The reality of the benefits of trophy hunting is hitting home among the readers of the left-wing Guardian newspaper.
After the Guardian orchestrated a campaign against African big game hunting by antis including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and actress Joanna Lumley, it has climbed down in the face of angry letters from the staff of dozens of African conservation bodies.
The Guardian printed responses to a call for a ban on the importing of hunting trophies to the UK, made in the newspaper by celebrity wildlife campaigners such as Virginia McKenna and Piers Morgan. Among campaigners who voiced support for big game hunting are Dr Tim Davenport, Country director, Tanzania, Wildlife Conservation Society, and 250 staff from different conservation bodies who are signatories to this letter:
‘It is heartening that so many people have strong feelings about conservation, as evidenced by the letter expressing a desire for a global ban on trophy hunting. However, this well-meaning call risks unintended negative consequences for both wildlife and for impoverished rural people.
‘For rhino, elephant, lion and all the species mentioned in the letter, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the global authority on conservation – considers that trophy hunting is not a key threat to their survival. Indeed, well-managed trophy hunting has led to increases in populations of rhino, elephant, lion, markhor, argali, chamois and others. The main problems facing these species are habitat loss and fragmentation, conflict with local people, prey base depletion and illegal poaching.
‘The letter suggests that nature tourism could replace trophy hunting. But tourism is a fickle industry (much more so than hunting) and only viable in some places. And even in those places it generally fails to generate sufficient funds to cover the cost of protecting land and wildlife. We need to keep more options open. Trophy hunting is a strategy that rural communities who live alongside wildlife (including many of us listed here) actively choose for wildlife management – alongside tourism, trade and other uses. Surely our voices, and the impacts upon us, should be taken into account in this debate? Meanwhile, celebrities and politicians could better use their influence to address issues which really affect conservation, such as tackling climate change, funding protected areas, and aligning conservation and development goals.’
The Guardian has moderated its language on the issue. What it previously called ‘cruel, immoral, archaic and unjustifiable’, it now refers to as ‘the complex issue of big game trophy hunting’.