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SCI Denounces a Possible Wildlife Import Ban in Belgium

In response to recent discussions in the Federal Parliament of Belgium about a resolution that could ultimately ban the import of certain legally harvested wildlife, SCI CEO W. Laird Hamberlin said, “An import ban on legally harvested wildlife would set a bad example in Europe, which already has strict regulatory measures in place to ensure the sustainability of these species. Rather than benefiting wildlife in any way, this proposal would obstruct wildlife conservation in Africa and infringe upon African sovereignty. The Minister must reject the Parliament’s demand with a separate solution and protect critical conservation efforts.”

SCI, along with our partners in Europe, fully intends to fight this proposal over the coming months. Our wildlife and conservation minded coalition will do so in venues including but not limited to the late April meeting of the “Biodiversity, Hunting, Countryside” intergroup of the European Parliament, which is dedicated to the ways in which African communities lead, must be allowed to lead, and how EU and the rest of the world can assist African governments and local communities in doing so. 

In the spirit of cooperation, Safari Club International also feels it is important to let Belgian hunters and conservationists speak for themselves on this issue. Below is a statement from Hubertus Vereniging Vlaanderen, the primary interest group for hunting and hunters in Flanders, Belgium, which represents a large majority of Flemish hunters.

“The federal parliament passed a resolution to restrict the import of hunting trophies. A very bad idea, warns the Belgian hunting sector. ‘This is at the expense of biodiversity in Africa.’ 

On Thursday March 24th, the House approved the proposal for a resolution with a view to banning the import of hunting trophies from certain animal species. This proposal prohibits the importation of hunting trophies of certain African animals, including white rhinoceros, hippopotamus, elephant, Argali sheep, lion, polar bear, as well as a variety of smaller antelopes.

This decision will undoubtedly have negative consequences for the African fauna and flora. Sustainable hunting has caused the population of these species to increase in recent decades. In Namibia, the number of rhinoceroses went from 450 in the 1980s to 2188 in 2017. Most of the increase has occurred on hunting grounds. An analogous story in Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley. There, the number of lions grew from 13 to more than 500 between 1999 and 2012. There are countless examples that show that hunting is beneficial for these species and their habitats. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also supports this statement. As well as the WWF.

Why then does an import ban have such a negative effect? When a hunter is not allowed to import his trophy, he will no longer hunt those animals, which means that the income from hunting is largely lost. The landowners of those domains are then forced to look for alternative sources of income, often switching from nature and hunting exploitation to agricultural exploitation (particularly animal husbandry). This has disastrous ecological consequences: overgrazing, desertification and loss of habitats of wild animals. The 2014 hunting ban in Botswana has conclusively demonstrated this.

Efforts against poaching are also largely financed from hunting and will therefore disappear. This poses a direct threat to the conservation of these species. Moreover, the disappearance of trophy hunting disrupts an important socio-economic pillar for the local communities. A quarter of the proceeds flow directly back to the population.

Even the competent Belgian authority, the FPS Public Health – CITES service, which regulates the import of hunting trophies, finds a ban unnecessary and counterproductive: ‘Introducing a ban on the import of certain CITES hunting trophies in Belgium would be mainly symbolic and not have a positive effect. have on the protection of wild species, which is really what drives us all.’”

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