Hunting ban would kill more than Cecil the Lion

04 August 2015 - 10:33 By Rosie Cooney

Cecil the Lion, a magnificent older animal, was lured out of Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park last week and illegally shot, to endure a painful death. Global outrage and calls for a ban on trophy hunting have followed, but what would the consequences of such a ban be?Trophy hunting is the "high value" end of hunting, where people pay top dollar to kill an animal.But it arouses disgust and revulsion. It seems to have little place in the modern world, where animals are accorded more of the moral rights than humans grant (in principle) to each other.So let us move through the thought bubble where the European Union and North America ban the import of trophies; Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and others ban trophy hunting; and the industry dies, ridding the world of this toxic stain on our collective conscience.Would a ban save lions?In Southern Africa, we are proud of what we have achieved by signing online petitions, lobbying politicians, and sharing and commenting on Facebook. Has it saved lions?Let's go back to Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, responsible for managing the park, derived most of its income for wildlife conservation from trophy hunting. With minimal revenue from the central government, it is now in trouble.The number of staff at Hwange has been radically cut, and there is little money for cars or equipment. Bush-meat poaching is on the rise and the rangers are ill-equipped to combat it.In Namibia, more than half of the community-owned conservancies (covering 20% of the country) have collapsed because the revenue from non-hunting sources is not enough to keep them viable.Namibia's innovative communal conservancies have been responsible for dramatic increases in wildlife outside of national parks, including elephant, lion and black rhino over the last 20 years, with income from trophy hunting and tourism encouraging communities to turn their land over to conservation.Communities retained 100% of benefits from sustainable use of wildlife, including tourism, live sales and hunting - almost R18-million in 2013.This money was spent on schools, healthcare, roads, training, and on employing 530 game guards to protect wildlife. Now it is gone.Communities are angry - they were never asked by the outraged what they thought about this.Hungry bellies are fed with illegal bushmeat and armed poaching gangs have moved in.In South Africa, trophy hunting has stopped. On the private game reserves that covered 20million hectares, though, revenues from wildlife have collapsed.So imagine a future where lions are no longer bred on farmland , and those that remain in national parks are shot as problem animals as soon as they leave the park. Speculative? Yes, but it has happened before.Bans on trophy hunting in Tanzania (1973-78), Kenya (1977) and Zambia (2000-03) accelerated a rapid loss of wildlife due to the removal of incentives for conservation. Anecdotal reports suggest this might be happening in Botswana, which banned all hunting last year.Let us mourn Cecil, but be careful what we wish for.Cooney is chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy. These views do not necessarily reflect those of IUCN..

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