Endangered Species Handbook

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Persecution and Hunting

Trophy Hunting vs. Ecotourism Revenues

The irony of the slaughter of elephants and other large mammals for trophies is that the funds accrued from trophy hunting or ivory are miniscule in comparison to the value of these animals as ecotourist drawing cards. In Kenya, a 1989 analysis on the viewing value of elephants found that between $25 and $30 million per year was earned in tourist dollars from people attracted to the elephants alone (Brody 1994). A new project provides a local Maasai tribe with about $23,000 a year from tour operators who camp there primarily to show visitors the big bull elephants that are now so rare in East Africa (Brody 1994). During the long life of an African Elephant, it may produce tourist revenue worth $1 million, distributed to a wide range of recipients, from airlines to travel companies, and to local economies (Currey and Moore 1994). By contrast, a trophy-hunted elephant brings a one-time fee of $4,000 to $20,000. Estimates for African Lions are similar. A fully maned male Lion, according to Lee Durrell (1986) in State of the Ark, is worth $500,000 as a tourist attraction, whereas a Lion shot for sport or trophy is worth between $3,500 and $8,500, and its skin about $1,000.
Ecotourism has shown an astronomic rise within the past decade, with magazines, books and films aimed at the ecotourist and soaring revenues accruing to countries that protect their natural heritage. Most tourists prefer to come to a country where the animals are tame and where senseless killing is not carried out. Countries that allow hunting of the largest specimens of their wildlife, whether elephants or Leopards, are likely to suffer loss of tourist revenue because they have fewer larger animals and the hunted species often become either shy, hiding from tourists, or belligerent, charging them. A recent article in Africa. Environment and Wildlife, a magazine affiliated with World Wildlife Fund South Africa, gave advice to tourists coming to Okavango. Daryl and Sharna Balfour (1998) recommended that tourists avoid coming during hunting season, which runs from early April to mid-September, because game is "scarce in this areas, skittish and almost impossible to approach." They further noted that the sound of gunfire and the sight of carcass-laden vehicles can be disconcerting (Balfour and Balfour 1998). Wildlife can remain shy throughout the year, especially sensitive, gun-shy animals like elephants, and even beyond the suffering caused to the animals, this trophy hunting potentially deprives the country of far greater revenues that tourists could contribute. Several tourists have been killed recently by charging African Elephants in areas where the animals had been trophy hunted.
Tourists coming to South Africa have increased in number in recent years, producing revenues totaling $6 billion in 1995; a large percentage of this total derives from tourists coming to see scenery and wildlife. By contrast only $2 million in trophy hunting fees for rhinos, and a few million dollars more for other animals, were earned in that year, according to the Natal Parks Board (Hughes and Brooks 1996).
Botswana earns $100 million per year from tourism and only a tiny fraction from trophy hunting, yet the government actively promotes the latter activity and has failed to give national park status to its crowning jewel, the Okavango Delta. Portions of this superb wildlife area have been designated as game reserves which allow hunting, but most remains unprotected (Balfour and Balfour 1998). By contrast, Kenya has designated vast areas as national parks and has encouraged ecotourism for decades, with the result that the government earned $500 million in 1996, up from $452 million in 1995. A new organization, Okavango Peoples' Wildlife Trust, in Botswana, is pressing for a complete ban on trophy hunting in the immense Okavango Delta wetland (Jackman 1997). As a result of livestock fencing in the area, African Buffalo are declining 18 percent a year, and Lion, zebra, Sable Antelope and waterbucks are also becoming scarce (Jackman 1997). This organization has proposed that all hunting, except for subsistence or problem animals, be banned and that the Delta be promoted as an ecotourism center, with low-impact camps for luxury visitors (Jackman 1997). New fencing has blocked about one-fourth of the Okavango to wildlife, who migrate to this oasis from surrounding desert areas as a vital refuge for many months during the year. These fences also have blocked wildlife migrations between Namibia and Angola, a disastrous event for many thousands of animals (Jackman 1997). This region has enormous potential for ecotourism that would far outweigh the revenues from cattle ranching or trophy hunting.
In general, funds from trophy hunting end up in government coffers and in the pockets of a few tour operators; the people of a country receive little of the revenues. By contrast, ecotourism funds are spread throughout the local economies, with hotels, taxis, buses, restaurants, souvenir shops and others benefiting from the greater number of tourists than hunters. In fact, the number of trophy hunters is miniscule in comparison to the number of ecotourists. In most countries, hunters amount to a few hundred or thousand, versus hundreds of thousands--or even millions--of tourists. In some countries, a portion of trophy fees and the meat from slaughtered animals are shared with local villagers, but if they were given the same share of tourist money, it could be very profitable. This trend of sharing tourist revenues or park fees with local people is making an enormous difference in the lives of people around the world.

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