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No place for trophy hunting in the sixth extinction

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Ross Harvey, Opinion / The Daily Maverick | December 3, 2019

See link for audio of article.

We are living in the sixth extinction. Birds are disappearing from North America, the Amazon is on fire and biodiversity is disappearing at a rapid rate. Droughts are becoming more frequent and extreme weather events are proliferating. Across our continent, formerly intact wild landscapes are being decimated. The ecological systems that support our planet are in free fall.

Attempts to quantify externalities (costs not internalised to reflect on producers’ balance sheets) and make polluters pay have failed. We’ve tried to put a monetary value on “ecosystem services” which cannot be valued. Try, for one minute, to avoid breathing, and you’ll discover how invaluable oxygen is. Yet, the disappearance of our carbon sinks and biodiversity is a direct result of our insatiable greed for more.

We consume and produce unsustainably and delude ourselves that technology will at some stage provide a silver bullet for eliminating the negative externalities that currently erode our “ecosystem services”. I’m all for technological solutions, but new technologies will not address our moral failure to steward the planet well.

In the last few years, as our climate crisis has unfolded in real-time, trophy hunting has come under the spotlight. Trophy hunting is characterised as (largely) Western individuals paying to hunt large mammals such as elephants or lions abroad (often in, but not limited to, an African country). With the illegal killing of the lion given the name Cecil in Zimbabwe in 2015, this trade in death has rightly come in for a public beating. If part of the reason for the climate crisis is indiscriminate consumption and wanton extraction, then why do we allow the killing of nature’s biggest and best animals? Why do we stand idly by while hunters blast irreplaceable ecosystem engineers and keystone species?

Because hunting’s proponents are politically powerful and well organised. There is also a cohort of scientists who share the view that, as morally reprehensible as the individual act may be, the consequence of banning hunting (or the import of trophies) may end up producing worse outcomes for biodiversity conservation. There were no fewer than six responses to the latest articulation of this view, each of which drew attention to the various problems with the contradiction of killing animals to save them.

The most important contribution shows that the view espoused by pro-hunting academics – that “policy should be based on science, not feelings of ‘repugnance’” – “establishes another false dichotomy”.

The truth is that “emotion attends moral judgement, which informs policy… science can quantify risks, but cannot tell us whether they are acceptable or by whose values they should be judged. Governments are right to institute policies that manage the landscape of risk by weighing scientific evidence and accounting for the values of their citizens” (emphasis added). In this vein, the government of the United Kingdom has rightly opened a public consultation on its plans to ban trophy hunting imports into that country.

The importance of moral reasoning in determining conservation policy cannot be overstated. Ultimately, morality and science are intertwined. To suggest that moral concerns should be ignored if “science” supports hunting is irreconcilable.

Morally, the idea of hunting any species faced with plausible extinction is intuitively disturbing. As Myanna Dellinger puts it: “Whether canned, legal, well managed, or not, the hunting of animals belonging to a species threatened with extinction is, to a large segment of the population, so appalling and disturbing at a deep moral and philosophical level that, under contract law and the public trust doctrine, such hunting should not be permissible in modern society”. Under the precautionary principle of law, a useful guide for conservation policy decision-making, actions should be taken to avoid morally unacceptable harm. Morally unacceptable harm occurs where an activity has, or is likely to have, irreversible effects.

In a context characterised by extreme levels of elephant poaching, for instance, trophy hunting is an especially egregious activity, as it has additive ecological effects. In other words, poaching and hunting both target the biggest and best males, which has cascading ecological effects. It reduces genetic health, skews reproductive dynamics and impairs proper family and ecological functionality within animal kingdoms. Hunters typically argue that their presence in “marginal” conservation landscapes serves a counter-poaching function, but the experience of the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania gives the lie to this assertion. Between 2006 and 2014, the elephant population there plummeted from 65,000 to 14,867.

Nineteen of the 20 concessions in the reserve were hunting blocks. Rampant corruption and alleged collusion between politically connected poaching gangs, syndicates and hunters drove the carnage.

Beyond the additive ecological effects of trophy hunting, which are morally unacceptable, there is a dissonance in the conservation literature. As recently evidenced in Science, many scholars express ethical unease with trophy hunting but defend it nonetheless as a legitimate conservation tool. However, no one should be willing to overlook the fact that the practice of paying a fee to kill an animal – to subsequently retain some part of its body as a trophy – is intrinsically troubling and morally inappropriate.

Trophy hunting is typically defended under a consequentialist moral framework. Guillaume Chapron and José Vicente satirically show the logical implications of employing consequentialist reasoning in conservation. Consequentialism determines an action to be right or wrong in view of the foreseeable consequences. If those consequences are deemed to be broadly good for society, an action is deemed morally acceptable. In Botswana, trophy hunting is deemed to be morally acceptable because its predicted consequences are that it will generate revenue and protein for local communities; provide an anti-poaching presence in marginal lands; create employment opportunities; and increase frustration tolerance for crop-raiding elephants. This is not atypical; a number of studies employ similar rationalisations.

However, the failure of consequentialism lies in its inability to omnisciently predict the collective outcome with any degree of computing accuracy. It can result in perverse justifications of actions that are inherently wrong and may have other unintended or unforeseen consequences. Trophy hunting, for instance, is likely to increase pressure on wildlife by selectively harvesting individuals with fitness-enhancing traits.

Even if there was ecological validity to the “kill to reduce overpopulation view” – which there is not – this reasoning ignores the fact that the collection of a secondary sexual characteristic (a tusk trophy or a mounted lion head) is a morally inappropriate way to interact with animals regardless of the expected conservation outcome. It exemplifies an exploitative, anthropocentric and crudely utilitarian perception of non-human animals.

These non-human animals, like elephants, are not only physically, socially and emotionally disrupted through hunting, but also debased. They are objectified, then commoditised, killed and dismembered. Non-human animals, especially those with elements of “personhood”, are living beings with interests of their own. As Chelsea Batavia and her co-authors put it: “To transform them into trophies of human conquest is a violation of duty and common decency.”

Non-consumptive alternatives to trophy hunting face challenges but they do exist and global funding for their replication and scaling is now necessary. Trophy hunting should not be presumed as a necessary condition for conservation success. Despite arguments that local communities in Botswana unequivocally want hunting reintroduced, Yurco and others reportthat many residents interviewed noted that photographic camps were more beneficial because people were employed all year.

Moreover, as Mkono points out, trophy hunting revenues make up a very small percentage of total tourism revenues in Africa. Through exploring the narratives that trophy hunting organisations (and individual hunters) use to sanitise objectification, she notes the persistence of a claim to kill animals out of a love for those same animals. Such a paradox cannot be morally resolved.

At the root of the moral argument is a question of objectification. Treating a non-human animal as nothing more than a trophy “is a key component of dehumanization, used to rationalise bigotry and aggression against other human beings”. For a Western hunter to pay to kill an African animal and expatriate its parts is a form of objectification, dehumanising and therefore morally reprehensible. It may entrench a Western narrative of supremacy underpinned by chauvinistic, colonialist and crudely utilitarian anthropocentric attitudes. Thoughtful utilitarian approaches recognise the ethical culs-de-sac associated with trophy hunting, given the harmful effects to individual members of affected species.

Finally, the characteristics of elephants that suggest attributes of non-human personhood provides strong reasons to never kill them. While elephants may not be endowed with fully human-styled consciousness, they may be endowed with language, and socially engineer their environments in a way that supports accumulated collective normative wisdom. This would permit inference, according to Professor Don Ross, that the kind of consciousness they are likely to have “potentially provides them with leverage for assisted personhood in the near future”. This would depend on human researchers being able to develop the hardware and software to communicate with elephants and build the external scaffolding (libraries) that could provide information to them that they would understand and be able to draw from.

As shown earlier, we are presently ruining the environments on which elephants – non-human, hyper-social intelligent communicators – rely on for their survival. Morally, humans distinguish between killing persons (murder) and killing non-persons. Given that “elephants might have the necessary cognitive and emotional capacities for personhood”, we have urgent reasons to stop the slaughter against them, especially premeditated trophy hunting.

 

Trophy hunting: A new front opens in the War of Words

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Andreas Wilson Spath, Conservation Action Trust | November 1, 2019

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The trophy hunting lobby and its ideological hangers-on will do whatever they can to defend the right of members to shoot wild animals and display their stuffed carcasses.

Using the pages of one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals, a group of authors have recently suggested that trophy hunting in Africa, while perhaps repugnant, is a necessary evil without which wildlife conversation efforts are doomed.

Their claims are flawed, poorly substantiated and dangerous. Most tellingly, their credibility is diminished by their association with the international hunting lobby itself.

In a letter published in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr Amy Dickman, a conservation biologist at the University of Oxford, four co-authors (Rosie Cooney, Paul J Johnson, Maxi Pia Louis and Dilys Roe) and 128 signatories, argue that hunting wild African animals for trophies plays an important role in their survival. They contend that restricting the export and import of hunting trophies has a detrimental effect on wildlife conservation.

The authors suggest that trophy hunting promotes wildlife biodiversity, significantly promotes the protection of habitats for wild animal populations that would otherwise be used for other purposes, such as farming, and benefits impoverished local communities financially.

Original photo as published by Conservationaction.co.za.

They tell us that they themselves actually dislike the very concept of trophy hunting, but that Africa’s conservation challenge simply cannot be solved without it. They would have us believe that there is no long-term future for Africa’s wildlife without the benevolent bullets of trophy hunters.

The trouble is that the arguments presented by Dickman and her colleagues have repeatedly been debunked.

Many ecologists believe that there is little or no actual conservation value in trophy hunting and that the “sport” has detrimental effects on the genetic viability of mammal populations in the wild.

Despite many hand-waving protestations from the hunting lobby to the contrary, there are clear indications from across Africa that trophy hunting provides precious little in the way of economic support for local rural communities, especially at the household level. Instead, most of the profits end up in the pockets of domestic elites and foreign investors.

In a critique of Dickman et al’s letter, economist Ross Harvey illustrates the fallacy of their contention by pointing to the example of Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, much of which has been carved up into hunting concessions.

The result?

“The surrounding communities received hardly any benefits and elephants were decimated over a five-year period between 2009 and 2014.”

While a casual reading of Dickman et al’s letter may have convinced many people of the veracity of its content, there are a number of troubling issues that should have them questioning the intentions of the authors.

Publishing the piece in Science, one of the top academic journals in the world, and having it co-signed by no fewer than 128 signatories, creates the impression that there is widespread scientific consensus on the matter. As such, the authors’ discredited arguments were picked up and disseminated to a much larger audience by commercial media outlets, including the BBC.

The reality is, however, that such a consensus does not exist. In fact, a large number of conservation experts do not share Dickman et al’s confidence in the benefits of trophy hunting.

This much became clear when a subsequent edition of Science carried no fewer than six rebuttal letters, one of which included 56 and another 71 signatories in addition to the main authors.

Their critics show that Dickman and her co-authors used evidence that was “weak” and “selective”, and that they failed to provide factual data to prove that trophy hunting is beneficial to either conservation or local communities.

In the words of the University of Queensland’s Dr Mucha Mkono, a co-author of one of the rebuttal letters, “trophy hunting is not the long-term solution to Africa’s wildlife conservation challenges”.

“Responsible governance, characterised by accountability, rigorous, evidence-based policies and actions, and appreciation of wildlife value beyond the economic, is.”

The timing of the publication of Dickman et al’s letter should be suspicious to the astute reader as it comes at a strategically critical time for the trophy hunting industry.

Lawmakers in Europe and the US have been considering bans on the import of hunting trophies. Just four days after the controversial letter appeared in print, the so-called CECIL Act (Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act) was introduced in the US Congress.

Named after Cecil, a much-liked Zimbabwean male lion controversially killed by an American trophy hunter in 2015, this piece of legislation would, if enacted, restrict the importation of sport-hunted trophies into the US.

That alone establishes the CECIL Act as a major thorn in the side of the trophy hunting lobby, but what makes it even more significant is that it mandates a formal government investigation into “the effectiveness of trophy hunting in supporting international wildlife conservation efforts”, a study that would expose one of the industry’s most repeated arguments as a fallacy.

Supporters of trophy hunting in the US have been hard at work opposing the CECIL Act and given the timing and content of the contentious letter, it is difficult not to consider it as a part of this larger campaign.

Soon after the Dickman et al letter appeared in Science, it became apparent that the people who penned it may have been motivated by more than science.

Harvey notes that some of the 128 signatories “are not scientists by any stretch of the imagination — some lack credentials and some have a vested interest in the trophy hunting industry”.

As it turns out, four of the five main authors have had financial links to the trophy hunting industry in the past, including support from the Dallas Safari Club and Safari Club International. These are among the world’s most uncompromising and influential supporters of trophy hunting and their destructive impact on populations of African wildlife is well documented.

The editor-in-chief of Science, Jeremy Berg, has acknowledged that at the time the Dickman et al letter was published, the journal did not require authors to disclose any conflicts of interest. They have since done so in an addendum and the journal’s policy in this regard is “under revision”.

The authors’ reluctance to reveal their connections to the industry lends credence to the view that their piece is little more than a marketing effort disguised as a serious scientific contribution.

In their attempts to convince readers that trophy hunting is an unfortunate but indispensable conservation tool, they appear to wilfully ignore existing and viable alternatives, a number of examples of which are showcased by the authors of the rebuttal letters.

The reality is this: trophy hunting is an indulgence for a global minority of super-rich individuals and the only way in which it can be justified is by erecting pseudo-scientific arguments suggesting that it is somehow beneficial.

International public opinion is increasingly turning against this practice, recognising it for what it is: a cruel and unnecessary evil.

Threatened by this situation, the trophy hunting lobby and its ideological hangers-on will do whatever it can to defend the right of its members to shoot wild animals and display their stuffed carcasses.

In these Trumpian, post-truth times, this frequently means spinning lies and misrepresentations into seemingly rational and reasonable arguments. The letter by Dickman et al should be interpreted in this light.

Ministers seek views on banning trophy imports to curb hunting of endangered animals (UK)

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Jane Dalton, The Independent | November 2, 2019

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The UK government is asking for people’s views on whether to ban imports of body parts from hunted endangered wild animals such as lions, elephants, rhinos and tigers.

Ministers are under pressure to crack down on the practice of bringing “trophies” such as skins, bones, tusks and heads into the UK, as public anger has risen over endangered species being killed.

Earlier this year, The Independent exposed how British trophy-hunters legally killed and brought home the bodies of about 500 baboons and monkeys over 30 years. British trophy-hunters are also paying to kill giraffes in Africa despite fears of extinction. And the UK is one of 12 countries whose hunters have taken at least 1,000 trophies and brought home more than a ton of ivory according to the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH).

Original photo as published by Independent.co.uk: Hunters may bring back to the UK body parts from endangered species including African lions (Photo: iStock).

Labour has already pledged to outlaw the sale of souvenirs from wild animals, preventing wealthy hunters from profiting from trophies obtained abroad.

The Conservatives have been promising since 2015 to ban lion parts imports unless the hunting industry cleaned up its act.

Now the government has launched a public consultation and call for evidence on options to curb imports and exports of hunting trophies to the UK, including a potential ban.

The consultation, which runs until 25 January, considers four options:

— a ban on all hunting trophies entering or leaving the UK

— a ban on imports and exports of trophies from certain species

— stricter rules to demonstrate “clear benefits to conservation and local communities” before hunting trophies can be imported or exported

— continuing to apply current controls, which state the importer must show “there has been no detrimental impact on the endangered species and the trophy has been obtained from a sustainable hunting operation”.

Eduardo Goncalves, founder and president of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, welcomed the consultation, saying: “Opinion polls show 86 per cent want all trophy hunting banned. The consultation exercise should take that into account.

“British trophy hunters are among the worst in the world when it comes to shooting lions in captivity and elephants. They are currently allowed to shoot and bring home trophies of a number of other vulnerable species including cheetahs, leopards, rhinos and hippos.

“Killing animals purely for pleasure and to show off a trophy has no place in a civilised society. People want this disgraceful ‘sport’ consigned to the dustbin of history.”

He dismissed claims by the hunting industry that trophy hunting has benefited conservation.

Experts agree that canned lion hunting in South Africa – in which the animals are bred to be legally shot for money at close range – endangers wild populations by creating a cover for poaching.

American billionaire meets Lungu, pledges investments (Zambia)

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The Lusaka Times | September 25, 2019

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A renowned American billionaire has shown interest in setting up a world-class private wildlife estate or game ranch around the Kafue National Park.

Paul Jones confirmed his investment pledge when he met with President Edgar Lungu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last evening.

Mr. Jones informed President Lungu that he has done a detailed investment plan for the wildlife project in Zambia although the Department of National Parks and Wildlife has not yet cleared his proposal.

He said he has proposed to government for an equity partnership in the running of the game ranch to facilitate a win-win situation for both parties.

Mr. Jones has since appealed to President Lungu to intervene in the prolonged delay by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to grant him the game ranching licence.

The American investor further said he has similar ranching ventures in other African countries such as South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and hopes to do the same in Zambia.

Mr. Jones, who is chairman of Tudor Investment Corporation, disclosed that he plans to re-stock white rhinos in the Game Ranch and Kafue National Park once granted the wildlife licence. And in responding to Mr. Jones’ investment pledge, President Lungu assured the American investor that he will direct Tourism Minister Ronald Chitotela to urgently look into the matter.

The President however said he will not interfere in the operations of the State institutions regarding delays in the issuance of the game ranching licence to Mr Jones but instead allow the due process of law to be followed.

He advised the American investor to immediately engage with relevant authorities so that whatever challenges were being faced in relation to his proposed game ranching project were resolved expeditiously. President Lungu further emphasised his government’s desire to attract tangible investment in various sectors of the economy. President Lungu is part of other world leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The President is also holding bilateral meetings and engaging prospective foreign investors wishing to invest in Zambia as part of the side events to the UN General Assembly.

Lion trophy approved for import into U.S., stirring controversy. Here’s why that matters.

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Rachel Fobar, National Geographic | September 16, 2019

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A Florida trophy hunter has permission to import what is thought to be the first lion trophy from Tanzania since January 2016, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based nonprofit that advocates for endangered species.

In that year, two subspecies of African lions were listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, meaning that those lions can be killed for trophies only if it can be shown that the hunts would enhance the survival of the species in the wild.

In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that oversees trophy hunting imports to the United States, approved a hunter’s application to import the skin, skull, claws, and teeth of a lion killed in Lukwati North Game Reserve, a hunting concession leased from the government and run by Tanzanian safari operator McCallum Safaris. That’s according to records obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity. (See more from FOIA: We asked the government why animal welfare records disappeared.)

The hunter, whose identity could not be confirmed by National Geographic, originally applied to import a lion trophy from Tanzania in November 2016. It’s unclear exactly when he killed the lion. Nor is it clear whether the trophy has been imported. The permit to do so, issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, expires in May 2020, a year after it was issued.

African lions have disappeared from 94 percent of their historic range, and populations have halved, to fewer than 25,000 since the early 1990s, according to the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Network. The main causes of the decline are retaliatory killings of lions that attack villagers and depletion of their prey animals. Tanzania is home to 40 percent of Africa’s lions.

Sanerib, who calls the country a “stronghold” for lions, worries that the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service could be a signal that the Trump administration will “open the floodgates” for future Tanzanian trophy imports for lions and other species, including elephants. The news of this approval of a lion import comes on the heels of a decision last week to allow a U.S. hunter to import a black rhino trophy killed last year in Namibia.

According to Laury Marshall Parramore, a spokeswoman with the Fish and Wildlife Service, “Legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

Sanerib says she’s concerned about the lack of detail in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination that this hunt enhances lion conservation in Tanzania. She claims that the service didn’t do due diligence when approving the import permit. As part of her FOIA request, she says she obtained emails in which the service asked general questions of Tanzanian government officials, such as whether they were monitoring trophy hunting.

“Those are not the basic questions that I think that our government should be asking before we approve these types of practices. We should be way down in the weeds, getting all of the details to ensure that these programs are actually going to enhance the survival of species.”

“Organizationally, we’re opposed to trophy hunting—we don’t think we should be killing threatened and endangered species,” Sanerib says. “But if we are going to do it, if it is going to happen, Fish and Wildlife Service needs to follow the law, and they really need to ensure—and this is their own regulatory requirements—that this program has all the adequate safeguards to ensure that it’s going to be sustainable for the lion population.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a request for specific information about how this hunt benefits lions in Tanzania and for reaction to Sanerib’s concerns.

The lion decision is particularly troubling given Tanzania’s history of mismanaging trophy hunting, Sanerib says. In 2017, Hamisi Kigwangalla, Tanzania’s minister for natural resources and tourism, revoked hunting concession lease permits that previously had been issued to companies for a low set fee, citing a need for greater transparency about the process. The government then began auctioning off concession leases instead. But according to biologist Craig Packer, who had studied lions in Tanzania since the late 1970s, only undesirable concessions were put up for auction, a move he calls a “halfhearted” effort to reform.

Kigwangalla did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2015, Packer was barred from entering the country after he characterized the nation’s trophy hunting industry as corrupt. Trophy hunters are supposed to target only older male lions, thought to be less crucial to reproduction, but Packer says there was no accountability or oversight by Tanzania to ensure that this was happening. As trophy hunting declined in popularity, Packer says, concession operators charged hunters fees so low that they couldn’t possibly be providing enough revenue to maintain roads, hire rangers, and prevent illegal farming or grazing in the hunting reserves.

Whether this particular trophy import is good or bad depends on whether the hunt was shown to have a conservation benefit, Packer says. If the U.S. is rewarding responsible hunting operators, it will incentivize others to follow suit. “As long as the sport hunters are showing that they’re making a positive impact, good on them,” he says. “It would be great if the system is actually forcing some kind of reform.” But, he adds, the Fish and Wildlife Service “has no way of confirming whether Tanzania’s well-meaning policies are really being implemented.”

Representatives from the Tanzania Wildlife Authority, which implements the country’s Wildlife Conservation Act, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, an organization under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism that conducts wildlife research, and the Tanzania Tourist Board did not respond to requests for comment about how the country manages its trophy hunting.

John Jackson, a member of the International Wildlife Conservation Council, an advisory group to the Secretary of Interior, is the Florida hunter’s attorney. Jackson welcomes more frequent trophy imports from Tanzania and says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been “too slow” to issue these permits—a pace Jackson calls “inexcusable.” Since 2016, he says, many hunting operators have had to surrender their lands because of a lack of revenue, which leaves the animals in those lands unprotected. More frequent trophy hunts would allow concession operators to afford anti-poaching safety measures. “Hunting is the single most important mechanism to save lion,” he argues.

Jackson disagrees that Tanzania’s trophy hunting is mismanaged. As home to about 40 percent of Africa’s lions, he says, the country has “managed to save more lions than anybody else.”

“I wish there was another country equal to it,” he says. “It’s easy to criticize people, but it’s much more important to work with them and support them.”

Sanerib says Tanzania deserves credit for having a “phenomenal system” of protected areas but that its lion conservation success has been despite trophy hunting rather than because of it.

Elephants Too?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s findings for lions also could apply to elephants, Sanerib says. In 2014, the Obama administration effectively banned trophy imports of elephants from Tanzania because of a poaching crisis in the country and concerns about the management of its trophy hunting industry. Sanerib says this lion trophy import decision may indicate that the Trump administration plans to overturn that ban.

In 2017, the service reversed the ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe. “So we have some history—some very recent history—to point to as evidence of them, I would say, leaping before they take a look,” Sanerib says. (After President Trump tweeted his dissatisfaction with the Zimbabwe decision, the service reversed course and decided to evaluate applications on a case-by-case basis. Since then, no elephant trophies are known to have been imported from Zimbabwe.)

Anna Frostic, the managing wildlife attorney for the Humane Society, says the decisions to issue lion and black rhino trophy import permits indicate that there are more to come. She says the Fish and Wildlife Service “is making these decisions behind closed doors and without the input of independent scientists and the public.”

“The issuance of this one lion trophy import from Tanzania will likely be replicated and applied to the more than 40 other applications for Tanzania lion trophies that are pending,” she says.

Even though Tanzania is a stronghold for lions, she says the fact that overall lion numbers are dwindling means this potential new pattern is “extremely concerning.”

“The decision to legitimize that type of activity,” Frostic says, “is not only unethical and scientifically unjustifiable but is unlawful” based on the decision’s merits and because of the service’s lack of transparency in its decision making.

Shifeta emphasizes importance of conservation hunting (Namibia)

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Arlana Shikongo, The Namibian | September 17, 2019

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Minister of environment and tourism Pohamba Shifeta has branded those against conservation hunting as accomplices to poaching.

Shifeta made the statement during a workshop on wildlife crime law amendments held in Windhoek last Friday whilst addressing the controversy surrounding Namibia’s consideration to withdraw from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The minister noted that wildlife trafficking is a growing, multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise, and Namibia, much like the rest of the world, is experiencing unprecedented levels of poaching. Furthermore, he said conservancies can play an important role in curbing poaching if protecting the animals proves beneficial to the local communities.

“You cannot succeed in conservation if local communities aren’t benefiting from it. If they benefit, they will protect [the animals],” he stated.

During the two-week convention hosted in Geneva, Switzerland, in August, Namibia’s proposals regarding the hunting and trade of various wildlife species – namely elephants and rhinos – were rejected, prompting the decision to reconsider the country’s membership to the multilateral treaty.

Explaining his frustration with the treaty’s rejection of regulated trade in wildlife, Shifeta noted that a total ban of any product only encourages illicit markets which foster an environment for poaching. “When you’re no longer allowing it on legal markets, people will work with criminals,” he stressed.

Shifeta expounded on the supply and demand metrics which balance these “black markets”, stating that the success of these markets is due to the difficulty in obtaining these products. “There is always a demand, but because it is difficult to get, demand goes up and the price goes up. It is better to have it on legal markets to satisfy the demand and reduce the price”, he added.

Shifeta asserted that regulated trade allows the market value of the products to be regulated as well, in turn curbing the motivation to poach.

Original photo as published by The Namibian: Pohamba Shifeta

Referencing the 1996 amendment to the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1975, he said Namibia has long identified the important role played by conservancies in conservation efforts. This amendment detailed the transfer of ownership over wildlife to the conservancies and communal groups with whom these animals share land.

Using the Bwabwata National Park as an example, Shifeta detailed that with an approximate 6,000 population, the park rakes in close to N$6 million a year, which benefits the communities within the park. “These communities can derive their well-being from animals,” he said. “When you take it away from them, they are likely to retaliate.”

Deputy commissioner Barry de Klerk, head of the police’s Protected Resources Unit, at the same workshop called poaching an economic crime that is a constant threat. Furthermore, he said poaching is a complex crime of syndicates that operate across borders.

“Although it cannot be completely eradicated, satisfying legal markets would effectively reduce wildlife crime,” De Klerk noted. Working closely with the ministry of environment and other stakeholders, the police’s Protected Resources Unit deploys a total of 280 members to various national parks and conservancies to reinforce and complement the anti-poaching and patrol efforts of park rangers.

National Trust replaces tiger skins with art installation about dwindling rhino numbers

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Anita Singh, The Telegraph | September 12, 2019

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The National Trust has replaced a collection of tiger, lion and leopard skins at one of its historic houses with an anti-poaching art installation to highlight the “uncomfortable” issue of trophy hunting.

The skins have for years greeted visitors on arrival at Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire. They were shot in the 1920s by the home’s former owner, Colonel Ronald D’Arcy Fife, while he served with the Yorkshire Regiment in Africa and India.

However, the Trust has invited a contemporary artist to install works at Nunnington “in response” to the trophies. The exhibition is entitled ‘Change in Attitudes’.

Original photo as published by The Telegraph: Animal trophies on the wall at Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire. (CREDIT: NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/DENNIS GILBERT)

In place of the animal skins, which have been removed for cleaning and repair, there will be a display of 5,000 tiny porcelain sculptures in the shape of rhinoceros horns.

They represent the 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild. Visitors are invited to take one home free of charge, but face a moral dilemma designed to make them consider animal conservation and the earth’s dwindling resources.

A message on the wall reads: “You are being presented with a choice – take a trophy for yourself, knowing that everybody who makes the choice leaves less for others to experience, or experience the installation and leave it complete for all who follow you.”

The artist, Layla Khoo, took inspiration from a black rhino horn once kept in Colonel Fife’s collection but no longer on display.

Other works in the house include wall-mounted panels featuring real lion, tiger and rhino prints, taken from the animal enclosures at the nearby Flamingo Land zoo.

John Oma-Ormstein, the National Trust’s director of culture and engagement, said: “There are plenty of objects in National Trust houses that can feel out of place and uncomfortable, even shocking, to today’s visitors.

“We want to take a thoughtful look at what these objects mean to people today, and creative works by contemporary artists are a particularly effective way of exploring such collections and the challenges they raise.”

Jonathan Wallis, Nunnington’s curator, said: “Layla’s installations provide a powerful reminder of the devastating effect of big game hunting on many, now endangered, species and the conservation issues we are tackling today.

“When he took up big game hunting, Colonel Fife is unlikely to have considered such issues. Attitudes to this type of hunting were very different in his day.

“We don’t condone his actions or collecting such trophies but by displaying his collection uncensored, we can enable visitors to consider its effects even though big game trophies can be difficult for people to view now.”

Colonel Fife was educated at Sandhurst and joined the Yorkshire Regiment of Green Howards in 1887. He served in Alexandria, Burma and India, where he indulged his passion for big game hunting.

During the Second World War, he joined the Nunnington Home Guard as a private at the age of 72. His commanding officer was his gamekeeper, and the air raid precautions warden was the local rector.

Colonel Fife’s wife, Margaret, inherited Nunnington Hall in 1920 from her uncle, Henry. The couple met at a country house shooting party in Cheshire. He died in 1946; Margaret bequeathed the house to the National Trust upon her death in 1952.