Southern African countries to lose billions as UK plans to ban importation of hunting trophies

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • The UK seeks to ban animal trophies to protect animals from extinction.
  • Zimbabwe says southern Africa could lose revenue from "emotional" decisions which are not science-based.
  • More than 126 000 trophies are exported out of Africa annually.

Southern African countries stand to lose billions of US dollars in wildlife and tourism revenue if the United Kingdom passes into law a bill that seeks to ban the importation of hunting trophies.

The UK says thousands of endangered and threatened species, including lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras and buffaloes, used to market safaris in Africa, need to be preserved as they face extinction.

"In the last 50 years, there has been a 60% decline in wildlife globally. This ban will be among the toughest in the world and will protect a range of species, including nearly 6 000 animals that are currently threatened by international trade," read a notice by the UK government.

The idea of such a law was first mooted in 2015 after American hunter Walter J. Palmer killed a collared lion called Cecil in Zimbabwe, sparking an international outcry. The zebra and African buffalo have also been singled out in promoting the UK government's commitment to prohibit the importation of hunting trophies from endangered species.

ALSO READ | Experts worried about dwindling lion numbers in SA due to poaching, change of habitat

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice said they were "appalled at the thought" of hunters bringing back trophies and placing more pressure on some of the most iconic and endangered animals.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said the move by the UK was not science-based, and there was no consultation with affected communities in Africa.

"They didn't consider that revenue from hunting is used for looking after animals and their habitats. This is through funding anti-poaching initiatives [and] law enforcement. Hunting creates employment for locals, and some of the money realised from trophy sales is used in road construction, building schools and clinics in areas where there are wildlife resources.

"In Zimbabwe and Botswana, there is an overpopulation of elephants, and one way of bringing down the numbers to a manageable size is through the hunts. Overpopulation of animals results in them destroying their habitats, as such, our hunting seasons and quotas are science-driven," he said.

ALSO READ | Court postpones case of two men who allegedly tried to sell lion's head for R350K

According to Humane Society International, a wildlife conservancy organisation, African elephant hunts can cost between US$11 000 and $70 000 (R176 000 to R1 120 000). African elephant trophies are imported primarily from Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia.

The United States is the biggest trophy market, while an estimated 126 000 trophies leave Africa annually, according to the organisation.

Compared to the UK, wildlife organisation Born Free estimates that in the past 10 years at least 2 000 trophies were imported.

Research published in 2018 in a paper titled "The economic impact of trophy hunting in the South African wildlife industry" found that trophy hunters spent US$250 million (R4 billion) per annum in South Africa alone.

Southern African countries are in a dilemma because of their stockpile of ivory. At the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), SADC member states have been calling for the lifting of a ban on trade in ivory, but East African countries say there should be a total ban on the trade.

Trophy hunts remain the only official channel for selling trophies from Africa.

Dr Alistair Pole, a researcher at the African Wildlife Foundation, told journalists last month that for Africa to benefit from its trophies, there was a need for a united stance at CITES.

"The conservation agenda of Africa is still being dominated by Europe and other outsiders. Until we mobilise the people of Africa to take charge of conservation, until Africa mobilises itself and tells the world what it wants, nothing is going to change," he said.

The International ivory trade was banned in 1989 because of a 10-year period in which African elephant numbers declined by more than 50%, from 1.3 million to 600 000. However, in 1999 and 2008 CITES allowed once-off trade.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

We want to hear your views on the news. Subscribe to News24 to be part of the conversation in the comments section of this article.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.