Hunting has contributed to the recovery and increase of biodiversity around the world, especially in North America and Africa. Hunting as a conservation tool provides incentives, resources, and management of species to ensure healthy populations in the ecosystem. Contrary to popular opinion, hunting is not the destructive practice of overhunting by early colonialists and settlers; in fact, hunters were key to the creation of protected areas around the world. Hunting is vital to species recovery, ecosystem management, and human-wildlife coexistence.
In order to hunt there must be adequate habitat, population size, and ecosystem health. This all takes resources; maintaining habitat, conducting animal population surveys, and monitoring biodiversity are all extensive operations. Hunters often foot the bill for this vast undertaking, with extraordinary results for species.
In the United States, state conservation programs are funded by the Pittman-Robertson Fund, or Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, which is generated by a 10 to 11% tax on firearm, ammunition, and other sporting equipment manufacturing. The Pittman-Robertson Act passed in 1937 with strong support from hunters, and as of last week has generated over $14.1 billion for conservation from participation in hunting and other outdoor sports.
By the numbers, species across the board have benefitted from hunting. Whitetail deer have risen from 500,000 to 32,000,000 today. Their population is doing so well that hunters are now used to manage deer populations to prevent habitat and community degradation. Management of deer has an extensive ripple effect, benefitting other species in the shared habitat.
Similarly, both White and Black Rhino populations have dramatically increased thanks to the protections provided by hunting. Since the 1890s, Black Rhino have gone from a population of 1,000 to 3,500 today. Even more successfully, the White Rhino has gone from less than 100 in 1895 to around 20,000 today. The hunting of Rhino not only provides immense revenues and anti-poaching incentives, but is also important for species health. Old male Rhinos out of the breeding pool are often highly aggressive and kill young male and female breeding Rhinos. Specifically targeting this demographic vastly increases population health and sustainability of the species. For a specific case study and more information on Rhino hunting, listen to The Rhino Hunter podcast from Radiolab.
Elephants are also an example of species benefitting and managed by sportsmen. Elephant numbers have gradually increased over the years, to the point where they are now overconcentrated in areas of Africa. This overconcentration creates human-wildlife conflict issues, such as destruction of buildings or crops, and also has a negative effect on other species. Herds trample and cause immense habitat destruction, quickly affecting species in the same ecosystem, and eventually negatively impacting the elephants themselves. Hunters provide the necessary management and funds to keep elephants at sustainable numbers.
Other species saved by sportsmen include the Cape Buffalo, Wild Turkey, Bighorn Sheep, Black Bear, Markhor, Bontebok, waterfowl, and many others. Looking forward, the hunting and conservation model should be extended to other animals in the U.S. and around the world. Imagine the possibilities for North American Predators, Bison, and other endangered species in Africa. Hunting not only increases biodiversity, but manages it at sustainable levels for wildlife and human populations alike. Through the harvesting of a small number of individual animals, hunters benefit all species, maintain pristine habitat, and bring communities into coexistence with wildlife. SCI will always proudly stand First for Hunters as they continue their conservation work around the globe.