Prince William Says Trophy Hunting Has Conservation Value, but Does It?

Prince William has been outspoken about his passion for saving wildlife. He has travelled to Africa to raise awareness against poaching, has said he’d like to remove all ivory items from Buckingham Palace, and he even started the United for Wildlife foundation to create a global movement for saving endangered species. It was that track record that left conservationists stumped when in an interview with ITV the royal stated he thought trophy hunting was not something he opposed.

“There is a place for commercial hunting in Africa as it is around the world,” he said in the interview. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but the argument for regulated, properly controlled commercial hunting is that the money that goes from shooting a very old, infirm animal, goes back to the protection of other species. So when one is infertile and at the end of his life, if somebody out there wants to pay that money — and it wouldn’t be me but if somebody did — then as long as that money goes back into the protection of the species, then it is a justifiable means of conserving species that are under serious threat.”

He also added that this stance wasn’t just his but was supported by “a lot of imminent conservationists out there who truly believe there’s a balance to be had here.”

On that last part the Duke of Cambridge is certainly unquestionably correct. He’s not alone in making that argument. Large hunting groups like Safari Club International, which also call themselves conservationists, have made the point that their actions contribute to saving endangered species. But do they?

“The short answer is no,” says Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation.

According to Roberts, Prince Williams’ argument is flawed in a few ways, the first being that there’s no way for a hunter to tell if an animal is old or sick before they shoot it.

“It’s very difficult to be able to tell their age and if you’re a hunter who’s paid thousands of dollars to kill this animal, you’re not going to consult with a biologist before you shoot it,” he explains.

Theoretically, hunters should rely on the expertise of their guides, locals who have years of experience, but no matter what their hunting background is, says Roberts, they still aren’t qualified to make an assessment on the animals’ health or age.

“It’s something only a scientist like a biologist can do by examining their teeth and other things,” he adds.

An article by the National Geographic with a number of zoologists confirms Roberts’ statement. In it, experts in primates and other animals explain how there are some physical signs of aging but they cannot be seen until getting very close and even those inspections, done by professionals, are not 100 percent accurate until an X-ray and other tests are done.

Rules and regulations do exist on what hunters can and cannot shoot, young animals and pregnant females being protected. Since there are no record keeping of the trophies’ age or health condition after they are shot or an inspection of the body for those factors before the trophy is packed and shipped to the hunter’s home country, however, there’s no way of knowing if the usual trophy hunter’s target is in fact, old and sick or if any rules have been broken.

In 2015, avid hunter Rebecca Francis justified her kill of a giraffe five years earlier saying that she was approached by locals asking her to shoot the animal so they could eat it.

“They asked me if I would preserve this giraffe by providing all the locals with food and other means of survival,” she explained on her Facebook page. “He was inevitably going to die soon and he could either be wasted or utilized by the local people. I chose to honor his life by providing others with his uses and I do not regret it for one second. Once he was down there were people waiting to take his meat. They also took his tail to make jewelry, his bones to make other things, and did not waste a single part of him. I am grateful to be a part of something so good.”

The pictures from that beautiful moment, however, were never shared. The only photo she had as evidence of the ordeal was the one actor Ricky Gervais made infamous of her laying next to the dead giraffe smiling.

Even if hunters were indeed targeting only sick and old animals, however, Roberts argues the money hunters claim they give countries for conservation rarely makes it to the cause.

“The part that’s left out of the conversation is that these hunts are being operated by foreign outfitters so that money is going to them, not the government,” he says.

The outfitters are the companies that organize the hunting safaris and trips. Among the top 10 safari tour operators in 2015, Africa Serendipity and Micato Safaris are based out of New York City and African Portfolio is based out of Connecticut. Organizing luxury and exclusive safari vacations, they take the lion’s share (pun very much intended) of the tens of thousands of dollars travelers invest into their trips. They do have expenses – like lodging, guides and hunting permits – in the country where the hunt is taking place, but corruption stops most of it from actually being put back into conservation.

“The big lie of the hunting industry is, ‘Don’t worry kids, we’re doing it,’” told Dr. Craig Packer, one of the world’s foremost experts on African lions to the New York Times in 2015. “And they’re not.”

Packer spent years in Tanzania studying lions and developing theories for their conservation. In his book, “Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns,” he talks about the government corruption that is closely tied to the hunting industry and favors hunting instead of conservation while promoting a semblance of cooperation between the two. His remarks got Packer banned from the country.

A 2013 study found that trophy hunting never accounts for more than 0.27 percent of the GDP of any African country and only about 1.8 percent of tourism revenue came from trophy hunting in those same countries. Making a much bigger contribution at 98.2 percent were other forms of tourism like wildlife viewing and photo safaris, which Born Free advocates as a replacement of hunting safaris.

“So many people think of trophy hunting as existing in a vacuum,” explains Roberts. “But now we’re seeing there are more factors to be considered, whether it is corruption, legislation and regulation. The industry was seen as benign but now people are seeing there are further implications and the conversation is starting to shift.”

Photo Credit: ThinkStock Photos

220 comments

Takako I
Takako I1 years ago

Regardless if hunting brings money or not, killing lives for fun should not be tolerated. Money cannot buy lives back from dead. Lives should be more valuable.

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Marija Mohoric
Marija M1 years ago

Conservation value??

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william M
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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william Miller
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Miss D.
Shari F2 years ago

To finish:
Of course, one needs to consider issues of corruption, which are significant in Africa. However, it’s important not to let that cloud the issue - if one agrees that funding conservation by trophy hunting could be a significant income stream for conservation, then it follows that the debate should become a discussion on how much funds could be raised, far corruption impacts this and what can be done about it. There’s more to it than this but it’s important to look at all the issues.

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Miss D.
Shari F2 years ago

To finish:
Of course, one needs to consider issues of corruption, which are significant in Africa. However, it’s important not to let that cloud the issue - if one agrees that funding conservation by trophy hunting could be a significant income stream for conservation, then it follows that the debate should become a discussion on how much funds could be raised, far corruption impacts this and what can be done about it. There’s more to it than this but it’s important to look at all the issues.

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Miss D.
Shari F2 years ago

In a discussion as potentially emotive as this one, it’s important to have the facts and the article, I’m afraid, does skew them slightly. The article says that it’s hard to tell the age of animals that are killed. This is true for some hunting but not for the type that the prince is talking about. For some species, such as rhinos, licenses are granted for the killing of specific individual animals and this is usually restricted to those that are old and post-reproductive. The argument is that whether they are hunted or not, they are not going to increase the numbers of their species (by having babies) so their removal does not matter in terms of the population growth of that species. Of course, there are other issues to be considered with this, including that a live rhino is, simply by dint of carrying out its daily activities, contributing positively to the ecosystem of which it is a part. The question then becomes one of whether the funds generated for conservation outweigh those benefits. Some would argue that it does - the purchasing of a license for hunting a rhino is extremely expensive. Of course, one needs to consider issues of corruption, which are significant in Africa. However, it’s important not to let that cloud the issue - if one agrees that funding conservation by trophy hunting could be a significant income stream for conservation, then it follows that the debate should become a discussio

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Rose-Marie Grobbelaar

How do you honor life by taking a life?
Hunters (cowards) will always find a reason to kill. And it has nothing to do with conservation. It has to do with killing, in inherent urge in weak humans. As for the prince, royalty has always thought that they have the right of life. Most wild life in Europe and Britian were annihilated centuries ago by the Royal kings and their cronies. Why would this prince and his brother think otherwise.

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Ana R
ANA MARIJA R2 years ago

Conservation Value?! LOL
Conservation is new toilett paper for sadistic killing of innocent lifes... :((

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