Sustainability advocacy campaign

OUR RIGHT TO SUSTAINABLY USE OUR WILDLIFE FOR THE BENEFIT OF OUR COMMUNITIES AND CONSERVATION.

An advocacy campaign to protect rural African communities’ rights, livelihoods and conservation efforts.

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What is this advocacy campaign about?

There are millions of hectares of land across Southern and East Africa that are managed by rural communities where people and wildlife coexist For centuries, African people have been custodians of nature – living with and caring for wildlife. Today, their right to control, manage and sustainably use their natural resources, including wildlife, for their benefit, is enshrined in national legislation and international treaties. The United Kingdom is currently proposing legislation aimed at wildlife conservation that, if passed with certain conditions, will greatly harm the livelihoods of these African communities, the wildlife itself and the conservation programmes that ensure the animals survive and thrive.

This advocacy campaign seeks to protect the rights of African communities and ensure that any new laws do not threaten the welfare of people who conserve these animals.  These often marginalised and poor communities need revenue to be able to sustain their community conservation efforts. A major source of income – that has consistently funded the conservation of wildlife – is the so-called trophy hunting. 

What is trophy hunting?

Trophy hunting generally involves the payment of a fee by a foreign or local hunter for a hunting experience, usually guided by country-specific policies and revenue sharing guidelines. The trophy is usually retained by the hunter and taken home. Meat of hunted animals is either distributed to local communities or sold when hunts take place on private land. Trophy hunting also takes place in most countries of Europe, the USA, Canada, Mexico, several countries in East, Central and South Asia, around half of Africa’s 54 countries, several nations in Central and South America, and in Australia and New Zealand. The term trophy hunting focuses on what the hunting client receives after the hunt, yet the purpose of hunting from the point of view of rural communities and landowners is to generate income and other benefits from wildlife in order to conserve it on that land. The term conservation hunting is therefore more accurate from an African perspective.

What legislation is being considered by the UK Parliament?

The government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been planning to introduce the Animals Abroad Bill in the House of Commons in the first half of 2022. According to DEFRA, this law, which is expected to be introduced in parliament imminently, is intended to tackle animal cruelty and support conservation efforts overseas. Environment minister Zac Goldsmith has promised that it would contain a ban on imports of hunting trophies (parts of hunted animals) into the UK, as part of an effort to end so-called trophy hunting globally. UK MP John Spellar has also introduced a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons, entitled “Trophy Hunting Import (Prohibition) Bill” centred on an import trophy ban. This bill is scheduled for a second reading in March 2022 after a first reading was blocked. The government now says the bill will not likely be tabled in the current parliamentary session due to a lack of time but insist that the AAB will be brought forward in the future.

There are also now proposals for legislation seeking to undermine hunting tourism, through restrictions on trophy imports, being considered in Italy and Belgium.

What are the benefits of trophy hunting to communities that manage conservancies?

It varies from country to country but 50-90% of revenue earned by community-based conservancies comes from sustainable, well-regulated hunting. In South Africa, for example, so-called conservation hunting annually contributes more than US$ 381 million to the economy and supports more than 17,000 jobs. In Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, rural communities generate around US$17,9 million each year, with benefits accruing to over eight million people, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and excluding income to the government or on private land. Many conservancies also practice tourism but trophy hunting is the more reliable source of income, as it is more resilient to external shocks and can take place in areas unsuitable for tourism. This revenue is used for crucial community development projects in the areas of healthcare, infrastructure development, education, housing, etc. Besides money earned and jobs created, meat from these hunts is an important source of protein for these communities – nothing is wasted.

What are the benefits of trophy hunting to community-based conservation?

There are a number of benefits of conservation hunting to conservation, most notably a increase in wildlife populations, biodiversity and habitat expansion. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the leading global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it – well-managed trophy hunting has demonstrably improved the conservation status of multiple threatened species, including lion, white rhino, black rhino and others. Trophy hunting was a key factor in recovery of the white rhino in South Africa. Through trophy hunting, greater incentives to protect the habitat that wildlife requires have led to more land being conserved than in National Parks and other state protected areas. This has positive consequences on the surrounding fauna and flora as well as the non-hunted animals that exist within the ecosystem. In stark contrast to elsewhere in the world where large mammals and their habitat have been destroyed, the opposite is evident in southern Africa

Land managed for trophy hunting currently plays a vital role in protecting ecosystems against threats such as habitat loss and poaching, which pose far greater threats to the world’s endangered species. As custodians, communities understand and value wildlife and are more invested in conservation. When wildlife is regarded as an economic asset, people will want to protect it more. There are no readily available, viable alternatives to trophy hunting that are able to provide the levels of income necessary to sustain wildlife conservancies, equally protecting wildlife and habitats while also generating valuable revenues for local communities.

How will a UK trophy import ban affect African communities that manage conservancies?

Trophy hunting is a significant source of income, employment and food for communities involved in community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) across the region. If the trophy hunting industry is limited or shut down entirely in future, many families may struggle to make ends meet and conservation initiatives may struggle to survive. If the British Government wishes to put constraints on such an important source of income, they must provide viable alternatives to help these communities and their conservation efforts continue and grow in future. Other consequences are that conservation programmes such as anti-poaching initiatives and herd management will be undermined. Compromised conservancies can lead to loss of wildlife habitat to other economic practices like livestock farming.

 One study found that two thirds of private conservancy landholders in Namibia, for example, believed that should a trophy import ban be instituted, they would have to move away from wildlife conservation to alternative land uses such as livestock farming to generate income. The proposal to ban the import of hunting trophies not only undermines the rights of communities abroad but undermines the success of community based natural resource management, to the detriment of conservation efforts around certain endangered species in the region. There is ample evidence on the net conservation benefits of trophy hunting, which has even been shown to have been effective in the UK as a wildlife management strategy.

How will a UK trophy import ban affect community-based wildlife conservation?

Trophy hunting is a highly selective form of hunting, which generates income from a very small number of animals that is used to conserve the rest of the population. A trophy import ban will result in negative impacts on conservation: decreasing local communities’ conservation efforts, increasing the risk of poaching, and increasing the conversion of wildlife habitat to alternative land use such as agriculture instead of hunting. More natural resource management using hunting without pressure from Western countries, helps to maintain the environment and increase the amount of biodiversity. Maintaining intact natural habitat is an important aspect of mitigating climate change, as these habitats sequester carbon and provide other ecosystem services. 

The number of animals lost through a lack of conservation will far exceed the animals killed in conservation hunts. Imposing a ban with no viable income alternative will place millions of acres of habitat and the species that rely on it, at risk. Trophy hunting is critical for protecting habitat necessary to sustain wildlife conservation. If a trophy importation ban led to an end of conservation hunting, millions of hectares currently used by conservancies and state parks will be lost and conservation will suffer. Indeed, where trophy hunting has been subjected to bans, wildlife has often suffered, and conflict with communities has increased as in the case of Botswana.

Our message to UK and European decision-makers

We appreciate that for people not familiar with the realities of rural Africa, hunting may seem a counterintuitive conservation strategy. But if the objective is conservation – not solely recognizing individual animal rights – it is necessary to understand the context of coexisting with dangerous wildlife. Consider our perspectives, evidence base, and success stories from a conservation method that recognizes the basic human right of our peoples to manage and benefit from the sustainable use of our natural resources. If we cannot feed our families through humane and sustainable use of wildlife, we will have no option but to adopt land use practices that will destroy our beautiful natural landscapes and habitat.

Who is leading this advocacy campaign?

This advocacy campaign is being led by a consortium of organisations working to support and protect the right of African communities to participate in, control, manage and sustainably use their natural resources including wildlife. The organisations include the Community Leaders Network (CLN) of Southern Africa, which represents over eight million rural people managing conservancies across the region, Resource Africa Southern Africa and Resource Africa UK. The campaign was launched in December 2021.

About the campaign organisers:

The Community Leaders Network (CLN):

CLN is a collaborative grouping of rural representatives from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe whose vision

is socially and economically resilient southern African people whose livelihoods are grounded in their rights to sustainably use their natural resources supported by international respect for their existing governance systems.

CLN seeks to ensure that the voices of rural African people are heard and influence international, regional and national public and policy making processes that affect our rights and abilities to sustainably manage those natural resources on which our livelihoods depend.

Resource Africa:

Resource Africa supports rural African community efforts to secure their rights to access and sustainably use their natural resources in order to sustain their livelihoods. We help to build strong platforms for collaboration, knowledge, skills sharing, and joint advocacy to ensure community voices are heard in debates that materially affect their lives. We believe that when rights are upheld and incentives for conservation are provided to those who live with wildlife there will be positive conservation outcomes benefitting people and nature.  

For more information, to arrange interviews or for support with content creation, please contact:

 

Grant Clark

Resource Africa Communications
Mobile/WhatsApp: +27 63 567-9719
Email: grant.clark@resourceafrica.net

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