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Hunting & Related Issues

Author: Gerhard R Damm ~ Member, International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) and Editor, African Indaba e-Newsletter

( Article Type: Overview )

Canned Shooting and Put & Take
Shooting and killing captive bred or habituated (in other words, human-imprinted) big-game animals in commercial killing areas where a person with a gun or a bow is guaranteed a kill. ‘Canned’ means that the animal is impaired in its natural inclination to flee from its pursuer either by means of drugs or by restraints such as small fenced enclosures, cages, ropes, chains, or by habituation to human presence. Often quite incorrectly referred to as ‘canned hunting’, canned shooting has nothing to do with hunting and those who practise it are not hunters. Canned shooting has been much publicised in the media and has given hunting a bad name in the view of the general public. Put & Take refers to the releasing of captured and bought animals into fenced enclosures for the sole purpose of having them killed by paying clients. The game owner has no intention of building up breeding stocks or viable populations. The animals are released and killed within a short time after release. The paying client does not necessarily know that the game owner practises ‘Put & Take’. Provincial and national legislative bodies, professional and amateur hunting organisations and nature conservation agencies are under an obligation to finalise adequate legislation and rules preventing these practices.

Trophy hunting
 Taking into account the multiplier effects of taxidermy, pre- and post-safari accommodation and shopping, tips to safari operator staff and airfares, 7 000 visiting foreign hunters spent close to R850 million in 2005. Wingshooting of gamebirds by local and overseas enthusiasts adds approximately R500 million. Local South African hunters spend at least R3 billion on their hobby (including multiplier effects of association membership fees, equipment purchase, transport, taxidermy, etc. and applicable VAT). The total direct economic contribution of hunting exceeds R4.4 billion (excluding game ranch-related expenditure). The World Conservation Union (IUCN) adopted a recommendation on sustainable consumptive use of wildlife and recreational hunting in southern Africa proposed by the Game Rangers Association of Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and South African National Parks at the Third World Conservation Congress in Bangkok in November 2004. With this recommendation, IUCN ‘accepts that well-managed recreational hunting has a role in the managed sustainable consumptive use of wildlife populations’. Trophy hunting is a very specialised form of tourism through sustainable wildlife utilisation. It is the practical application of ‘incentive-driven conservation‘. Protectionist circles maintain that trophy hunting has a detrimental impact on population genetics. However, trophy hunters search for animals with large trophies – animals that are usually old and are soon likely to die through predation, climatic influences, territorial fights or old age. The genetic loss for the species population is therefore minimal, if any. Animals killed during hunting do not necessarily constitute a net loss for the species’ population, since hunter-caused deaths are – to a certain measure – compensated by reduced natural mortality. Rod East wrote in the IUCN Antelope Database of 1988 that agitation against the sustainable trophy hunting by animal-rights groups in Western countries is a major threat to the future of Africa’s wildlife as it would result in the rapid destruction of Africa’s remaining wildlife resources by removing what is essentially the economic justification for their conservation. A hunting trophy is a way to remember a particular experience, valuable and important to the hunter. Just as in sport and in many other aspects of human life, we find that a hunting trophy is all the more valuable to the hunter if the difficulties associated with collecting the particular trophy are exceptional. Self-discipline in trophy hunting is a key factor. The trophy must be the result, and not the ultimate objective of hunting! Fundamental to ethical hunting is the idea of ‘Fair Chase’. This addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while the animals generally have the ability and spatial conditions to avoid the hunter.

Subsistence and traditional hunting
Generations of Africans have used the continent’s wildlife resources to meet their dietary, cultural and economic needs. These uses of wildlife represent relationships and traditions deeply rooted in African and human history and experience. They may well be of a subsistence nature, such as the direct use of meat, skins, ivory, medicinal plants, timber, etc. Use also includes activities that support the livelihood of rural Africans indirectly by generating cash income or barter possibilities that allow both families and communities to enjoy a reasonable level of dignity and economic security. The traditional African usage of wildlife to meet human needs and the integral role of wildlife in rural African life has created the cultural heritage of African conservation ethics. This particular concept was added to the ‘modern’ conservation vocabulary only fairly recently with the expression ‘sustainable use’. The codes of conduct and the spirit of Fair Chase are integral and essential parts of sport hunting in Africa today. These codes, of essentially Judaeo-Christian origin, had predecessors that provoked early foreign hunters and explorers – and with them the general public of these days – to denounce traditional African subsistence hunting methods as barbarous and unfair. They applied a Eurocentric yardstick, conveniently overlooking the fact that traditional hunting in Africa was always regulated by strict rules and codes of conduct, which were enforced by the tribal leaders. Their traditional ethics may not seem acceptable to a wide Western public, but one could argue that their cultural and environmental content is at least as valuable as the Judaeo-Christian version.

Sustainable use of wild living resources
According to the IUCN Policy Statement adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Amman in October 2000, to increase the likelihood that any use of a wild living resource will be sustainable requires consideration of the following:

  • Wild living resources have many cultural, ethical, ecological, and economic values, which can provide incentives for conservation. Where an economic value can be attached to a wild living resource, perverse incentives removed, and costs and benefits internalised, favorable conditions can be created for investment in the conservation and the sustainable use of the resource, reducing the risk of resource degradation, depletion, and habitat conversion;
  • Levels and fluctuations of demand for wild living resources are affected by a complex array of social, demographic, and economic factors, and are likely to increase in coming years. Thus attention to both demand and supply is necessary to promote sustainability of uses.