133 scientists detailed the negative impact that a trophy hunting ban would have on wildlife, in an open letter than was released in the journal, Science. The letter suggests that, in the absence of viable alternatives, trophy hunting cannot be dismissed as a means of conservation.
The authors state that trophy hunting often “distracts attention from the major threats to wildlife.” It is important to remember that habitat loss is the biggest threat to biodiversity, with the loss of land to agriculture being the major contributor. Trophy hunting helps to conserve the natural world by facilitating habitat management and the restoration of wildlife numbers.
One of the lead authors, Dr. Amy Dickman (University of Oxford), suggests that a ban on trophy hunting would only result in “the unintended consequence of…far more animals killed through illegal killings and habitat loss.”
If communities are no longer able to benefit from the wildlife on their lands, they would be forced to engage in activities that bring about more harm to the natural environment.
The number of illegal killings would naturally increase when removing the incentive for people to care for wildlife. This may be through hunting, poaching, or local communities taking matters into their own hands in order to deal with human wildlife conflict (through trapping or the use of poison).
The letter points out that “more land has been conserved than under National Parks” in areas and states that employ the use of trophy hunting, highlighting the conservation benefits that are associated with conservancy hunting.
Dr. Dickman also notes the role that social media plays in creating a distorted image of trophy hunting to the wider public, stating “It is very dangerous to view this through the lens of social media because it is such a biased one, and this is why we need to listen to the conservation scientists and we need to listen to the community representatives rather than just advocacy groups.”
Dr. Jeremy Cusack, from the University of Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, added that “it is only through well-informed and unbiased decision-making that we can ensure wildlife populations and humans will coexist in the long-term.”
Those that do not agree with the principles of trophy hunting often suggest photo-tourism as a like for like replacement. However the authors argue that “many hunting areas are too remote or unappealing to attract sufficient visitors.”
In a world where many wildlife areas are under threat, it is essential that we employ management techniques that facilitate conservation in the most efficient and widely applicable ways.
The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation has always supported conservation through the principles of sustainable use. We fully agree with the contents of this letter, and hope that governments that are looking to ban the imports of trophies will reconsider their position in light of the support for sustainable use from the scientific community.