A proposed UK ban on imported trophy hunting risks jeopardizing the conservation of rhinos, elephants and other endangered wildlife, according to a group of leading scientists and environmentalists who have said the African outlook had been ignored by the government.
On Friday, MPs will vote on a private member’s bill to ban imports of hunting trophies while, separately, the government is preparing legislation banning hunting trophies of thousands of species, including lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and polar bears.
In an open letter seen by the Guardian and signed by more than 100 scientists, environmentalists and community leaders in Africa, the group said the ban is ill-conceived and threatens to reverse conservation gains and undermine livelihoods. rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa.
He urged the UK government to implement a smart ban that encourages good practice by banning trophies from ‘canned’ hunting operations, where captive-bred animals are slaughtered at close range, or those that do not share the same. income with local communities.
By allowing trophy hunting to continue in the UK, where hunters can pay thousands of pounds to slaughter deer, the group said the government was opening itself to accusations of hypocrisy by banning imports from countries with impressive conservation records such as Namibia and Botswana, where trophy hunting is used to finance conservation.
“We understand (and many of us share) the instinctive public aversion to trophy hunting. However, the reality is that no other land use has yet been developed that also protects the wildlife and habitats found in these vital landscapes while generating valuable income for local communities. Indeed, where trophy hunting has been banned, wildlife has often suffered and conflicts with communities have increased, ”the letter said.
“It’s not about pretending that the trophy hunt is perfect. It is plagued by a variety of issues including, but not limited to, the inequitable sharing of income from hunting, inappropriate or poorly observed quotas, corruption and inadequate regulation. But tourism is not a perfect industry either, ”he continues.
Signatories include leaders of major conservation NGOs such as Save the Rhino International, academics from the University of Oxford and leaders of the African community.
The IUCN, which oversees the Red List of Threatened Species, established as trophy hunting has supported the conservation of several species, including rhinos, African elephants and markhors, the national animal of Pakistan, and a UN report said trophy hunting helps protect millions of hectares of wildlife habitat in sub-Saharan Africa. Community leaders have previously criticized British celebrities for calling for a ban on trophy hunting, naming Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley and Piers Morgan in July 2020.
Supporters of the import ban on trophy hunting claim it will help protect endangered species and end a cruel practice. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the trophy hunting a “disgusting business” and his father, Stanley, campaigned for the ban.
But Leslé Jansen, CEO of the NGO Resource Africa, who signed the letter, said the legislation would harm African conservation and livelihoods and undermine the rights of rural communities to use their natural resources.
“We have expressed these concerns on several occasions and attempted to engage in the process. Why are the rights, views and conservation successes of Africans continually ignored? ” she said.
Dr Rodgers Lubilo, chair of a network of community leaders spanning Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, called on the government to reconsider the proposed legislation.
“We have said time and again to our international friends that trophy hunting is part of the local rural livelihoods, and we will continue to seek sustainable use of wildlife for generations to come,” he said.
Dr Amy Dickman, professor of conservation at the University of Oxford who signed the letter, said: “We shouldn’t base our politics on what comedians and celebrities think. We have to rely on expertise and local opinion. These are the two things that matter most.
“Ricky Gervais has 14 million followers on Twitter, while the African Community Leaders Network, when posting on this, tends to get zero engagement. The people most affected have the smallest platforms, ”she said.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We are proposing ambitious legislation to ban the import of hunting trophies of thousands of species.
“This will be one of the toughest bans in the world and goes beyond our overt commitment, which means we will lead the way in protecting endangered animals and help strengthen and support conservation at long term.”