Elephants & lions, alive to be photographed, seen as keys to a prosperous future
LONDON, U.K.; GABORONE, Botswana––Botswana may have more elephants and lions than anywhere else in the world.
Seretse Khama Ian Khama, president of Botswana from 2008 to 2018, considers that fact so important to maintaining and improving the prosperity of the nation that he banned trophy hunting during the last four years of his term, resigned from his own political party when the ban was undone, and on June 28, 2022 personally appealed to the British Parliament and prime minister Boris Johnson to follow through on a campaign pledge to bar the import of body parts of animals as hunting trophies.
“Slaughtering an animal every three minutes”
Khama spoke to Jane Dalton of The Independent shortly “before the launch of a heavyweight report by cross-party Members of Parliament and peers [in the House of Lords] with testimony from experts in support of a trophy ban,” Dalton wrote.
“Trophy hunters are slaughtering an animal every three minutes – with U.K. marksmen among the world’s most prolific killers, the Daily Mail can reveal,” summarized Miles Dilworth and Joe Hutchison for The Daily Mail of the report’s contents.
More sensationally, Guardian environment reporter Helena Horton revealed, the all-party parliamentary group report “detailed the lobbying efforts of international hunting groups,” specifically Safari Club International, based in Tuscon, Arizona, U.S.A.
Safari Club International
“The U.S. hunting lobby has spent £1 million,” or about $1.2 million in U.S. dollars, “putting pressure on the government to delay the trophy import ban,” Horton summarized.
“Boris Johnson promised to ban the imports of these trophies three years ago,” Horton continued, “but the legislation has still not gone through parliament. Because of the delay, the Conservative MP and animal welfare campaigner Henry Smith has put forward his own private member’s bill to ban imports of hunting trophies.”
Safari Club International “funded a Facebook page called Let Africa Live, which posted claims such as: ‘The UK is about to destroy local economies in Africa.’” Horton explained.
“Although the page insinuated it was created by local groups in African countries, an investigation found it was funded by Safari Club International from a pot of money called the Hunter Legacy 100 Fund. The campaign eventually had its page shut down by Facebook, whose head of security said: ‘The people behind this network attempted to conceal their identities and coordination.’”
Meanwhile back in Congress
The British debate about trophy hunting came, according to Humane Society Legislative Fund president Sara Amundson, as meanwhile back in the U.S. Congress, “The House Appropriations Committee advanced strong funding commitments for wildlife protection priorities in its fiscal year 2023 budget for the Department of the Interior,” including addressing trophy hunting.
Specifically, Amundson posted to the Humane Society Legislative Fund email list, “The Committee renewed its recent expressions of concern over the deleterious impacts of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s issuance of hunting trophy import permits for protected species.
“The House bill prohibits the use of funds to process import permit applications of hunting trophies of African lions and elephants from Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe,” Amundson summarized, “where populations are in decline due to hunting, habitat degradation and related factors. The bill also directs the Fish & Wildlife Service to re-evaluate and report to Congress on its current hunting trophy import policy and whether permits are based on well-founded evidence that exporting countries are adequately protecting these species.
“Congress has included this directive in every appropriations package since fiscal year 2020,” Amundson added, “but the Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to comply.”
Trophy hunting contributes to loss of lions
Hans Bauer, University of Oxford research fellow for Northern Lion Conservation, warned readers of The Conversation in both the U.S. and United Kingdom on June 29, 2022 that, “Throughout most of Africa, lion numbers are declining. While trophy hunting is far from the only reason for this, the evidence clearly shows it has failed in its promise to provide a significant boost to wildlife conservation.
“Trophy hunting is allowed in countries throughout East, Central and West Africa, including Burkina Faso, Benin, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sudan and the Congo,” Bauer recited, “and in all these countries, lion declines have been particularly steep.
“The Central African Republic is the most extreme example,” Bauer said. “Almost half the country was designated as hunting blocks, yet wildlife there has all but disappeared.
“In Zambia and Tanzania,” Bauer continued, “40% and 72% respectively of trophy hunting areas have been abandoned.
“Many communities stand to lose wildlife heritage”
“Across Africa, in the vast majority of cases,” Bauer said, “trophy hunting has not delivered more lions. This failure to deliver undermines the already contested justification for the continued killing of lions by trophy hunters. And as the decline continues, many communities stand to lose a wildlife heritage that could, under a different approach to conservation, provide them with employment and stability.
“Namibia and Botswana in southern Africa are often cited as models for conservation,” Bauer acknowledged, “which implies their experience could be replicated elsewhere. Trophy hunting has been presented as a success factor in these countries. But in reality, how instructive are the experiences of two large countries with a combined population of less than five million people for the other billion-plus Africans living in more densely populated areas?
“Certainly, these two countries have a lot of wildlife,” Bauer granted, “but is this due to the effects of trophy hunting, or to very low human population densities, diversified tourism industries and well-resourced wildlife institutions?”
30 years of trophy hunting have not helped elephants
Journal of African Elephants editor Adam Cruise, of South Africa, offered a 41-page Investigation into Trophy Hunting of African Elephants in Botswana’s Community Based Natural Resource Management Areas, publication of which was funded by the Swiss-based Franz Weber Foundation.
“The community-based natural resource management program in Botswana has been ongoing for exactly thirty years,” Cruise opened.
The purpose of the program,” Cruise explained, “was to promote sustainable use of local resources through delegation of resource use rights to local communities.
As regards elephants, Cruise said, “The concept aims to ensure that the local benefits from elephants exceed the costs. The costs of living with elephants includes crop raiding, livestock depredation, time and money spent on crop protection, resettlement, psychological cost of fear of wildlife,” and sometimes “loss of human life.”
Disaster in Zimbabwe
But the scheme was compromised from the start by having been modeled on the Zimbabwean Communal Area Management Program for Indigenous Resources, called CAMPFIRE for short..
CAMPFIRE was initially funded by USAid in connection with a package of political trade-offs which in 1989 won the international embargo on trade in elephant ivory that the 2014 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ban on elephant trophy imports was introduced to help enforce.
USAid from 1989 through 2004 pumped more than $40 million into CAMPFIRE, essentially subsidizing trophy hunts. CAMPFIRE raised about $2.5 million per year in revenue during those years, more than 90% of it from hunting.
Mostly, though, CAMPFIRE rewarded insiders within the dictatorial Robert Mugabe regime (1980-2017) for neglecting the promises to nationalize resources and redistribute land that brought them to power.
By 2000, however, many longtime Mugabe supporters had lost patience after 20 years of waiting to be given land. In response, Mugabe authorized “land invasions” of farms and privately owned nature conservancies managed by Zimbabweans of European descent.
By 2011, seven years after USAid quit subsidizing CAMPFIRE, even some Zimbabwean sources cautiously recognized that CAMPFIRE had been a boondoggle from inception.
“Follow the money!”
The Botswanian community-based natural resource management approach may have been less damaging only because it has had less opportunity to do damage, having been restrained by former president Ian Khama throughout his ten-year tenure.
Community-based natural resource management programs in Botswana derive income, Cruise explained, largely through “wildlife-based tourism activities such as photographic or wildlife-watching tourism and trophy hunting.
“In 2012,” Cruise recalled, “trophy hunting was regarded as the dominant income earner, ahead of photographic tourism. After the nation-wide hunting moratorium in 2014,” however, community-based natural resource management programs diversified their activities toward photographic, agricultural and cultural activities,” producing “a greater variety in income-generating activities.”
“Trophy hunting impoverishes local communities”
In May 2019, however, Cruise recounted, “an announcement by the government was made to officially lift the hunting moratorium of species that included elephant, buffalo, leopard, and large antelopes such as eland, kudu, zebra, etc.
“Since the lifting of the moratorium in 2019,” Cruise continued, “trophy hunting has not only returned as one of the most dominant community-based natural resource management program activities, but has expanded into many areas that were not historically hunted before 2014.”
Cruise discovered, however, “after a month-long field-investigation, complemented by detailed literature research, trophy hunting fails to provide tangible financial benefits to local communities, does not assist with an increase in wildlife populations, and does not mitigate elephant conflict.
“In fact,” Cruise charged, “this investigation shows that trophy hunting continues to impoverish local communities, causes decline in species, and heightens human-elephant conflict. situations.
And no conservation benefits
“Financial benefits and employment opportunities for community members where trophy hunting is the only or dominant activity is negligible to nothing,” Cruise emphasized.
“The majority of community members, especially those not directly employed as trackers or skinners by trophy hunting companies, or as members of the management” of community-based natural resource management programs, receive no direct income or any meaningful employment.”
Further, Cruise found, trophy hunting is actually subsidized, indirectly, by “taxes generated by Botswana’s two largest economic sectors – mining and photographic tourism.”
On top of that, Cruise wrote, “Trophy hunting does not provide conservation benefits.”
Quite the opposite, Cruise hinted, the opportunity to make money from leasing trophy hunting concessions appears to have caused the Botswanian authorities to fabricate wildlife population data.
“The government, for example, claimed that there were over 200,000 elephants and that the country only had a carrying capacity of 50,000, even though a comprehensive aerial survey in 2018 indicated 126,000 elephants,” Cruise pointed out.
“Biological research points to a probable catastrophic scenario for elephants if the current elephant trophy hunting quota and elephant management policy continues,” Cruise warned.
Cruise conducted five weeks of field investigation, he wrote, over habitat that “spanned most of the range of elephants in Botswana.
“Twenty-five villages associated with community-based natural resource management programs were visited,” Cruise said.
Program reviews stopped after findings of failure
“Since the inception of community-based natural resource management programs in 1992,” Cruise detailed, “a series of seven reviews have been carried out to assess the efficacy of the programs. These were carried out in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2016.
“The final review in 2016 found that most of the community-based natural resource management programs, were either not functioning at all or were on the verge of collapse. This was due to poor management, corruption and other factors. Since then, no review has been conducted into community-based natural resource management programs, particularly after the reintroduction of trophy hunting in 2019.
“The 2016 review identified 147 community-based natural resource management programs,” Cruise recalled, “of which 94 were registered, 16 were not registered and the registration status of 37 was unknown. Community-based natural resource management programs covered around 28% of Botswana population and around 61% of the rural population.”
No recent wildlife surveys
Meanwhile, Cruise wrote, “An aerial survey study in 2011 concluded that populations of some wildlife species had been decimated by hunting, poaching, human encroachment, habitat fragmentation, drought, and bush fires. A total of 11 species were reported to have declined by an average of 61% since a 1996 survey. Based on these assumptions, the study made recommendations that hunting contributes to wildlife decline and should be suspended or be banned.
“Partly a result of this study, trophy hunting was suspended in 2014.
“As for elephants,” Cruise continued, “another aerial survey in 2015 showed there had been a decline in the Botswana population of 15% in just five years since 2010. Between 2014 and 2018 when the hunting moratorium was in place, the rate of decline slowed, and elephant populations overall showed no significant decline,” except in areas “bordering neighboring countries such as Namibia and Zimbabwe,” with robust trophy hunting and ivory poaching industries.
“The last comprehensive aerial survey of wildlife populations by the [Botswanian] Department of Wildlife & National Parks in conjunction with Elephants Without Borders was between July and October 2018, a year before the hunting moratorium was lifted,” Cruise noted.
Big bull elephant shot illegally
In April 2022 one of the biggest elephants in Botswana was killed in Controlled Hunting Area NG13, “one week before the start of this investigation,” Cruise recalled.
“Almost immediately irregularities of this hunt became known and highlighted all that is wrong with trophy hunting and community-based natural resource management in Botswana,” Cruise observed.
For starters, “A detailed land use management plan was undertaken in 2003 which determined that NG13 was both an important elephant migratory corridor and suitable for photographic tourism,” Cruise narrated.
Since NG13 was never actually leased to anyone, however, for any purpose, “trophy hunting is essentially illegal,” Cruise explained.
“Misconception” of tourism potential
Hunting guide Leon Kachelhoffer rationalized that “NG13 is too marginal for photographic tourism,” Cruise summarized, responding that Kachelhoffer’s argument “is based on a misconception of Botswana’s long favored promotion of ‘high income, low impact tourism’ model, whereby these arguments center only on the market of wealthy tourists who are flown into the tourist ‘hotspots’ such as the luxury lodges in the Okavango Delta and along the Chobe River waterfront.”
This assumption, Cruise pointed out, “ignores a burgeoning sector of independent self-drive tourists from overseas and neighboring countries, particularly South Africa, who come to Botswana seeking wilderness experiences away from the expensive tourist center. NG13, as indicated in the 2003 land use management plan, is a perfect landscape and offers the necessary degree of remoteness and wildlife watching this sector of the photographic tourism market craves.”
The April 2022 elephant shooting in NG-13, Cruise added, exemplified that “trophy hunters tend to hunt the biggest, oldest elephants with the most impressive tusks, even though the directive in parliament for lifting the moratorium in 2018 stated: ‘Trophy hunters like to shoot big males with big horns or tusks, which can negatively impact genetics.’ The deduction being that for the moratorium to be lifted, trophy hunters must avoid trophy animals, as this has a detrimental effect on wildlife populations.
“A 2014 study in the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area between South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe,” Cruise mentioned, “found that at the current rates of hunting, under average ecological conditions, trophy bulls would disappear from the population in less than 10 years, with ripple effects that will far outreach the target zone and population, for many generations. By many accounts, the tusker shot in NG13 was one of the last elephants in Botswana to have tusks weighing more than 100 pounds each.”
In Chobe National Park, Cruise saw, “while overall [elephant] populations have not decreased significantly, elephant bull populations have. An estimated number of fresh/recent carcasses increased significantly from 16 in 2014 to 104 in 2018. Elephant poaching for their tusks was seen as the driving cause of this.”
Trophy hunters put spectacular caves off limits
Cruise observed further negative effects of trophy hunting on non-consumptive forms of tourism in Controlled Hunting Area NG1, “the block in Botswana’s far northwest corner on the western side of the Okavango River, bordering Namibia’s Khaudum National Park to the west.
“This controlled hunting area is renowned for the Gcwihaba (formerly Drotsky’s) caves, van impressive underground cave system managed by the Department of National Museums and Monuments,” Cruise explained.
“On visiting the caves, “ however, Cruise found “’No Entry – Private Hunting Concession’ signs were placed on the two entry tracks to the caves. The campsite at the caves had been commandeered by a trophy hunting operator from Kasane. Tourists wishing to visit the caves are no longer permitted access to them.”
Further, Cruise learned, “Some of the proceeds from trophy hunting were going into upgrading an airstrip, presumedly for foreign trophy hunters to easily access this remote area.”
Botswanian national hunting guidelines, Cruise reminded, “state trophy hunting can only be permitted in an area when there are no adverse effects on photographic tourism.”
Trophy hunting kills jobs for women
At yet another photographic tourism destination, Cruise saw, “Elephants visiting Elephant Sands, especially in the dry season, which also happens to coincide with the hunting season, must run a daily gauntlet through hunting concessions to access the water source.
“Another factor for consideration ,” Cruise pointed out, “is that should trophy hunting replace photographic tourism at Elephant Sands, as it has done with the Gcwihaba Caves, the potential for job losses in an area with almost zero employment opportunities will be palpable, especially when it comes to the employment of women as receptionists, managers, cleaners and, on occasion, as guides.
“In photographic tourism, women are well-represented in the work force,” Cruise continued, “while trophy hunting, which in any case only employs a fraction of local community members compared to photographic tourism, provides very little employment opportunities for women.”
“Trophy hunting in Botswana achieves the opposite of what proponents proclaim”
Along the Chobe river, Cruise found, trophy hunting promoted by just two individuals, Shameer Variawa of SV Safaris and a “Mr. Kader who owns Thlou Safari Lodge in Kasane,” are “estimated to shift in excess of $4.2 million [in U.S. dollars] from poor Chobe enclave communities through the trophy hunting of elephants.”
Concluded Cruise after examining the situation in detail, “This makes a mockery of the argument by proponents of trophy hunting that it provides a necessary income in ‘marginal’ areas where photographic tourism is absent.”
Overall, Cruise found, “Trophy hunting not only fails to provide any meaningful revenue for most individuals residing in and alongside community-based natural resource management programs, but contributes to a potential collapse of elephant populations and fails to mitigate the incidences of elephant conflict scenarios.
“In short, trophy hunting in Botswana achieves the opposite of what proponents proclaim.”