In South Africa, hunting trophies are at the center of a great debate, since the United Kingdom has put an end to the importation of these wild animal heads. Between the need for funding for conservation and the protection of endangered species, all the protagonists say they have the same objective, the preservation of biodiversity.
Spending huge sums of money to go kill wild animals in Africa and display their heads in their homes may no longer be possible for the British. The British government launched on December 10, 2021, a campaign to ban the import of hunting trophies. The aim is to support the long-term conservation of animal species and protect the world’s most endangered, including the frequently slaughtered “Big Five“ (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo).
“The government’s bill appears to be the toughest ban in the world. This is the leadership we are calling for to save endangered species and help end this terrible trade. I urge the government to introduce the bill into Parliament as soon as possible and I will be asking MPs to support it,” says British conversationalist Eduardo Gonçalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.
The campaign is supported by the British government, through its Environment Secretary, George Eustice. “We are appalled at the idea that hunters are bringing in trophies and putting more pressure on some of our most iconic and threatened animals,” said George Eustice.
A campaign denounced in South Africa
South Africa does not look kindly on the British government’s campaign to ban the import of hunting trophies. The country fears that it will lose the huge profits it makes from this recreational activity. “Bans are unnecessary and will undermine species conservation and negatively impact the welfare of local people, including those who are most vulnerable. Trophy hunting is a useful means of wildlife management, which is used to remove (mainly) excess males from a population, while at the same time revenue is generated to cover the costs of conservation efforts,” explains Albi Modise, spokesperson for the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment.
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According to the U.S.-based Humane Society International (HSI), South Africa exported 21,018 trophies between 2014 and 2018, with coverage under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). The United Kingdom imported 305 trophies during this period.
To support its opposition to trophy hunting, HSI makes the financial connection between an animal shot by sport hunting and one visited by tourists. “A trophy hunter may pay $40,000 to shoot a bull elephant. But a live elephant would generate $23,000 a year from photo-tourism: that means that elephant raises a potential lifetime value of $1.6 million,” HSI explains.