The ongoing offensive against trophy hunting is being waged largely on social media by keyboard warriors in comfortable offices, far from the heat, dust, dirt and flies of rural Africa. These self-righteous, self-appointed guardians of animal rights and ethics have no qualms about name-calling and insults directed against hunters who come to Africa to spend significant amounts of money in pursuing their particular interests and passion. Surely that is nothing less that THEIR right?
The hunters feel the heat of the African sun, the choking dust and the snatching thorn bushes, the sweat and the sticky flies seeking moisture in the bush. This is the same environment in which their African hosts spend their entire lives, existing alongside large and dangerous animals that are tolerated and respected because they are of financial value to their custodians. Without the hunting industry and its economic inputs, there would often be no good reason to tolerate the wild species that damage crops, kill livestock and take a regular toll of human life. This situation applies to many remote and isolated places in Africa where few tourists care to visit.
In her wonderful book about conservation in Namibia (Life is like a Kudu horn, Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd, South Africa, 2019) Dr Margaret Jacobsohn writes:
“So my initial city dweller’s amazement – that so many modern rural Africans were prepared to share their land with wildlife, in spite of the economic damage to farming livelihoods and the risk some species pose to human life – was slowly replaced by deep respect. That a Damara farmer can rant about the elephants who damaged the pipes at his borehole-fed water tank so that there is no water for his cattle and goats – or his family. Yet, when asked if he’d like to see the elephants shot or removed, he is nonplussed by the question. Of course not… these are our elephants even when some of them are ‘naughty children’.”
Namibia’s success in conserving vast tracts of land and large numbers of wild species has been grounded on the rights of local communities to have ownership of the wild animals on their land. That ownership extends to their rights to manage the animal populations on a sustainable basis. This includes capture and sale of wild animals, subsistence hunting for meat and animal products, and trophy hunting for the economic benefits it brings to communities.
That the anti-hunting activists have launched campaigns against Namibia, and have even called for tourist boycotts, when this country leads Africa in its enlightened and successful community-based conservation programmes, speaks volumes about the motives of these vocal and misguided campaigners. They don’t actually care about conservation and sustaining viable populations of wild animals in rural Africa. And in particular, it seems to me, they do not care one bit for Africans, and their role in the bigger picture.
Dr John Ledger is a past Director of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a consultant and academic on energy and the environment, and a columnist for the African Hunting Gazette. John.Ledger@wol.co.za