Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Limits of Managing Big Fierce Animals

From The New York Times comes these opening paragraphs:
SANKUYO, Botswana — Lions have been coming out of the surrounding bush, prowling around homes and a small health clinic, to snatch goats and donkeys from the heart of this village on the edge of one of Africa’s great inland deltas. Elephants, too, are becoming frequent, unwelcome visitors, gobbling up the beans, maize and watermelons that took farmers months to grow.

Since Botswana banned trophy hunting two years ago, remote communities like Sankuyo have been at the mercy of growing numbers of wild animals that are hurting livelihoods and driving terrified villagers into their homes at dusk.

The hunting ban has also meant a precipitous drop in income. Over the years, villagers had used money from trophy hunters, mostly Americans, to install toilets and water pipes, build houses for the poorest, and give scholarships to the young and pensions to the old.

Big game hunting in the developing world is a complicated issue, especially when it comes to big fierce predators, which are always rare.

I am pro-hunting, but hunting of large predators has to be carefully managed, with seasons, bag limits, and protected areas under the rule of law. Can all those conditions be met? If they aren't, is a ban on hunting going to help or hurt conservation efforts?

This last question is not simple.

“Before, when there was hunting, we wanted to protect those animals because we knew we earned something out of them,” said Jimmy Baitsholedi Ntema, a villager in his 60s. “Now we don’t benefit at all from the animals. The elephants and buffaloes leave after destroying our plowing fields during the day. Then, at night, the lions come into our kraals.”

Read the whole thing here.

One thing is certain:  While hunting may be a very small economic engine in some localities, and may be the way to control nuisance wildlife in a logical way that prevents wholesale poaching and poisoning by local tribes, the REAL economic value of mega-fauna in Africa is tourism. A lion, leopard, or elephant can be watched every day for years by busloads of tourists, but it will only be paid for once by a hunter, and then it is gone forever.

1 comment:

PipedreamFarm said...

I am tired of hearing about Cecil the lion and how appalled folks in the USA are about how this lion was killed. While these same folks are silent about how collared wolves are being lured out of Yellowstone with sheep carcasses and tracked by "hunters" using collar telemetry. Perhaps we should get our own house in order before we start telling others how to run theirs.