Trump Ivory Ban Stays, For Now
On 15th November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would reverse the ban on importing trophies from legal hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Two days later, and after much controversy, Trump reversed the decision. It seems incredible that in 2017, such sport should be legal, let alone supported by the U.S. What possible reason could the U.S. have for making such a backward step? Maybe the initial decision shouldn’t have come as so much of a shock since the official position of the Fish and Wildlife Service is that “legal, well-regulated sport hunting” should be supported. So, what is their reasoning?
It’s a complex issue. Despite the ethical issues, many conservationists acknowledge that strictly regulated hunting can provide an economic incentive to protect areas of habitat where endangered species survive. Otherwise these areas may well be developed and vital habitats destroyed. Permits to hunt and the tourism they bring can also pump important funding into the community. Animals which may have once threatened the livelihood of local people may now support them instead. This is incentive for those without permits not to hunt and kill animals they see as threats. Claims have been made that permits for hunting and the tourism surrounding the sport add $200 million to African economies each year. This figure has been disputed, however. It is unclear where exactly the money goes and many argue there is little trickle-down effect to the people who really need it.
Whether or not the $200 million figure is true, most agree that this model doesn’t set a good precedent for animal welfare. To support the hunting and killing of animals for sport is so counter to what we believe is ethical. Trophy hunting essentially sells the lives of endangered species to the highest bidder for sport on the premise that murder of a few is acceptable for the supposed good of many. Trophy hunting brings to light both the capitalist nature of our society and disrespect we have for other species.
Opponents also point out that there are alternatives. While little money from trophy hunting filters down to the local community, many more jobs and opportunities are offered by the ecotourism industry. A typical ecotourism lodge will offer 20-50 jobs while a hunt tends to offer 8-10, and then only in hunting season. A study in Namibia found that between 2003 and 2010, in the benefits from ecotourism outweighed those of trophy hunting and that incomes generated by tourism rise as ten times the rate of those from hunting.
The beauty of ecotourism is that it is far more widely available and tends to appeal to more people than trophy hunting. As our world becomes more networked, tourism stops being the pursuit of the wealthy few, while hunting becomes ever more so. Ecotourism also offers the chance to learn about new cultures and about the wildlife it aims to protect. Travel inspires people to make a difference abroad and at home by opening our eyes to new perspectives and showing us how the daily decisions we make can effect people around the world. Whilst preserving our most endangered species is not an easy task, ecotourism is looking to be a great hope for the future. At its current level of popularity, ecotourism is not yet enough to take over entirely from trophy hunting but the future is looking bright. The work we do at Ecocompanion aims to push that work as far as possible. It’s no longer a question of whether it will happen, so much as when.
If we have inspired you, find a full list of our conservation projects here