When the world was in an uproar over the killing of Cecil the Lion, we noted that responsible trophy hunting was important to many African economies and could be a responsible conservation tool because it created incentives for local communities not to kill endangered wildlife.

But in the disgust with the killing of Cecil the Lion by luring him off a nature preserve, calls to ban all trophy hunting disregarded all facts.

So this report from The NY Times is hardly surprising. While it’s not about Cecil and his aftermath, it is about bans on trophy hunting, A Hunting Ban Saps a Village’s Livelihood

Lions have been coming out of the surrounding bush, prowling around homes and a small health clinic, to snatch goats and donkeys from the heart of this village on the edge of one of Africa’s great inland deltas. Elephants, too, are becoming frequent, unwelcome visitors, gobbling up the beans, maize and watermelons that took farmers months to grow.

Since Botswana banned trophy hunting two years ago, remote communities like Sankuyo have been at the mercy of growing numbers of wild animals that are hurting livelihoods and driving terrified villagers into their homes at dusk.

The hunting ban has also meant a precipitous drop in income. Over the years, villagers had used money from trophy hunters, mostly Americans, to install toilets and water pipes, build houses for the poorest, and give scholarships to the young and pensions to the old.

Calls to curb trophy hunting across Africa have risen since a lion in Zimbabwe, named Cecil by researchers tracking it, was killed in July by an American dentist. Several airlines have stopped transporting trophies from hunts, and lawmakers in New Jersey have introduced legislation that would further restrict their import into the United States.

But in Sankuyo and other rural communities living near the wild animals, many are calling for a return to hunting. African governments have also condemned, some with increasing anger, Western moves to ban trophy hunting.

Richard Leakey noted the role trophy hunting can play:

If you fly over parts of Tsavo today—and I challenge anyone to do so, if you have the eyes for it – you can see lines of snares set out in funnel traps that extend four or five miles.

Tens of thousands of animals are being killed annually for the meat business. Carnivores are being decimated in the same snares and discarded. I am not a propagandist on this issue, but when my friends say we are very concerned that hunting will be reintroduced in Kenya, let me put it to you: hunting has never been stopped in Kenya, and there is more hunting in Kenya today than at any time since independence. (Thousands) of animals are being killed annually with no control. Snaring, poisoning, and shooting are common things.

So when you have a fear of debate about hunting, please don’t think there is no hunting. Think of a policy to regulate it, so that we can make it sustainable. That is surely the issue, because an illegal crop, an illegal market is unsustainable in the long term, whatever it is. And the market in wildlife meat is unsustainable as currently practiced, and something needs to be done.

-Richard Leakey, in an address to the Strathmore Business School, Nairobi

Commenting on the Leakey quote in the aftermath of Cecil, Glen Martin wrotes in the UC-Berkeley alumni magazine, Lionizing Cecil Makes Us Feel Good, But a Trophy Hunting Ban Will Accelerate Slaughter:

Ultimately, then, the African wildlife crisis is a crisis of misperception. Conservation has been subsumed by animal rights. These are not, however, the same things.

Individual animals—most recently Cecil and Jericho—have become more important in the Age of Social Media than species stability, habitat preservation, and pragmatic if uncomfortable policies that would actually encourage the preservation of wildlife. This is understandable: It’s easier to scream in outrage over the killing of a highly charismatic lion with a cute name, sign a Change.org petition, and move on to posting selfies, than it is to actually investigate the deep forces behind the African wildlife holocaust.

But emoting over Cecil isn’t going to save the African lion. The African lion is not the Lion King, just as Daffy Duck is not representative of a typical mallard in a North American marsh. We don’t live in a cartoon, and our problems are not solved by anthropomorphizing wildlife.

Blanket trophy hunting bans may make us feel better, but they will only accelerate the slaughter.

Now all the Cecils in these communities are at risk of the meat market, or frustrated farmers and villagers.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.