Game Hunting – conservation or cruelty

This is a debate which had raged on for many years with neither side able to sway the other, whether through empirical proof or vehement rhetoric. The proponents and antagonists for hunting are each completely certain that their stance is right and just. However, there is one area where they both agree – whether they realise it or not – conservation in all its forms is essential. They really only disagree on the methods of achieving this all-important goal.

At Zingela Forwarders we are of the belief that hunting plays an integral part in achieving the goals of conservation. We are not trying to convince anti-hunting organisations and individuals that we are right or that they are wrong, we are simply asking those people to consider our viewpoint with an open mind. Our motives for this belief are grounded in more than mere our own financial interests. While it is true that our income is derived from the freighting and forwarding of sport hunting trophies, it is our underlying love for our beautiful country and its abundant wildlife that drives our passion.

The natural resources of this country, and many other countries in Africa, are under severe threat from growing urbanisation. More and more towns are growing into cities with the direct impact that this has on areas designated towards conservation and wildlife preservation. While we know that this is not the fault of the wildlife, we also know that it is the wildlife which will suffer. Hunting offers one method of keeping the populations in the designated areas under control. Over-abundance of any one species can result in a monumental crash of an entire ecosystem.

From a conservation stand point, in the vast majority of countries around the world where regulated hunting takes place – the same regulatory authorities are responsible for conservation and for the issuing of hunting permits. This means that the funds generated from the sale of permits finds its way into the same coffers as those used for conservation. Conservation is not a cheap endeavour, nor does it generate sufficient funds in order to be self-sustaining. Eco-tourism and photo-tourism both generate funds for conservation but not to the same extent as hunting can.

Hunting is generally a cost-intensive sport requiring extensive cash reserves. This is due to the high cost of permits, especially for permits for those animals which have limited availability. Hunters will pay top prices at auction for these permits. Add to this the fact that hunting expeditions are also expensive and hunters fall into the top end of the income bracket. This generally means that they can afford to be selective. As a rule, hunters prefer to go to areas where they feel conservation is taken seriously. They would rather wait for the opportunity to bag the right animal for their collection than settle for something else.

They are also more likely to pay a higher figure to hunt in a highly sought after area than one where less emphasis is placed on conservation. In a number of surveys taken among hunters in recent years a few facts have come to light. Hunters have stated that they would be willing to pay an equivalent amount for a poorer trophy if they knew that it was a problem animal which was going to have to be killed anyway. They would also be more likely to hunt in areas where a percentage of the money they spent was being used to help the local community. On the other hand, they would be less likely to hunt in areas where conservation was not a high priority or where ‘put-and-take hunting’ practised.

Conservation authorities are aware of the large sums of money which can be raised by hunting and as such are willing to auction off permits to the highest bidder. Recently a permit to hunt in Namibia was sold at auction for $350 000. The additional costs associated with a hunt of this nature can easily run to the same amount again with the result that the country, and its conservation efforts, stand to generate many millions of dollars in much-needed revenue when considering that as many as 16000 hunts took place in that country in the same year.

It is important to note that certain limitations are placed on the animals which can be hunted, these include the size of the population, the habitat and the role the animal plays in that ecosystem – whether that animal is actively contributing to the bio-diversity of the group in that region.

So, while people may feel that to kill an animal for sport is cruel, you have to look at the bigger picture to see that hunting does in fact benefit conservation activities, whether on a purely financial level or at the grass roots level by providing food for the local communities surrounding those areas designated for hunting.