What if we banned trophy hunting in Africa?

Many folks, at least among the conservation-minded, seem to agree that trophy hunting isn’t exactly a good model of animal welfare. But many also acknowledge that it can be, if executed properly and with oversight and strict quotas, a useful wildlife management tool. Hunting may be among the few useful mechanisms for controlling ungulate populations that would expand with abandon given the relative absence of natural predators. And in other places, the fees derived from legalized trophy hunting can fund important conservation efforts on the ground. As WWF researcher Robin Naidoo points out in a new paper in the journal Conservation Biology, the Western opposition to trophy hunting is a bit ironic given how much funding legal hunting generates for wildlife management and conservation in North America.

Naidoo and his colleagues from the WWF decided to see just what the economic impacts on Namibia have been from hunting, and using that information, they were able to infer what the possible consequences for the nation might be if trophy hunting were to be banned – something many Westerners would like to see. As a comparison, they did the same for ecotourism.

Opponents of trophy hunting don’t disagree that trophy hunting generates important revenue, but they will point out that ecotourism is an alternative model for generating that same revenue from wildlife. Animals, they will tell you, are worth more alive than dead.

Proponents of legal, monitored trophy hunting might respond (even if uncomfortably) that for some species, a single hunting license can bring in more dollars than several dozen tourists can. And with scientific oversight, licenses could be given for specific individuals who were already aging or who had already contributed their genes to the population’s future. If an animal must be killed, at least we can pick ones who are genetically superfluous. They will also remind you that hunters tend to be more willing to travel to places otherwise unable to benefit from tourism—places that aren’t as pretty or that are farther from major airports. And since trophy hunters are just after the trophies, they leave plenty of meat for locals to consume, which means that there could be more than a simple economic incentive to allow for some limited hunting.

“Understanding who benefits, and how, from wildlife as a land use is a critical prerequisite to designing effective policies and programs that support conservation as a sustainable alternative to other, less biodiversity-friendly, land uses,” writes Naidoo. “It is clear that for wildlife to survive outside (and perhaps even inside) of protected areas in Africa, people must have strong incentives to tolerate, or ideally embrace, wildlife as a land use.”

Until the mid-1990s, wildlife in Namibia was thought of as a natural resource, and animals were owned by the government. But then the government instituted a Community-Based Natural Resource Management(CBNRM) program, which allows communities to register lands as “communal conservancies.” Registration allows locals to manage and benefit from the wildlife that lived on those conservancies. The CBNRM program is widely seen as the turning point for Namibia’s wildlife. Prior to its implementation, wildlife was in severe decline there, and now it’s one of the few places in Africa where wildlife appears to be doing alright, all things considered. The CBNRM finally allowed local communities to benefit directly, both socially and economically, from the wildlife with whom they coexisted.

For both hunting and ecotourism, conservancies usually contract with private operators. Those contracts specify of percentage of revenue that gets turned over to the conservancy. That amounts to some 8-12% of lodge revenue and 30-75% of a trophy price, depending on the species. Those funds are used by conservancies to pay for their own operational and management costs, to pay wildlife rangers and game guards, and to fund vehicle maintenance and fuel; remaining funds are distributed to various projects within local communities.

In addition, agreements typically mandate that jobs be offered to community members. For a typical ecotourism lodge, that means 20-50 jobs, while it means 8-10 jobs for typical hunting operations. Locals are also allowed to hunt wildlife for subsistence, and can take advantage of meat left behind by trophy hunters.

Naidoo’s team used data from 77 such CBNRM-registered conservancies. The earliest ones in their dataset were registered in 1998, and the latest ones had operated for just a year by the end of the 2013 calendar year.

The results suggest that most conservancies need both hunting and ecotourism to benefit from their wildlife. Between 2003 and 2010, ecotourism benefits were larger than those from hunting, while hunting overshadowed ecotourism from 2010 onward. Hunting allowed payments and non-financial benefits (i.e. meat) to accumulate faster than ecotourism did, though ecotourism-related salaries have grown ten times faster than have those from hunting-related jobs. (The drop in benefits from tourism after 2010 may be related to the global economic downturn, which forced many Westerners to travel less, or to other, cheaper destinations.)

Of 52 conservancies that had any sort of financial benefit from wildlife (that is, their income was higher than their expenses), more than half derived all or almost all those benefits from hunting. Just six were wholly or mostly reliant on ecotourism, while 18 conservancies benefited equally from both activities. Still, from a statistical perspective, neither form of tourism won out as being more beneficial than the other, with one small exception: after beginning their tourism operations, conservancies drew benefits from hunting more rapidly (within 3 years) than from ecotourism (which took 6 years, on average).

Also different were the kinds of benefits that each activity offered to the conservancies. To put it plainly, hunting offered money and meat while ecotourism offered employment. Between 2011 and 2013, hunting operations paid $5.41 million to community conservancies, while ecotourism operations paid $2.13 million. (Buffalo and elephant, by the way, were the most lucrative trophies, with elephants representing 55% of all hunting-related income.)

It was when Naidoo simulated a ban on trophy hunting that things became really interesting. In 2013, 74% of conservancies had income that was greater than their operating expenses. In other words, they were in the black. But if they were deprived of hunting-related income, only 16% of conservancies would have been able to pay all their bills. That’s some 50,000 square kilometers of land that would go without important protections.

By contrast, if the opposite were to occur – if communities were deprived of ecotourism-related revenue – they would still feel it, but the impact would be smaller. In that scenario, 59% of conservancies would remain in the black.

The researchers say, “this is the first study to use detailed quantitative data across multiple jurisdictions and over a lengthy timespan to directly compare the financial performance of these two activities.” They found that both activities made important contributions to local communities, and moreover, that those contributions were separate: ecotourism offered employment and wages, while hunting supported governance, management, and operational costs. “A focus on either one or the other would lead to substantial reductions in overall benefit generation and incentives for wildlife conservation throughout Namibia,” they say.

The bottom line is clear. Current economic and social circumstances seem to necessitate at least some trophy hunting if local communities are to tolerate the presence of wildlife. If Westerners wish to ban trophy hunting, then it seems they need to put their money where their mouth is, and pay a lot more for their photo safaris than they do now. – Jason G. Goldman | 23 October 2015

Source: Naidoo, R., Weaver, C. L., Diggle, R. W., Matongo, G., Stuart‐Hill, G., & Thouless, C. (2015). Complementary benefits of tourism and hunting to communal conservancies in Namibia. Conservation Biology. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12643.

Header image: shutterstock.com



  • Karin B. October 28, 2015 at 7:03 am

    What is so disturbing about this article is that the researchers are treating these animals as things, commodities, whose life is measured in terms of how much value it brings to humans. It completely disregards scientific findings that have shown that these animals experience the whole range of emotions as humans. The lives of these animals are valuable to them, and we as humans have no right to take those lives away just so somebody can make a buck.

    The researchers also disregard that many of these animals live in social structures and killing some disrupts this structure, which–in addition to being unnecessary and cruel–often with unintended consequences. Just remember that nobody knew whether Cecil’s offspring would be killed by other male lions.

    The researchers also paid no heed to rapidly growing numbers of consumers all over the world who have had it with the cruelty and death visited upon these animals just so somebody can kill for pleasure and greed. We are dealing with ethical issues here, which can have a major impact on an economy. Research has shown that consumers will not just withhold travel to a country whose animal welfare policies they do not agree with; they refuse to buy anything produced in this country. And the current research does not account for that. In other words, the numbers are incorrect. As shown by the impact of consumers boycotting Canada due to the annual seal hunt, the value of the hunt is minute in comparison to the total economic damage caused by consumer activism.

    Being a fellow researcher, I am very disappointed that these researchers focus on such a narrow and incomplete topic and now make it sound as if they have found the answers.


    • Willem Frost October 29, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      It is stupidity like your nonsense that contributes in a major way to the demise of Africa’s wildlife. Who are you anyway to tell us here in Africa how to manage our remaining wildlife? It is also interesting that the anti-hunters never have anything to say about poaching, or the bushmeat trade, or any of the causes of loss of habitat and wildlife. Nor do I see any financial support from your quarters to support anti-poaching efforts. You antis are a disgrace to Homo sapiens.


      • Andrew Wildman November 29, 2015 at 6:54 am

        What a very well put comment your argument is absolutely spot on.

      • Sandy April 6, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        You said it… “remaining” wildlife. Endangered animals are not “anyone’s” wildlife, It is the business of the Fish and Wildlife and their decisions to name species that need protection, not the locals. If I had money, I would simply donate it and not trade it to kill an animal. As far as Poaching, Yes, there is a lot of discussion going around about that as well, Poachers hunt down animals and take horns and tusk and it’s a terrible thing, but while they are Poaching, you have Trophy Hunters doing the same thing. Trophy Hunters are very greedy people and killing animals makes the feel all high and mighty. If Trophy Hunters gave a shit about conservation or the needs of those living in Africa, they fwould easily donate it, but that’s not whatr this is about, If they can’t kill an animal and take it home, there’s nothing for them

      • Save our Africa June 28, 2016 at 3:04 pm

        We don’t need Trophy Hunters to manage Wildlife. Nature will find a way if humans would stat away. Circle of live… It takes care of itself

      • Neil Whyte November 10, 2016 at 2:09 am

        100% ‘Save our Africa’.
        Leave animals alone. Leave oceans alone. Leave food alone. We tamper with everything a and screw everything up. Typical male moronic ego monsters support this boofhead pathetic activity Trophy hunting. Get a life.

    • S. Schroeder October 31, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Karin, I could not agree more with your comment. Trophy hunting is an outdated and unethical practice that has absolutely NO place in today’s world. It is socailly unacceptable and no longer sustainable. How can we let entire species die off for the sake of dollars and a very small minority of smug, egotistical hunters who like to kill and brag about it over congnac with their rich buddies. It’s disgraceful and subhuman. Any person with an ounce of heart should be sickened by the photographs of these fools posing with sadistic grins on their faces over the dead bodies of these once magnificent animals. Africa’s wild life is its Crown Jewel, and the very reason that most tourists want to visit Africa, to see these beautiful beings in their natural environments. We must not allow the selfish greediness of the few outweight the compassionate and heartfelt opinions of the many. It is time to END trophy and canned hunting NOW.


      • Chase April 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm

        I wish I lived in your fantasy world. Here in the real world, whether you like it or not, life revolves around money. When organizations and hunters speak of hunting endangered species, they are not talking about hunting them to extinction, but rather using older animals whose genetics have already been passed on as a means to alleviate financial difficulties, poaching, and hunger. By allowing hunting, we have now given a financial incentive for governments and local citizens to care about the survival of those species. You see without this incentive, locals could care less what happens to endangered species, as they are not benefiting form their survival.

        I would assume, from your thoughts on the issue, that you have donated money to or traveled to Africa on an ecotourism trip that directly benefited these animals. If not, you have no room to discuss how to potentially save these animals.

      • S. Schroeder May 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm

        Chase, if you think that trophy killers are targeting the old, the weak and the infirm animals you are living in a fantasy world! Trophy kililng seeks out the biggest and the best. You also assume that ALL locals have a non-caring attitude to the environment in which they live. How callous and presumptuous of you! A colonialism view, to be certain. Not everyone only cares about a thing because it directly benefits them financially. Money may be a driving force in the world and in government, but it is NOT the end all, be all. Money will not bring these animals back when they are hunted into extinction. And, yes, you have assumed correctly, that I have (and do regularly) donate money and time to this. I am a staunch conservationist who has done her homework. I am traveling to Africa in September for an eco-safari, along with some volunteer work to benefit that which I care so deeply about. What have YOU done?

    • Joshua Mackenroth October 23, 2016 at 1:42 pm



    • Save our Africa November 2, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      I agree with you 100 %. Couldn’t have said it better. “Animals are living non-human sentient beings with a nervous system scientifically capable of feeling pain and experiencing other emotions” including “suffering and anguish,” Not just that, they are highly intelligent, very communuitive, even with humans. It’s about time that the human race look at these beings in a different perspective if this planet will survive, There is no room for Trophy Hunting anymore, it’s already done enough damage.


    • Tiago December 17, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      Exactly!! OMG!! The question isn’t about money or which one giver more money, it is that they are LIVEE! They are animals, they aren’t products or things. THEY HAVE FAMILIES AND FEELINGS!


  • diane livia October 28, 2015 at 8:53 am

    How bout we ban all trophy hunting everywhere, beginning with the U.S. The idea that some of us think it’s ok to kill an animal, including those nearing extinction, in order to hang its head on a wall is barbaric, to say the least, harmful to all of us at the worst. Time to stop this madness.


  • tom October 28, 2015 at 9:06 am

    The study comes as no surprise to anyone who lives in the real world. The topic is far from “incomplete”. If not for hunting for trophy’s and big game in general, most if not all of the remaining wild lands in Africa would long ago have been swamped by farming, exploding populations, and deleterious settlement of one kind or another; and most of the wildlife killed and eaten for food by local people who know or care nothing of “ethical” concerns, or ever will. This is the history of wildlife in Africa, While I completely understand and sympathize with Karen’s point of view, unless it can be continue to be demonstrated to local people, including governments, that the financial benefits will continue to outweigh the alternatives, the end of the remaining wildlife in Africa is assured. These people DO NOT CARE about any “moral issues!” They are hardly aware of any such things. The outrage by so many Americans over Cecil, who know absolutely nothing about the real issues involved is typical, a characteristic of most Americans about so many issues, especially anything pertaining to the natural world, which so many seem so abysmally ignorant of and are so far removed from. This is obviously a huge topic and I feel I have only touched upon upon it.


    • S. Schroeder October 31, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      Tom, you have got to be kidding me! Trophy hunting is not the only way to help the wild life. I’m so sick of hearing this. A lot of pro-hunters will argue senselessly about that and then accuse the anti-hunters of not knowing of what they speak of. I know that most of the fees from trophy hunting goes directly into the pockets of corrupt politicians and landowners. None of that money reaches the people or groups working against poachers. Killing is not conservation. There is so much data out there proving this. There is a better way, and that way does not involve killing off exotic species for fun or ego.


  • Janet Pesaturo October 28, 2015 at 10:12 am

    So trophy hunting is the ONLY way to pump sufficient money and protein into Africa’s human population? Come on, people, we can be more creative than that if we use our well developed frontal lobes. This isn’t the first time humans have used the economy to justify unethical activity. Slavery is a popular example, but lo and behold, our economy didn’t crumble when we abolished it. And it’s not that I oppose killing animals in general; it’s that the psychology of trophy hunting – of taking the life of an animal so you can hang its body parts on your wall – is an unhealthy behavior that should not be promoted. OK, trophy hunting has helped protect some endangered species, that’s great, but now it’s time to move beyond that. Maybe we’ll get there sooner if we redirect the time, effort, and money devoted to defending trophy hunting, towards developing other creative and more ethical options.


    • Mike Cross October 31, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Well said, Janet! Indeed. Hunting is not now, and has never been ‘conservation’. This is a big LIE told by the hunting lobby to justify the bloodlust they have for killing. I do believe it is a sickness, a diseased mind, that thinks this way. It’s really time for humans to evolve. Enough is enough. There are enough “trophies” hanging on walls. No one needs to shoot a lion or an elephant ever, for any selfish reason like that. Not ever. This has to end.


  • tom October 28, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Janet, et al: I see nothing in these comments that even begins to address the root of wildlife problems in Africa: which is land use. You may criticize and moralize about hunting all you like, but all wildlife needs to have a place to live,and organizations such as TNC here in the U.S. and elsewhere have been doing that. Historically, various hunting organizations have been at the forefront of saving wildlife and land for wildlife, as anyone who reads knows. I would strongly suggest that you all read a bit more in depth about the situation, which is very complex. Critics of trophy hunting know very little of whereof they speak. I have ,not been to Africa and am not a trophy hunter, but I have known some, and having known them I have found that they are extremely well informed and knowledgeable and have actually done something about wildlife preservation, other than just talk, such as contributing very large sums of money to land preservation there. Eliminating trophy hunting, no matter your own reservations about, it is a very bad idea and will achieve the exact opposite of what you would like. Spare us the talk of ethics, which accomplishes nothing accept to further polarize us all.


    • Save Africa April 29, 2016 at 10:27 am

      If anyone doesn’t know what they ARE talking about, it is you. You do not do the calculation of species, you do not do the research on these species, you have no idea where the money really goes. you have no clue what is really going on with trophy hunting. So stop absorbing the information you get from hunters and listen to real experts. While you’re trying to do that, google “canned hunting” where approx. 85% of Trophy Hunters do their hunting.you base upon the info you most likely get from the hunters or their outfitters. With knowing these animals are endangered and could become extinct within the next 50 years will continue to hunt them..I find that irresponsible and selfish, not necessary..Trophy Hunting is a disease, driven by Adrenalin and ego. Makes them feel dominant and powerful taking down such a big and dangerous animal..Pictures tell the story about these people, “look at me, look what I did” They don’t care about conservation, economical values or anything else they preach. They just like to kill animals… Either they don’t realize that the money is taken and pocketed by corrupt governments,or they just don’t give a shit. I have watched so many interviews with villagers and they will tell you a different story. They never a dime of that money, and those who live exposed to the danger of wildlife don’t you think if that money was being used for good that they would have been helped. If all this was used for economical value..It would even discourage locals from killing lions to protect themselves and their live stalk. This protection was never offered to them from the government…nothing there.. As far as taking out the old, and for the reasons they tell you has been proven time after time that it is not good to do this…Elder animals still breed and play a very important role to that pride of family..Older animals have experience which teaches the younger members of that family and the wisdom which is crucial to they younger members of that family. Locals needing money? Ya that would be nice but seriously, what do they really need money for? They have no rent, utility bills. They don’t live the same lifestyle we do. They live out in the bush and hunt for their own food. What these people need is clean water, medication, clothing, education and safety..These people remain destitute. because the government does nothing useful with this money.. Besides all of this, if you have faith in God, you are breaking his law where animals are concerned….

      God made everything that lives on the earth — including the animals. In the beginning, the Bible says, “God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals….’ And it was so” (Genesis 1:24).

      And yes, the Bible commands us to take care of the animals under our care. One of the signs of a righteous man, the Bible says, is that he takes care of his animals (see Proverbs 12:10). Even the animal of an enemy was to be treated kindly: “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him” (Exodus 23:4). One reason God commanded His people to rest one day out of seven was so their animals would be refreshed (see Exodus 23:12).

      In fact, the Bible says we must never treat any part of God’s creation with contempt. When we do, we are indirectly treating our Creator with contempt. Instead, God calls us to be stewards or trustees of His creation, and the Bible reminds us that we are responsible to Him for the way we treat it. We’ve often forgotten this — but it’s still true, and when we ignore it we not only hurt God’s creation but we also hurt ourselves.

      Most of all, however, God calls us to put Him first in our lives. He loves us, and our greatest calling is to respond to His love by opening our hearts and lives to His Son, Jesus Christ.


    • Jill Robinson September 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      Oh Tom – you were doing fine until you stated that you had hunter friends – and they said. Of course they are going to justify their lust for killing. Even worse, they are going to believe that it is their God given right to kill what ever they want because of the amount of money they spend. The money they spend is but a drop in the bucket for animal conservation. Do YOUR own homework.


  • Janet Pesaturo October 28, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Oh, I see, you don’t think ethics have any place in conservation. So it doesn’t matter what one does to save a species, as long as it works? Is there anything at all you wouldn’t do in the name of conservation? Unless you’re a sociopath, I suspect you too would draw a line somewhere. Some of us happen to draw that line in a different place than you would, but it seems that you cannot accept that without demeaning us. And that is what is polarizing here: your condescending, know it all attitude and assumption that we who speak here know nothing, have done nothing, and have contributed nothing to wildlife conservation. I hope that props up your self esteem, but it’s really no way to have a discussion.


  • tom October 28, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Oh, was this a discussion? My mistake.I thought it was somewhat of an attack on people and a situation you obviously do not know quite enough about,. by the way in a quite condescending way. One way or another, the losers will be wildlife, just as always. We might win the odd battle, but the war is long lost. Sorry. Denigrating trophy hunters will solve nothing. Nothing. And to the point, you addressed not one observation that I and many others have made.


  • tom October 29, 2015 at 6:59 am

    As a final comment this AM: I have been around on this planet for 82 years now, and have spent much of that time in various wildernesses among animals. So I have rather strong and mixed feelings about all this. Watching our world go down the tubes has been extremely painful to me. I suspect that should we meet face to face we would have much in common. My impatience stems from constantly encountering so many persons who are so profoundly ignorant and almost willfully uninformed about anything regarding animals and the natural world that I find it very difficult to rein in my impatience. You are obviously not one of those people, so many apologies for any offense given.


  • Louise Dickinson October 30, 2015 at 10:09 am

    USA Sadists who massacre wildlife into extinction in poor unprotected countries to collect corpses is making Westerners wealthy , Africa is still poor , tribes are being evicted so that wealthy perverts can massacre their wildlife and without their nature world the African people will be poorer , raped and destroyed by the USA Corporations and Bankers who are like a cancer , because everything they touch they kill.

    Soon our planet will be dead some say this decade will be unsustainable and vast areas of earth will be too hostile for life because these inane massacring sadists are in power raping and pillaging our shared earth so aggressively we are on the brink of a massive wildlife extinction event and the climate is warming up so intensely the Arctic is collapsing meaning that our human existence is threatened by the methane breaking out from under the Arctic ice and all these massacring sadists can do is destroy this fragile world further by massacring all our land giants and others fragile wildlife in delicate ecosystems into extinction.

    Why is this happening in Africa now ? because the WWF and USAID are controlling funding into the African countries , they are being blackmailed by the USA Pro – Hunting Lobbyists who own Congress to make the funding into Africa conditional , African Countries are forced to offer USA perverts and other slime access to their rare animals to massacre so these sadists can collect corpses, meaning that to qualify for USA and WWF Overseas funding paid for by the citizens of the world through their taxes Africa has to conform to the USA Massacring Wildlife Agendas enforced upon them .. Africa is being rewarded by the sadists running the USA , paid for in fact to allow the most evil people on earth to destroy the last wildernesses on earth .

    Africa is dying because the USA is killing her


    • Mike Cross October 31, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      This is quite true, Louise. Money is the only thing that seems to matter and there is big money in groups like SCI and DCI (safari clubs). They pay off politicians en mass to keep their dirty hobbies legal. Unless we make some radical changes NOW, our children and grandchildren will not be seeing lions and elephants in the wild ever. They will be GONE and soon. There is NO coming back from extinction. What will they shoot then? The unbelievable greed of these hunting groups is staggering. Don’t even get me started on canned hunting. These are people with no moral compass, no soul, no regard for anything on the planet but themsleves and what they want to kill to make themselves feel like real men. They see things in dollar signs and status. It’s quite sickening. And this article is based on a pro-hunting paper, it’s quite obvious. The argument that trophy hunting will “cull” off the old and non-breeding animals is bunk too, just look at Cecil. That heinous dentist waited for the “big lion with the black mane”. There is proof of this, and he also wanted the biggest elephant he could find after killing Cecil. Although he was older, Cecil was a magnificently beautiful and strong male, still breeding and in his prime of life and that’s why the murderous dentist wanted him. He wanted the best. I’m incensed by trophy hunting. It makes me sick. It’s time is over and new ways of conservation must be implemented, clearly what has been going on is NOT working!


      • Amy Brennan October 31, 2015 at 4:39 pm

        Hear! Hear! Trophy hunting is a horrific thing. Evil and vile, it’s time is way past. For those of you saying it’s “legal” so was slavery once. Child porn is legal in some parts of the world, too, does that make it right? No. A big bright light has been shown on the barbaric practice of trophy hunting and the big majority of the world finds it abhorrent. Isn’t it about time we do something to save these iconic animals and stop killing them? I’m ashamed to be American. Trophy hunting has got to GO!

  • Steve Jones November 1, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Seemingly intelligent folks here appear to have granted themselves permission to flip a switch turning off their intellect.

    Otherwise they might be forced to address the inconvenient truth that if they could flip another switch to ban sport hunting in Africa, it would cause significant and permanent loss of habitat and protection, devastating the very animals they claim to defend

    They seek to end the economic incentive to manage game species to reliably produce older age class animals – management which coincidentally requires habitat protection that benefits ALL species, hunted or not.

    If that wish were granted, the social, economic and physical underpinnings that resulted in all that healthy habitat and balanced animal populations will vanish simultaneously.

    Private or communal lands would, by necessity, be turned to other economic uses which are unlikely to depend on wild natural habitat and carefully managed game species. The wildlife would be essentially transferred from an asset to a liability.

    As the habitat dwindles along with the economic incentive to protect animals, so too would the protection from poaching.

    As clearly articulated in the article, ecotourism exists only on a relatively small scale and its potential growth is significantly limited by many factors. In the real world, agriculture, logging, and development are the economic forces that will replace hunting. Brush will be cleared, trees will be felled, and the occasional land rover will be replaced by the roar of tractors and bulldozers.

    There will be no healing that devastation. The loss will be permanent.

    If the only argument you can articulate is fundamentally based on the premise that sport hunting cannot exist on any ethical grounds, then you are engaged in a different debate than the one at hand. You are creating only noise. Generating heat, not light.

    In Africa sport hunting creates and sustains a system which produces and protects a valuable asset to the community. The anti-hunter seeks to tear it all down, preferring salted earth to the dreaded fear that someone, somehow, somewhere, might be enjoying a hunt.


  • Paul November 2, 2015 at 4:03 am

    I hunt and I have done so professionally for 25 years. To all you bleeding heart emotional fools out there, hunting plays a huge role in wildlife security and even more so in habitat security. For you to state otherwise is irresponsible and so incredibly arrogant. You have simply no idea whatsoever on this subject so rather shut up or contribute to Africa in a meaningful way.
    You are sad self rightious individuals with a total loss of perspective regarding hunting.
    Get a life, really !!!


    • Save Africa January 31, 2016 at 12:43 am

      Nature is natural, humans are destructible the only populations needed to be managed are the exploding populations of human beings..We need stop moving into their territories…We need to step back and allow nature to take it’s course..Every thing we touch, we destroy…Animals are not trophies,, They manage themselves and were doing just fine until the 2 legged species stuck their feet in the door..Wildlife is no bodies property and therefor have no right to place a price tag and a time for elimination upon them. .It’s not our call… Wildlife does not need our help by managing numbers..they are capable of doing that all by themselves and they always have..As far as wildlife management is concerned , I will rely on the numbers of inclination, not some hunter who will say anything to justify this inhumane act of cruelty ..What about the thousands of extinct animals…How do they justify that ??? Trophy hunting is no different than poaching..they hunt kill and take…the only difference I can see, is “if you $$$$$$ you may” Every Trophy hunter will tell you “the funds helps conservation, helps locals manages wildlife. Most of these poverty stricken sections of Africa are run by corrupt government and not a cent goes where they claim it goes….Interview with a local will tell another story Don’t think you’ll like it….Native villager says they never see a dime…they don’t have any water. All these years of killing for big bucks don’t ya think that they would have at least have water?? They have made plenty of money to run water pipes to them and back.. How does this happen if this hunting has been going on for so long..Don’t you think that they would have much better living conditions

      Trophy Hunting is nothing but an ego and power over taking down a large beautiful animal, usually endangered..Don’t buy your bullshit about conservation,helping poor locals… This has nothing to do with anything…If they feel they are helping these people they why does an animal have to go down? Donate the funds and leave the animals alone..better yet, use the money to BUT take care of your own needy homeless and starving children..They can certainly use it. OH.. WHAT’S THE FUN IN THAT…


  • tom November 2, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Paul & Steve: You are absolutely correct, but you may as well save your breath’s because you will never convince these other folks who are arguing from emotion and ignorance, as well as a large portion of downright malevolence. Read their words. NONE of my points made earlier in this thread were answered in any way. Nor will any of your points be addressed I predict. Because they cannot. Name calling is their preference, shouted out of their their privileged suburban enclaves, from which they have never accomplished anything meaningful and never will, beyond hot air and venom. The sad upshot of all this over the long run will be the total eradication all wilderness and the animals that live there because of the explosion in human numbers in Africa and elsewhere. This will soon overwhelm any solution and has largely happened already. That I have no solution to. Maybe there is none. To blame the situation on “hunting groups” is the height of foolishness and reveals the weakness of their diatribes.


  • Janet Pesaturo November 2, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Tom, Steve, and Paul, do you think that African wildlife supported by trophy hunting have any value to people other than human recreation? If trophy hunting in Africa were banned, and, as Tom says, there was “total eradication of all wilderness and the animals that live there because of the explosion in human numbers..”, what would that mean for the people of Africa? Would it be “good” for them, in that they could then support more humans? Or do you foresee ecological problems as a result of the loss of species and ecosystems, leading to human population decline?


  • tom November 3, 2015 at 10:13 am

    An interesting question Janet and one can only speculate. Hunting has always come under the heading of of recreation since it became less of a necessity for most of Homo S. Now it has become more of a reenactment of ancient rituals and culture and may be part of our DNA. Its certain that many of us are not going to give it up any time soon. Africans will no doubt continue to suffer the effects of far too many people attempting to wrest a subsistence life from a land that cannot support so many, with never enough to eat. a degraded landscape, and conflicts of every kind. It cannot be good for them and is always bad for most other forms of life, which will simply vanish as it has most other places. Native peoples crave protein and will get it by poaching whenever they can; thus they will eventually kill off ALL the animals unless they are prevented from doing so. Certainly sport hunters kill only a tiny fraction of the total – to the point of insignificance. I think many of us do not understand this. One of the leading causes of the Cecil craze has been the press, who can reliably be depended upon to always get their facts wrong, misreport everything, even lie, and slaver over causing any kind of controversy. It sometimes seems to be their only reason for existence. Any time I have had occasion to read a report about anything that I personally was familiar with or was present at, is always wrong and is almost unrecognizable from what actually happened. ALWAYS doubt anything reported in the press! Their track record is just disgusting and you should question anything they say. They will skew it whenever they can. Their track record regarding anything having to do with conservation or wildlife is just abysmal – to the point of being public enemies. I could go on and on, – and on – but I doubt that you want to read an essay


  • Janet Pesaturo November 3, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Tom, I agree hunting must be in our genes as it is in the genes of other predators. But I think we should be careful to distinguish between hunting for food and hunting for trophy, because there is reason to believe they are different. Many people who hunt for food relish the challenge of tracking and finding the animal, but dislike having to kill. They kill because it’s necessary to get the meat. Trophy hunters seem to be a different group. Learning about the animal, tracking it, and finding it aren’t enough. I can’t speak for all, but certainly some, when pushed to articulate it, they say they get an intense rush from killing the animal. (same for people who routinely kill predators to protect livestock, by the way. Many of them know that nonlethal measures which prevent conflict with wildlife can be cheaper and more time efficient, but killing predators is just so much more “fun”, they tell me)

    So one question is, is killing animals for fun a kind of psychopathology? If so, does it correlate with sociopathic behaviors, like violence, deceit, manipulation, or callous lack of empathy? Abuse of animals is certainly correlated with those behaviors, so I think the answers to those questions is probably yes, for many of those who really seek to kill the animal to get that rush of pleasure. (to be fair, trophy hunters are probably a mixed bag, and some might get just as much or more of a thrill from tracking, and could do without the killing if they only thought about it)

    Therein lies my reluctance to embrace trophy hunting as a conservation tool. We don’t invite pyromaniacs to do prescribed burns to manage fire prone landscapes. Who knows, some of them might be willing to pay conservation organizations to do it. But we don’t even think of it, because these people could be dangerous and need treatment, not indulgence. We don’t send homicidal people to fight our wars, and we don’t let suicidal people reduce the human population pressure on wildlife by happily allowing them to kill themselves.

    So in short, I don’t think it’s the press that has made some of us consider trophy hunting to be unethical. It’s the use of seemingly (and perhaps literally) “sick” behavior as a conservation tool.

    Returning to the point about Africa’s megafauna and whether or not their extinction would be “better” for African people. Well, the loss of big animals hasn’t been so bad for us here in North America. We have a few big animals left, but nobody here seems to want wolves, grizzlies, or cougars living near them, so why should Africans want to share their land with big dangerous animals?. And at this point, are they anything more than relicts for tourists to gawk at and for trophy hunters to get their jollies from shooting them? And maybe for other cultures to get perceived aphrodisiacs and medicines. If that’s what they’ve been reduced to, why not let them go?

    It would be very, very sad to let them go. But that’s just emotion, not science.


    • Steve Jones November 3, 2015 at 7:41 pm


      It’s a complex topic. Africa is incredibly huge and diverse in terms of culture, habitat and economics. We can’t do the topic justice in the confines of a comment section.

      There are local people who directly experience any positives and negatives resulting from the presence of game species, and the impact of whatever wildlife management is in place. And there are people just glad to know that there are still a few wild places left that sustain viable populations of these iconic animals, even though they don’t expect to ever go there. So yes, of course there are all sorts of values associated with African wildlife. But when it comes to the dollars necessary to make healthy wildlife a viable proposition in the future, especially in developing nations, sport hunting is the number one factor.

      Sport hunting is one of the few remaining factors propping up the continued existence of whatever viable wildness remains. There are significant and relentless pressures on these places. Removing the economic benefit associated with wildlife is a sure way to intensify the impact of those pressures.

      Modern regulated sport hunting is carefully designed to sustain populations, not to use them up. Age class and gender factors considered, and limits imposed. Hunting pressure is limited to a level that permits sustained and healthy populations. The notion that sport hunters are turned loose on endangered populations, driving them to extinction is simply a popular lie.

      And the term “trophy” hunting, if applied to mean the pursuit of only the very largest specimens, necessitates taking only the very oldest animals. Those which are past their prime and likely near the end of their expected lifespan in the wild anyway. Animals which have likely had years of success contributing their superior genes to the population. In terms of actual impact on the game populations, you could consider it the very lowest impact form of hunting there is.

      Now, regarding your more recent comments about the thrill of killing, I’ve been hunting for about half a century, and as an outdoor writer and conservation activist have certainly met my share of hunters. I’ve never once met one that fit your description. Undoubtedly hunting can produce “an intense rush”, especially if you’re doing it right, but the actual killing act itself is not the star of the show. So no, hunting is not “a kind of psychopathology”. It is a healthy way to interact with the natural world. It is a joyful act that ties us to the natural world in a way nothing else can. It is not some shameful act that non-human predators are forgiven only because they lack the intellect to recognize their sin.

      Bottom line, every single human being is a predatory omnivore. It’s in our genes. Opinions cannot modify that elemental fact. While nearly all of us avoid or ignore our predatory nature, that does not make it wrong. Quite the opposite. Hunting ties people to the land and to nature in a fundamental way. It is the widespread ignorance of this that I find pathogenic. A symptom of our profound modern disconnect from the natural world.

      Again, the comment section may not be a great place for such detailed conversation, but here are 3 links I can direct you to which I believe offer more detail and clarity at least on the Africa part:


      (after reading that, a hunting friend of mine said: “I spent a couple of days cruising the river that forms the border between Namibia and Botswana. On the Namibia side the grass was green and lush; on the Botswana side, which was a national park, it had been grazed down almost to bare dirt. Botswana’s refusal to allow trophy hunting is unquestionably hurting not only their economy but their ecology. Animals cross the river every day to feed on the Namibia side because there’s nothing left in Botswana.”)



      I hope this has been useful.


  • S. Schroeder November 3, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Tom, Steve and Paul, you have all three tried to insult, degrade and discredit anyone not sharing your view of killing as conservation. Steve has told us we have “turned off our intellect”. Paul has called us “bleeding heart emotional fools” and “sad self-righteous individuals”. Paul has said that we are arguing from “emotion and ignorance” and “downright malevolence”. Well, by all the name calling and insulting coming from your camp, it seems your side of the argument has plenty of emotionally charged vitriol as well. I can see from your words that you are condemning many of us without knowing a single thing about us. Paul, you know nothing of where I live, and certainly not if I am ” shouting out of a privileged suburban enclave”. First off, I am far from priveleged, unlike many of the rich hunters that travel thousands of miles just to kill things. I have workded my ass off since the age of 14 and I know a thing or two about being a captain of industry and the Amercan concept of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. Secondly, I do not live in a ‘suburban enclave’ and my education places me squarely above most people in America, so I do not come from an “ignorant” point of view either, but a compassionate one. Emotional, yes, but ignorant, not a chance, pal!
    So, by your argument, you are stating that human encroachent and development will be the ultimate demise of wilderness and wildlife in Africa. How, then, tell me, is a handful of rich trophy hunters killing off these rare and precious animals in the meantime, going to help that in any way, shape or form? How do you think that hunters killing off animals saves them from poachers doing exactly the same thing. Have you personally gone hand to hand against a poacher, thus saving the rare animals from what both they and you seek to destroy?
    Hunting fees go not back into the communities, but into the pockets of corrupt government officials and greedy landowners. HOW, does that help these rare animals that you all so love to kill? Hunters LOVE to spout out how much they do for conservation and in the same breath tell us who are against hunting that we “know nothing” and “do nothing” to help conservation. How would you ever know that I give at least 20% of my income to conservation causes monthly? How are you supposed to know that I am planning my next trip to Africa and I will be spending my eco-dollars there, where it WILL go back into the communities directly, and not into the greedy corrupt pockets of the government? How are you to know just how much I study lions and what is happening to them? That I personally know people involved in saving them and running sanctuaries in Africa and that when I travel there I go to help these people? No, you all would just like to insult me and tell me I know nothing of what I speak.
    I DO know that lions are in trouble, and while I do not blame it all entirely on trophy hunters, I do not condone killing for the sake of hanging a “trophy” on the wall. It is highly unethical and many would argue, sick.
    If you don’t think any of us are addressing your points, perhaps I should reference some articles that pinpoint just how much hunting hurts a species, like lions, that are in dangerous decline.
    Scientific American:

    The wise people at Born Free Foundation, who know a thing or two about lions, calling on them to be added to the Endangered Species List:

    The Oxford University’s Brent Stapelkamp, the man who was studying Cecil:

    These are reputable credible sources, I challenge you to refute them. Go ahead and call us names, but you and your ilk are in the minority of public opinion and favor.


  • tom November 4, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Simply an excellent commentary Steve.Thanks to you, Janet, and others for your input. I think that I will pull out of this one for now, since It is apparent that some of us will never “hear” each other, or that some of us simply desire not to, or just misconstrue what’s been said – I think in particular the latter. At least some of us care, no matter what side of the divide we may be on. Tragically, the vast majority of humanity do not give a damn or is even aware. That includes those of us in the U.S.


  • S. Schroeder November 4, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Tom, Clearly everyone here commenting gives a damn. I work every single day for many hours to save lions and other exotic African species from being on the fast track to extinction. I do this because I care.


  • tom November 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Is that not what I just said?? Keep up the good work, ’cause everything is on that fast track you mention.


  • Janet Pesaturo November 6, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Steve, I agree with you that this is a complex topic and we can’t do it justice here. I also agree with you that hunting can be a beautiful process. I have nothing against hunting in general, and I thought I made it clear that I was talking about trophy hunting specifically, yet it seemed that you blurred that distinction in parts of your response.

    I’m not at all surprised you think you’ve never met a hunter who says that killing is “the star of the show”. Nobody wants to admit it, and you don’t get it without probing. (And do forgive me for not accepting the opinion of a long time hunter as unbiased evidence) Also I generalized for the sake of brevity. I think for some trophy hunters, the killing itself might not be that much of a thrill, but at very the least there is a callous lack of feeling about taking the life of an animal that wants to live as much as anyone else does, just to obtain its body parts for decoration and/or bragging rights. The point is, that nothing satisfies their need, however one chooses to describe it, other than killing an animal and getting that trophy. And that is very telling.

    So the bottom line is that I agree that hunting for food is in our genes, it’s totally normal, and can even be beautiful. But trophy hunting is at best extremely narcissistic and at worst sociopathic, so I don’t think it’s an ethical way to fund conservation.

    I’m not going to argue about the financial value of trophy hunting to conservation. Anyone can cherry pick articles to support one side or the other. Or we can take them all together and accept the fact that it can be helpful under certain conditions and in certain places, but harmful under some conditions in certain places, and also has been subject to a great deal of corruption.

    But for me, the financial value of trophy hunting is neither here nor there. There are many unethical ways to fund worthy causes, but the end does not justify the means, not in my book. I think the Cecil incident might ultimately be good for conservation, but not because he was too old to benefit the pride (because by all accounts, that was not the case). His death did raise awareness, however, and it could inspire people who knew nothing about wildlife conservation to learn more, contribute $$, and/or help develop some creative, ethical strategies for funding conservation.

    Thanks for the discussion.


  • Pearl November 16, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Ethics do have a place in Conservation
    , why do we humans think that we are above all that god has created!I’m so disgusted by people’s behaviour. Hunting animals for fun? will never sound normal to me and I don’t think it something that I would ever do….Trophy hunting!
    I read an article recently…it’s scary what the Chinese people are doing to animals…dogs, tigers and Rhino’s….its sick!!


  • Serah March 29, 2016 at 2:15 am

    At the end of the day we all have our different views on hunting, Trophy hunting or just hunting, in general, does really help with conservation and helps with efforts to try and stop poaching….security has been beefed up in most parks and they have hired more people in the field to spot poachers and help save animals (Rhino’s) where do people think all that money comes from to pay these workers. think about it!


  • Sandy April 6, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    I’m sorry, I’m so sick about hunter’s using conservation and revenue and funding and economical value. It’s all about money with you, isn’t it? What, do animals have price tags on their heads? Oh ya, South Africa, they love to go and pick out their animal as young, only to return to shoot them in enclosures. Rumor has it, they usually drug the animal to disorient them and then steer them in the direction of the hunter for an easy kill. If you had any smarts at all, you would see, there aren’t anymore populations to control. Every lion you kill now sends them closer to extinction, You’re just a bunch of brats with guns and your reasons for the hunt is not conservation, it’s all about the head on your wall. LET THESE ANIMALS NUMBERS RECOVER!!!! I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THEM AROUND FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN, And that sir, is MY right!!


  • Save our Africa June 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    We are not alone in this world. Our wildlife plays a large roll in our ecosystem. Humans, all we do is take up much needed space. We are the worst, destructive being to walk the face or the earth.

    Animals do not belong to anyone. The only reason they are considered possessions is because “humans” say so. Who gives those humans the right to decide on what life comes and which life goes? “humans” Who said it’s O.K. to go out and hunt down animals for pleasure? Humans”. I say that these “humans” who think they are above all need to be cut down at the knees.


  • Jason September 8, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Poaching, Population and habitat loss are the major threats, sustainable trophy hunting is not. Ecotourism creates habitat loss due to employment and the provision of services to cater to tourism which increases populations. Tourism is not stable it is variable and can shut down and then what are you left with. Governments leaving people to starve whilst paying to keep animals alive. Hunting is not the only conservation method it is one method that aids conservation and removing that method is harmful to conservation. I Don’t need a university study to prove that but you do need to be ignorant to ignore it.


    • jsr September 19, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      people need to slow up their breeding especially in over populated countries.
      this will cause less pressure on land needed for the sustainment of the eco sytem-both plants and animals.i have absolutelly no knowledge that lots of plants are becoming endangered but i am sure they are.even madagascar is feeling the effects of human encroachment..everywhere there is deforestaion-because it is needed for human expansion or food such as plants used to make palm oil.
      if us humans cant figure it out i am sure mother nature will and it will not be a pretty site.


  • Darren October 18, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I get the trophy hunting thing. It is barbaric. But at the same time things have changed a lot since the late 1800’s-1900’s. Most of the money goes to the local government who also gives a percentage to villages. Money goes to conservation reserves. They help pay for more locals to become law officers on these lands to stop the poachers. A lot of times these trophy hunters hunt nuisance animals that are destroying people’s farmlands or those animals that are becoming dangerous to the inhabitants. They will hunt these animals and give the food to the locals. If these hunters didn’t do this the villagers will poison all the animals to get rid of just the nuisance ones. They don’t see the animals the way we do. They see them as nuisances that are destroying their fields and crops. These hunters pay big bucks in return a lot of that money helps the protected lands. These lands are off limits to hunting those animals who are endangered. if you didn’t have hunters there would not be any protected lands and the humans would wAnt those lands to produce crops on. The bottom line is that today a lot of these hunters use legit companies that do give back and help protect sources that are in decline and also help the people. There would be no preserves that protect these animals. Watch the outdoor channel. They partner with these tours that contribute back.


  • Carl Sundbeck October 23, 2016 at 8:11 am

    It nobel to read about protecting the endangered species in the world.
    But when we, in the USA, don’t seem to care about those endangered birds that are killed by windmills and some solar installations. Don’t think we should get on ones high horse.


  • Think About It November 29, 2016 at 11:17 am

    I hope all of you overly critical people don’t eat meat. And even if you are a vegetarian, you are eating some poor, honorable animal’s food. For shame, for shame! How can you live with yourself?!!!


  • Connor McGrane December 7, 2016 at 7:39 am

    All these comments about portraying trophy hunters as the bad guys is very aggravating. I know a lot of trophy hunters and they are very well educated about this topic. Hunting in Africa is a good source of income for the countries and also benefits the local villages in the area by being given the leftover meat from the animal. I understand why many people want to get rid of it but it could damage the economy in that area. I grew up hunting big game and it greatly helps the local economy and keeps the population in balance.


  • Raul December 9, 2016 at 10:28 am

    You all want to debate ad nauseum the ethics of trophy hunting, but the simple fact of the matter is that is a critical component to conservation in some places. The author explained that it has made a huge difference in Namibia.

    Would you rather take the high road and not inflict any discomfort on any animal and just let the species become extinct by overpopulation and loss of conservation resources?


  • JA Malone January 12, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Judging from comments here, many do not bother to drill down on the trophy hunting claims to benefit local communities and conservation efforts. They fall apart quickly looking at regional audits. . Permit revenues line individual pockets, such is poor management and corruption. Ecotourism revenues far surpass. They also do not research the very conflicting opinions of what is actually unfolding in Namibia. World Wildlife Fund was founded by trophy hunters and supports trophy hunting, see no mention of that in this article. Clearly this is a piece written by and for trophy hunting community. But public awareness of what this is really about is being raised in many ways, not least by by the selfies of self-styled hunters…oh sorry conservationists….drooling over their kill.


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