Trophy hunting is hunting of animals with specific desired characteristics (such as large antlers), and overlaps with widely practiced hunting for meat. It is clear that there have been, and continue to be, cases of poorly conducted and poorly regulated hunting. While “Cecil the Lion” is perhaps the most highly publicised controversial case, there are examples of weak governance, corruption, lack of transparency, excessive quotas, illegal hunting, poor monitoring and other problems in a number of countries. This poor practice requires urgent action and reform.
However, legal, well regulated trophy hunting programmes can, and do, play an important role in delivering benefits for both wildlife conservation and for the livelihoods and wellbeing of indigenous and local communities living with wildlife.
Habitat loss and degradation is a primary driver of declines in populations of terrestrial species. Demographic change and corresponding demands for land for development are increasing in biodiversity-rich parts of the globe, exacerbating this pressure on wildlife and making the need for viable conservation incentives more urgent.
Well managed trophy hunting, which takes place in many parts of the world, can and does generate critically needed incentives and revenue for government, private and community landowners to maintain and restore wildlife as a land use and to carry out conservation actions (including anti-poaching interventions). It can return much needed income, jobs, and other important economic and social benefits to indigenous and local communities in places where these benefits are often scarce. In many parts of the world indigenous and local communities have themselves chosen to use trophy hunting as a strategy for conservation of their wildlife and to improve sustainable livelihoods.
Time-limited, targeted conditional moratoria – particularly if accompanied by support for on-the ground management reform – may be useful tools in driving improvements in hunting practice. Such moratoria could focus on particular countries or species. But 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.
Rather than bans on trophy hunting, poor practices could be improved by sustained engagement with and support for responsible national agencies to improve governance frameworks and on-the-ground management.
Or, if decisions to ban or restrict trophy hunting are taken, there is a need to identify and implement in advance viable alternative long-term sources of livelihood support and conservation incentives.
This briefing paper outlines four recommendations to ensure that any decisions that could restrict or end trophy hunting programmes avoid significant negative impacts on species populations, habitat conservation, poaching levels, and the rights and livelihoods of indigenous and local communities.