The hunting of animals and other creatures for sport, choosing individual “kills” or trophies, with exceptional physical attributes such as the biggest horns, must be the most paradoxical sector of the global tourism industry. Not only paradoxical, but also the most controversial, depending on your point of view. There are some 23 countries in Africa which permit hunting, the most high profile being in southern Africa, the destination of an estimated 90% of hunting tourists from outside the continent. Kenya, with one of Africa’s largest safari industries, does not allow hunting.
I suspect that most observers, including me, feel a little uncomfortable with the whole concept of shooting for sport, animals chosen for their exceptional nature, unable to defend themselves against the latest hunting rifle and a man (and the vast majority of hunters are male) intent on securing the trophy. That tends to be the western point of view.
But the other point of view, which is that pertaining in communities, investors and governments that benefit from the industry. is that hunting tourism is not only extremely lucrative and capable of sustaining job creation, but is also a proven way of conserving the very animals that are being hunted. And the need for conservation comes, sometimes, from overhunting. That is the paradox.
According to one survey the estimated annual direct revenue generated from hunting in Sub-Saharan African countries is in the order of US$200 million from around 19,000 hunters, the majority from Europe and the USA. This generates around 6,000 jobs in South Africa, over 4,000 in Tanzania, 2,000 in Namibia, and 1,000 in Botswana, the four countries with the largest trophy hunting activity. A study conducted by Radder in 2006 in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province found that game reserves increased employment by 250% and average earnings by over 450%.
So how can consumptive tourism – trophy hunters - be more valuable than non-consumptive tourism – photo safaris?
Trophy hunting tourists, engaged in “consumptive tourism”, spend considerably more than tourists on photographic safaris – non-consumptive tourism. It is estimated that trophy hunters spend 30 times more than other tourists in Zimbabwe, and 14 times in Tanzania. Thus revenues can be generated from fewer people, with less environmental impact. Hunters also stay longer, sending an average of 14 days on a trip, ranging from
four days to over three months. In some countries, only the longer trips qualify to hunt the largest game (including elephants).
In economic terms, trophy hunting places a measurable and specific value on wildlife – go online and you can find rates for different types of animal in different countries and different regions. An elephant will cost upwards of US$45,000 to “consume”, whilst an eland is in the order of US$2,000 and an impala just US$300. For the uber-rich, a black rhino has a price of over US$400,000 on its head. Communities and investors will protect wildlife and their habitats given this financial incentive to do so, perceiving value in that protection. The conservation industry, at least those who support hunting tourism, see the protection of wildlife and habitat as the main contribution of the industry. This protection means that other, less sustainable activities such as farming and animal husbandry are less lucrative.
Hunting takes place in both State-owned and privately-owned reserves. Some countries, such as Namibia and South Africa, have both types, whilst in Tanzania all hunting terrain is State-owned, allocated to investors to exploit. In all cases, hunting is strictly controlled through both a system of licences and hunting guides, with approval required for the equipment used, the targets and the volume of “off-take”, i.e. the percentage of the wildlife in an area that can be consumed. A figure of 2 to 7 per cent is considered to be sustainable. The lower the off-take, the more marketable the destination in the future.
In southern Arica, the vast majority of hunting tourism agencies are based in the country, resulting in considerably less leakage of revenues than from photographic safaris booked through overseas tour operators. The authorities in Tanzania estimate that 33% of trophy hunting revenues accrue to the government, compared to only 8% of beach, photographic safari and other tourism revenues.
The Tanzanian authorities estimate that investment in a hunting block in the country could be up to US$100 million, a significant sum.
Trophy hunting can open up new areas for tourism, and can be undertaken in countries where “traditional tourism is less practical – Chad, the Central African Republic and Burkina Faso all have small hunting industries. The exploitation of land for hunting has a much lower impact that that for photographic surveys – the protection of a pristine wildlife habitat is essential for the animals’ well-being, and being mostly on foot, intrusive roads are not required.
Kenya, with arguably Africa’s largest wildlife tourism industry, banned hunting several decades ago. There, the ethical arguments against trophy hunting overcame the economic and conservation arguments. Media coverage of the hunting industry is typically emotive, targeting the (often high) wealth of hunters, and the darker side of the industry,
such as illegal “canned hunting”, where animals are drugged, attracted by bright lights and so on. But every activity, including within the tourism industry, has its mavericks, and proper control from government can push these activities out of a well-regulated hunting sector. Job creation and income generation, wildlife and habitat conservation are convincing arguments for an industry in a continent that needs them all.
W Hospitality Group, Lagos