By Salisha Chandra (@salisha_ww) Founding Member of KUAPO
It’s the classic statement – and the most irrational of rebukes – whenever the hunting community is pushed into a corner, they retaliate and say “Look at Kenya, they have lost more than 70% of their wildlife since they banned hunting”. And frankly we are tired of this overused and inaccurate argument that suffers from a key flaw in logic – causal inference. We will explain later exactly what this means so keep reading.
KUAPO normally does not need to comment on issues of trophy and sport hunting because lucky for us, we happen to live in Kenya which banned sport hunting in 1977. Since then, ardent conservationists and communities have managed to continue to stave off pressure from external groups wanting Kenya to reverse this ban and reintroduce hunting. All under the guise of conservation. However, Cecil’s murder at the hands of trophy hunter, American dentist Walter Palmer and the recent news that Zimbabwe has decided not to press charges against him because the hunt was “legal” has pushed us to comment.
Today we want to address the many fallacies that are out there with respect to hunting and conservation and hunting and Kenya. So here goes:
- Hunting is NOT conservation: In the days of yore, when hunters and gatherers, lived in balance with the environment and did so in a sustainable manner, yes hunting did help to keep things in balance. But those days are long gone. Today humans have become what is called the unsustainable super predator. A recent paper shows “that humans kill adult prey, the reproductive capital of populations, at much higher median rates than other predators (up to 14 times higher), with particularly intense exploitation of terrestrial carnivores and fishes.” Further it concludes that “Given this competitive dominance, impacts on predators, and other unique predatory behavior, we suggest that humans function as an unsustainable “super predator,” which—unless additionally constrained by managers—will continue to alter ecological and evolutionary processes globally.” It really couldn’t be more clear – we do not need to go on hunting expeditions to manage wildlife populations.
- Hunting DOES NOT provide benefits to communities that live with wildlife: There have been so many studies that have clearly shown that actually very little if any of the so-called funds raised by hunting actually reach these communities. In fact even research published by the pro-hunting International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, supported by other authors, finds that hunting companies contribute only 3% of their revenue to communities living in hunting areas. WHAT? Yes in fact most of the so-called funds raised for conservation does not accrue to local people and businesses, but to firms, government agencies and individuals located internationally or in national capitals – add to that corruption and well we leave it to you to conclude what that means. Furthermore, even the amount of funds generated by trophy hunting industry is minuscule compared to what is generated from nature-based tourism.
- Banning Hunting is NOT the reason why wildlife in Kenya has declined: This key argument is something that all “hunting conservationists” fall back on – but look at Kenya, they banned hunting and they have lost so much of their wildlife. Yes there is no doubt that Kenya has lost 70% of its wildlife population since the 70’s but to attribute that to ONE thing (banning hunting) is the most naive (at best) and stupid (at ….) conclusion! Really there is only ONE reason why a country could possibly see a decline in wildlife. Does that mean that Botswana should see a rapid decline in all their conservation efforts now that they have banned hunting ? Hasn’t it been a year since they did so? Surely poaching must have spiralled? What is that you say? No it hasn’t? Well there you have it. I am sorry if it sounds like I am going to on a bit of a rant here – but I am. This sort of causal inference – meaning because of this this has happened – is completely irresponsible. In fact a recent paper that has looked into the “no-hunting” model has concluded the same. Did you know that the decline in large mammals in South Africa is 38%? Almost the same as Kenya at 43%! And that furthermore, having this debate takes the focus away from what really needs to be addressed on the ground – the real reasons behind this decline in wildlife are enforcement of law, lack of inclusion of communities in wildlife management and inequitable distribution of benefits, human population growth and lack of territorial planning/land-use plans. And as we have demonstrated above, none of these are actually solved by introducing hunting. One only has to look at our neighbours Tanzania and look at the killing fields there where 10,000 elephants have perished in no time to know that hunting is not the solution nor is banning hunting the primary cause of wildlife decline.
Leaving aside the moral debate on killing sentient beings for some sort of personal pleasure, adrenalin rush or feeling of accomplishment – let us face the facts, there is no great conservation value to hunting…there is only value to those who are lining their pockets from the monies that come from it.
MORE READING for the interested: