Bushwise Field Guides

During the Bushwise FGASA field guide course, the students receive a lecture on hunting and conservation. This lecture inevitably led to heated debates on one of the most contentious topics out here in the bush: is hunting conservation?

Almost everyone has an opinion, and a strong one at that, on this topic and very few will change their stance, regardless of how good the arguments of either side are. However, the students are regularly informed that this is a topic that is broached often in a modern-day safari and it helps to have a thorough understanding of both sides of the debate.

As it seemed that the majority of the students knew a great deal of the anti-hunting side of the debate, a PH (professional hunter) from the neighbouring game farm was invited to share with us his views on hunting, obviously coming from the polar opposite side of the debate.

A summary of the arguments made

Hunting IS conservation because:

  • Hunting supplements the revenue of ecotourism game conservancies and allows for better fencing, game management, research, anti-poaching efforts, and general infrastructure development (roads, erosion control etc..)
  • Hunting allows for remote communities to receive direct and indirect benefits; the spinoff being that these, often poor, communities do not feel disgruntled by the presence of large areas of land dedicated to tourism whilst they do not have enough land to be subsistence farmers.
  • Hunting creates tourism to often remote parts of the country allowing for protected areas that would otherwise be used for cattle ranching, mining, industrial development and other land uses.
  • It is in the best interest of the owner of a game farm to keep his game in good condition, implying that there is a great deal of effort that goes into managing the genepool and health of an ecosystem due to hunting
  • Hunting, in a paradoxical sense, can serve to protect a species due to the monetary value attached to it. For example, legal hunting of elephant can in some cases lead to more tolerance of its’ behaviour in the hopes that one day it may pay off.

Hunting is not conservation because:

  • In most cases around the world, hunting has led to the subsequent decline of species numbers and habitat quality
  • Hunting is not conservation because the end goal of such ‘conservation’ would be to shoot the animal
  • Hunters tend to favour the trophy bull with the best genes, this is disruptive to the gene pool and the opposite of conservation
  • Game farms often refuse to drop their fences when adjacent to ecotourism areas and this is a massive barrier to the creation of contiguous wildlife reserves such as the greater Kruger

Hunting is and isn’t conservation because:

  • Hunting farms can be successful in areas that the average international guest would be unprepared to travel. These are areas with poor roads and infrastructure, poor accommodation, and even areas that are not appealing to look at. Hunters tend not to let this get in the way of a good experience. But at the same time, it can result in the exploitation of certain remote and sensitive areas.
  • In a well-regulated environment, hunting can work towards conservation efforts. However; in a corrupt environment with poorly researched quotas and poorly policed hunts, hunting can be to the detriment of the environment.

The debate is a fragile one, and certainly one that will rage on into the future of conservation. But fundamentally one must take note of the need to work together regardless of ones views on the hunting/non-hunting debate, for the overall preservation of our natural areas is the most important issue at hand.

Blog by Jordan Wallace