A comprehensive study ordered by IUCN on big game hunting as a tool for conservation in Africa has been released and translated into english, click here to read the full report on big game hunting.
Hunting used to have, and still has, a key role to play in African conservation. It is not certain that the conditions will remain the same. Hunting does not however play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute at all to good governance.
The question, however, can be summarised today as: can we do conservation better than big game hunting has up until now, in those areas where big game hunting is practiced? This is not at all sure, all the more so in that big game hunting pays for itself.
The advent of consideration of environmental services and sustainable financing makes it possible to envisage financing these networks from a new angle. The environment is increasingly seen as a global good which cannot be used exclusively for individual interests or those of a minority.
In modern protected area networks, hunting areas still have an important role to play in conservation: that of financing and maintaining the peripheral areas around conservation blocks.
The scale of big game hunting in Africa
Around 18,500 tourist hunters go big game hunting in Africa every year. Hunts are organised by approximately 1,300 organisations that employ around 3,400 guides and 15,000 local staff. On average, a hunting safari organisation will only have an average of 14.5 hunt clients per year and each guide will only take 5.5 hunters out annually.
Big game hunting areas take up huge areas of land: for the 11 main big game hunting countries, the surface area occupied is 110 million hectares, in other words 14.9% of the total land area of these countries. In addition to these hunting areas, protected areas occupy, in these 11 countries, 68.4 million hectares, i.e. 9.4% of the national territory.
The sum of the hunting areas and protected areas therefore represents 24.3% of the surface area of these countries. This leaves a proportion of the country for human habitation that is difficult to reconcile with the development of these countries, the population density of which averages 34 people per km.
Tourist hunters kill around 105 000 animals per year, including around 640 elephants, 3 800 buffalo, 600 lions and 800 leopards. Such quantities are not necessarily reasonable. It can e noted for example, that killing 600 lions out of a total population of around 25 000 (i.e. 2.4%) is not sustainable. A hunting trip usually lasts from one to three weeks, during which time each hunter kills an average of two to ten animals, depending on the country.
The annual turnover for big game hunting in Africa is estimated at $US200 million, half of which is generated in South Africa and the rest in the other countries of Sub Saharan Africa. The contribution to the countries' GDP is 0.06% for the 11 main big game hunting countries.
The contribution to national budgets is also low: one percent of the land classified as big game hunting territory contributes 0.006% to the government budget. The contribution of hunting to the national budget is highest in Tanzania, where it is still only 0.3% and uses 26% of the national land area.
Returns per hectare in big game hunting areas
On average, big game hunting generates a turnover of $US1.1/ha in the 10 big game hunting countries (excluding South Africa), which is very low compared to agricultural use (300 to 600 times more), in a context where the peripheral zones of protected areas are already occupied.
This figure does not reach the minimum ratio for the cost of developing a protected area (at least $US2/ha), and can be seen as the sole explanation for the gradual degradation of hunting areas. The local community's share is around $US0.10/ha (or 50 FCFA/ha), explaining their lack of interest in preserving hunting areas and their continued encroachment and poaching.
Low productivity of big game hunting
On average for these 11 countries, the surface area occupied by big game parks is 14.9% of national territory, and the contribution of big game hunting to the GDP is 0.06%. This makes the economic productivity of these hectares very low. This information shows that hunting is not a good option for land use, in particular in a context where priorities are to reduce poverty and establish food security.
However, big game hunting (unlike small game hunting) is essentially carried out on land exclusively reserved for that purpose. The least productive countries per hectare are Ethiopia (hunting areas have virtually disappeared there), Burkina Faso and Benin (where hunting trips are very cheap), Cameroon (where hunting areas are under high pressure from agriculture).
These are the countries where closing down of hunting could make the biggest contribution to development by freeing-up land that is not very economically productive (but what would the consequences be for conservation?). These are also the countries where it is most difficult to change local communities' attitudes to conservation, due to the lack of any gain for them.
Source: Wildlife Extra