil and Walter

In July 2015, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer became public enemy number one in the wildlife preservation community. He and his hunter guides lured an old and beloved lion named Cecil out of the protection of the Zimbabwean game reserve in which the lion lived.

Palmer, hiding in the branches of a tree, shot the animal with a crossbow bolt, but only succeeded in wounding it. No doubt Cecil suffered until he was finished off almost two days later.

There was a ferocious backlash when images of a grinning Palmer kneeling beside his kill appeared on the internet. But Walter Palmer had done nothing illegal under Zimbabwe’s wildlife protection laws. He was simply using a system that thousands of other hunters use.

Possible Corruption in Africa’s Big Game Industry

Lions don’t come cheap; Walter Palmer paid a reported $54,000 for a permit to bag Cecil; travel and guiding costs were extra. The permit for a white rhinoceros is about $125,000. The critically endangered black rhinoceros sets the hunter back a good deal more. Texas hunter Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 to kill one of these animals in Namibia.

In theory, the money hunters pay for these permits goes to fund conservation efforts. But, in a country such as Zimbabwe under the corrupt dictator Robert Mugabe, who was in power when Palmer got his lion, what were the chances any of that money reached the game parks?

Mugabe had a fondness for hard currencies, such as American dollars, that could be diverted to certain banks noted for their discretion about where their depositor’s money came from.

Source

The value of the big game hunting industry in Africa is murky. Africa Check says it’s worth about $200 million a year, but adds that this estimate is based on the only credible account that came from the academic journal Biological Conservation in 2006.

Safari Club International is a pro-hunting group. It commissioned a study in 2015 that found that trophy hunting in southern Africa pumped $426 million a year into local economies and supported 53,000 jobs. Not so, says the Humane Society International. A study it commissioned found annual economic benefits of $132 million, and job creation of about 11,000.

Depending on whose numbers you believe, the trophy-hunting business accounts for less than one percent of the gross domestic products of those countries that engage in it.

Theodore Roosevelt bags a rhinoceros in 1909.
Theodore Roosevelt bags a rhinoceros in 1909. | Source

The big beast stood like an uncouth statue, his hide black in the sunlight; he seemed what he was, a monster surviving over from the world's past, from the days when the beasts of the prime ran riot in their strength, before man grew so cunning of brain and hand as to master them.

— U.S. President and big game hunter Theodore Roosevelt, writing about a rhinoceros he shot

Reasons for Trophy Hunting

Dr. Chris Darimont of Canada’s University of Victoria, has studied the motivations behind big game hunting. He believes it has a lot to do with status. A trophy hunter is signaling to his peers that he is happy to absorb the enormous cost of killing a leopard or elephant. This is fairly primal because “Status is universally important for men to ward off competition and attract mates.”

It’s questionable whether big game hunters dig deep into their own psyches to find their motivation. For those that are honest enough, they will say it gives them pleasure to bring down a dangerous wild animal. However, most trophy hunters say they shoot wildlife to conserve wildlife. That sounds like a bogus argument, but there is something to it.

A Cape buffalo becomes a trophy.
A Cape buffalo becomes a trophy. | Source

Take the case of Corey Knowlton’s black rhinoceros. According to CNN, “The Namibian government said it allowed the killing of the bull rhino because the older male could have actually hurt younger males needed to repopulate the species.” So, taking out the old guy strengthened the gene pool of the remaining animals.

That might be the case with Knowlton’s black rhinoceros. But trophy hunters don’t want a worn-out old lion with a moth-eaten coat; they want the biggest, healthiest young males of a species. That weakens the gene pool.

Canned Hunting

There are commercial operations in which animals are bred to be killed; it’s called canned hunting and is frowned upon by people who call themselves real hunters. Will Travers, President of the wildlife charity Born Free Foundation calls this hitting “the bottom of the barrel.”

Animals such as lions are raised in captivity and then released into an enclosed area so the “hunter” can make their kill. These businesses usually offer a guarantee that if you don’t kill what you wanted you don’t pay. The trade is so lucrative that some farmers have given up raising cattle in order to switch to wildlife.

One such operation is Africa Hunt Lodge in South Africa, which offers a list of more than 50 species available for killing, from African Porcupines ($200) to zebras ($1,000). On top of that, hunters pay $345 a day for accommodation and guiding.

Rosie Cooney is with the International Union for Conservation of Nature. She told the BBC “Southern Africa’s seen large scale recoveries of wildlife in the 20th century, built around hunting.”

Opposition to Trophy Hunting

Those who find big game hunting repugnant vastly outnumber those who engage in it. As the BBC puts it “For some, there is a moral objection to the killing of animals for pleasure, for others an understandable emotional response to images of hunters posing with their kills or concerns over conservation.”

When news of a successful kill breaks, the hunter gets torn apart on social media. Just ask Corey Knowlton. His rhino hunt was filmed by a CNN crew and, as a result, Knowlton has faced lawsuits, online criticism, and death threats.

Comedian Ricky Gervais responded to the argument that Knowlton’s money, and that of other trophy hunters, helped conservation: “If they really wanted to do a good deed they would donate the money and not shoot the animal. They would be heroes then. As opposed to murdering scum.”

Source

Bonus Factoids

  • The prized “Big Five” are the trophies most sought after. They are: lion, Cape buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and leopard.
  • According to NBC News between, 2000 and 2015, “1.2 million animals, including endangered and threatened wildlife, were killed abroad by American hunters …”
  • According to Born Free, an elephant is worth $1.6 million in revenue over its lifetime from photographic tourism, as opposed to a top price of $60,000 as a trophy at Africa Hunt Lodge.

Sources

  • “FACTSHEET: How Much Does Hunting Contribute to African Economies?” Julian Rademeyer, Africa Check, July 31, 2017.
  • “The Lion’s Share?” Dr. Cameron K. Murray, Economists at Large, 2017.
  • “Texas Hunter Bags His Rhino on Controversial Hunt in Namibia.” Ed Lavandera, CNN, January 4, 2018.
  • “Why Men Trophy Hunt: Showing Off and the Psychology of Shame.” Mark Bekoff, Psychology Today, March 28, 2017.
  • “Viewpoint: Uncomfortable Realities of Big Game Hunting.” Prof. Adam Hart, BBC, September 1, 2015.
  • Africa Hunt Lodge.
  • “Want to Shoot an African Lion? It’ll Cost You.” Daniel Goldstein, Market Watch, August 1, 2015.

Big Game Hunting Morality

Can someone who is not a vegan oppose trophy hunting on moral grounds?

See results

© 2019 Rupert Taylor

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      2 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi, Rupert, thanks for reminding evil hunters the African way of hunting games. Your insight is welcomed.

    • Rupert Taylor profile imageAUTHOR

      Rupert Taylor 

      2 months ago from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

      Hi Tessa. I tried to keep your passion, which I share, out of the article; with minimal success. But that's what the comment section is for, so that people can express their opinions.

      Nature always balances things out unless the top predator is removed from an ecosystem. This happened in Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. when wolves were eradicated because they occasionally took cattle outside the park boundaries. The result was a population explosion of elk that overgrazed and started to actually change to geography. Wolves were then re-introduced and balance was restored.

      If rich Americans (and they are the major trophy hunters) want to stick a lion's head on their man cave wall I suggest they hunt the animals in the traditional Massai way - on foot with a spear.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      2 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi, Tessa, your insight is appreciated. Thanks.

    • TessSchlesinger profile image

      Tessa Schlesinger 

      2 months ago

      Let me be absolutely clear here - as a South African, and as someone who has both worked in and traveled to a good few countries in Africa. Hunting does NOT play a roll in conservation.

      This myth arrived in Africa in the 20s and 30s when there was an enormous public fight about trophy hunting. The argument was that if one did not cull certain animals then one species would dominate and kill all the others. It simply was not true then, and it is not true now. Mother Nature has been going for millions of years, and the balance of power between the animals is constant.

      The outfits that make money out of hunting (both canned and otherwise) are FOR PRIVATE PROFIT. Their money does not go inot government coffers for the 'conservation of animals.'

      The kind of people who do hunting are the scum of the earth. They enjoy killing, and they do kit for the status they get from their peers. They enjoy the status. The kind of people stuck in this ego syndrome are emotionally immature and intellectually impaired. They are mentally sick, twisted beings.

      We are fighting a battle against climate change, against many of these species going extinct, and these 'hunters' have to spend massive amounts of money on killing for pleasure and elevating their ego amongst their peers.

      Ugh. I cannot sufficient express my disgust at the kind of people who do this.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      2 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Hi Rupert, thanks for sharing. Despite all the international laws made to converse endangered wild life, some still see it as fun to kill protected animals. I think the time is now for humans to stop all this wickedness against the wild.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://soapboxie.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)