While photo tourism in Africa helps to raise much-needed conservation funds, the truth is that it is not viable continent-wide. But combine it with hunting—and hunters’ dollars—and we see hunting is photo tourism’s indispensable partner in conserving Africa’s wildlife.
Many who do not understand hunting are simply unaware that across Africa more than 166 million acres of remote wildlife habitat—an area roughly twice the size of the U.S. national park system—are conserved in public and private hunting areas. Scientists have published peer-reviewed research showing that if hunting were to end in Namibia, 84 percent of the nation’s wildlife conservancies would no longer be economically viable and an area five times the size of Yosemite National Park would be vulnerable to development. Researchers with the University of Pretoria in South Africa also found that if just lion hunting were to end in the countries of Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, nearly15 million acres of wildlife conservancy lands would struggle to make ends meet and could be lost to development.
The presence of hunting has created economic incentives to recover rare and endangered species like the Southern white rhino in South Africa, whose numbers have increased from 840 in 1968 to more than 20,000 today. In Namibia, numbers of the Southern black rhino have more than doubled since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began allowing hunters to import trophies taken in that country. In Mozambique, hunting outfitters have restored wildlife to Coutada 11, a wildland roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park, after years of devastating civil war. Cape buffalo numbers have increased from 1,000 to more than 21,000 and the sable antelope population from just 44 to more than 1,200. The outfitters well-managed anti-poaching team has also helped to keep the area free of the elephant poachers who are plaguing much of the country.
While photo tourism is important it is clear that it is not enough to provide for all of Africa’s conservation needs and that if it could, it would be doing so already. Hunting and hunters remain an essential partner in efforts to secure the continent’s beautiful wildlands and breathtaking array of biodiversity. It is time that our role in this, one of the most noble of pursuits, be recognized and respected by all who wish to pass on a rich wildlife heritage to their children.
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About the Author Catherine E. Semcer is Chief Operations Officer ofHumanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants(H.O.P.E.), a U.S.-based non-profit organization that provides training, advisory assistance and procurement services to African anti-poaching programs by leveraging the skill sets of U.S. veterans and the capacities of commercial businesses. A longtime hunter, Semcer is also a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (ICUN)Sustainable Use Livelihoods Specialist Group(SULi), a global-expert network that promotes both conservation and livelihoods through enhancing equitable and sustainable use of wild species and their associated ecosystems. You can support H.O.P.E.’s efforts to secure a future for Africa’s wildlife by visitingwww.saveivory.org. *Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are strictly her own.