Why Big Game Hunting Does Not Help Conservation

Articles and campaigns decrying big game hunting in South Africa have been making their way around the internet lately. One, from a Buzzfeed staffer who visited a park in Botswana, highlighted how lions, unafraid of both humans and their vehicles, aren’t exactly hiding or stalking game drives. Another showed a Belgian model, who was subsequently dropped from her label for her hunting photos, posing in front of a dead Oryx.

However, as soon as these articles go up, the comments defending conservation hunting come roaring in. Their argument that big game hunting, legalized in a number of African countries, actually helps conservation, is a common one. Profits, they say, go back to the communities and help fund anti-poaching networks. Furthermore, local tribes are fed on the bush meat as it creates sustainable development.

Yet this rationalization could not be further from the truth. The fact is, the majority of hunting takes place in South Africa. The majority of poaching also takes place there, with the worst poaching numbers on the entire African continent. So clearly this contribution to anti-poaching is not working. Studies also show hunting gives so little back to the community that erasing it altogether would have no negative impact on local communities (but it would help conservation efforts).

Posed as the 200 million dollar question by Economists at Large, they tackle the idea that big game hunting, and lion hunting in particular, help African economies and local development. Citing a 2010 study, they conclude that 3% or less of revenue attained from these hunts ever makes it back to community development programs. Rather, most goes to camp maintenance and staff payments. Further investigations show that in terms of tourism revenue, overall it makes up less than 2% of the tourism dollars coming into any of the countries that allow big game hunting.

One study quoted a local tribesman as being far more allied with those that shoot wildlife photography than the hunters:

“We’re more closely allied with the photographic operators than the hunters. They are finishing off the wildlife before we’ve had a chance to realize a profit from it. Hunters don’t recognize us, they only recognize the government. 25 percent of hunting fees goes into the ‘hole’ at the district. We’re supposed to get 5 percent and we don’t even see that.”

Links have been widely established by numerous conservation groups that show poaching and big game hunting is a little too close for comfort. The lack of proper oversight and control of big game hunting in South Africa have created windows for organized crime and hunters to go off the rails, assisting in the smuggling of rhino horn and elephant tusk. Bribes are paid to local police to drop cases, and private hunting companies help smugglers, which has been a common reoccurrence in the private hunting community.

We should also look at how animal roles are established to understand why hunting large male lions simply cannot work to help conservation. When the leader of a pride is taken out as a trophy, the current pride must find itself a new male lion to fill this now empty role. When the new male lion comes in, he will systematically kill every lion cub that the old male lion produced, ensuring the future of the pride is his own lineage. If you are taking out male lions from prides even on a one per year basis, it’s not hard to imagine how cubs would have a hard time flourishing.

The study of big lion hunting concludes that:

“Trophy hunting advocates consistently portray the industry as a major contributor to African community development. Our research indicates that its contributions are in fact minimal. Authors from all sides of the hunting and conservation debate agree that local communities are key stakeholders for conservation initiatives, yet they generally receive minimal benefits from trophy hunting.”

Meaning that it’s time to stop the rhetoric and stop pretending that trophy hunting revolves around anything more than feeding precious egos. Big game hunting is clearly not helping poaching, it’s not helping community development and it actually often contributes to illegal smuggling. With all this in mind, it’s time to say no to the idea of private trophy hunting in Africa, and start working towards conservation methods that have actually been proven to work.


Nena C
Nena C8 months ago

all got to go down now, be stopped once and for all for trophy hunting

Elisa and Susan Petersen
Susan Petersen3 years ago

I always knew this conservation nonsense was a load of crap. It smells like the NRA’s advertising campaign to bolster hunting a dwindling industry and hobby.

Christine Jones
Christine J3 years ago

People will always use ridiculous justifications because it's too hard to just admit that they enjoy killing.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

Please flag the spammer!

Karen N.
Karen N3 years ago

The day mankind evolved on earth with their egos, arrogance, selfish greed, self-importance, discrimination & deluded belief of superiority over other species is the day life on earth became a living hell for animals. Those who condone &/or participate in the exploitation, hunting/poaching of animals &/or rearing them in captivity for so-called 'canned hunting' would have no problem then if another species evolved on earth & treated humans with the same arrogance, disregard & barbarity & hunted them or members of their family for sick pleasure &/or body parts etc.? Farming animals for a purpose does not make it any more acceptable to exploit & murder them either. ALL animals are sentient 'living beings' regardless of whether they were born naturally or purposely farmed they are not 'objects' to be used, abused, exploited, treated as commodities, hunted, used for so-called sport, entertainment, experiments, financial gain etc. In today's world we have a vast choice of food & materials so it's not necessary to consume or wear animal products either, people only do so for 'pleasure' & 'vanity', unlike caveman who hunted for 'survival' as do wild animals. One thing is for sure - Mankind's abhorrent behaviour & dependency on animals makes the human species rather inferior & pathetic, unlike animals who survived on their own long before humans evolved on the earth.

Karen N.
Karen N3 years ago

Those who condone &/or participate in the of culling, hunting & murder of animals will demonise & persecute any animal & use any excuse, claim, term or lies they can in attempt justify their unjustifiable barbarism & will even claim it is to do with 'conservation', 'management' in attempt to fool people. Rubbish! Animals were managing themselves perfectly well long before mankind evolved on the earth with their arrogance & interference. As for 'culture' & 'tradition' they are just convenient words used by those desperate for an excuse to act out their sick mentality in attempt to justify their barbarism & so is the term 'belief', people can believe what they like but a belief does not give anyone the right to use, abuse, exploit, terrorize, traumatise, torture, mutilate & murder other 'living beings', human or animal. Even zoo's claim putting animals behind bars is for conservation purposes. The only conservation plan to protect animals from becoming endangered &/or extinct is to deal with the source of the problem & that is to put those that condone &/or participate in the exploitation, hunting, poaching & murder of animals & destruction of their habitat behind bars, NOT the animals. The most highly populated species on earth, which are having detrimental effects on animals & the environment, is the human species.

Luca Lotto
Luca Lotto3 years ago

@Jeniffer S: WWF tried to work WITH them -and got caught. Similarly to some green parties in Europe. Initially a good idea to work WITH 'them', experience shows that 'THEY' rather will work with you -kneading you til can't recognize yourself in the cleanest mirror. Story of the lantern fish.

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith3 years ago

I find it strange that Care2 has an anti hunting article like this, yet also supports the WWF. The WWF is supported by people who also hunt, and also organizations that cause massive environmental damage. (IE Coca-cola, Shell)

I've also heard several times that the WWF's goal is to sustainable hunt wildlife, hence their goal to protect it for controlled hunts.

There are just too many questions for me to support this organization, especially in light of some of their connections.

Amy L.
Amy L3 years ago

I would love to put one of these macho pricks in a pit with no weapon and one of our beloved big cat and see who wins the fight.

Gerald Shaia
Gerald Shaia3 years ago

Trophy hunting is a barbaric and unnecessary practice, and trophy hunters suck.