Recently, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee released a report and passed the Interior Appropriations Bill for FY22. The report reiterates the committee’s concerns over the Fish and Wildlife Service’s current policy of evaluating applications for importing trophies for elephants and lions on a case-by-case basis. Specifically, they are concerned whether the countries have proper safeguards to protect species vulnerable to poaching. Based on these misguided considerations, the appropriations bill includes language banning the import of a sport-hunted elephant or lion trophy taken in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, or Zambia. Safari Club International strongly opposes these restrictions as detrimental to wildlife, rural communities, and hunters worldwide.
Illegal poaching in range countries is an issue completely unrelated to international hunting. Additionally, the fact that some of the world’s largest populations of lions and elephants inhabit these three countries is strong evidence that they have proper safeguards in place to protect species vulnerable to poaching. In fact, many anti-poaching rangers and projects are funded by the international hunting industry. The reality is this bill has nothing to do with species protection and everything to do with attacking hunters.
A blanket ban on trophy imports will hurt, rather than save wildlife. Scientific research overwhelmingly shows that well managed international hunting is a vital component of wildlife and ecosystem conservation. Hunting has contributed to the recovery of biodiversity around the world, such as the Southern White Rhino’s recovery from 30 individuals in the 1900s to over 21,000 today. The vast majority of wild African animals live in the countries where they are hunted and have seen large increases in populations. Removing hunting is often a death sentence for wildlife, as in Kenya, for example; since trophy hunting was banned, Kenya has seen a ~70% decrease in wildlife.
Most importantly, it is not up to the U.S. to dictate the management of African wildlife. African communities and governments have the right to conserve their wildlife, and international hunting often plays a crucial role in providing incentives for habitat protection, human wildlife conflict mitigation, and revenues for both conservation and community projects. Africans must benefit from wildlife, not be forced to choose between animals and themselves. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), “poorly targeted or blanket bans or restrictions affect both good and bad hunting practices. They are blunt instruments that risk undermining important benefits for both conservation and local livelihoods, thus exacerbating rather than addressing the prevailing major threats of habitat loss and poaching.” When the U.S. or any other country attempts to impose a trophy ban, it has real, devastating consequences – for wildlife and individual people.
Africans and hunters deeply respect the inherent value of nature, which is why their combined efforts lead to effective wildlife and ecosystem conservation. We must maintain Earth’s biodiversity, we must allow African leadership, and we must listen to science. How much wildlife will we have to lose before “animal rights” groups and bad policymakers realize hunters are here to help?