Response to “Botswana’s hunting ban fallout” commentary by Hans Vermaak
Sharon van Wyk
Dec 2013

Hans Vermaak’s lamentation of the demise of trophy hunting in Botswana (Farmer’s Weekly 22 November 2013) and profound concern for the future of “sustainable utilisation” of wildlife  does not contain any factual basis on which to draw the conclusion that trophy hunting is essential to the continued survival of Africa’s wilderness areas, their fauna or their neighbouring communities . This is not surprising because there is no accurate research to support this assertion. However, there is accurate and irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

In a report entitled The $200-million question: How much does trophy hunting really contribute to African communities? economist Roderick Campbell of Economists at Large  exposes various myths perpetuated by the trophy hunting industry, revealing a far-from positive reality about its true economic value.

“Trophy hunting advocates present the industry as large, citing figures such as $200-million in annual revenue,” says the report. “But in the context of national economies, the industry is tiny, contributing at best a fraction of a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Nature based tourism does play a significant role in national development, but trophy hunting is insignificant. Across the investigated countries, trophy hunting revenue averaged only 1,8% of tourism revenues.”

A study jointly published in 2010 by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation looked at the hunting industry in Tanzania and found that  97% of hunting revenue went to various external stakeholders (hunting operators or “outfitters”, professional hunting guides etc) and only 3% eventually trickling down to communities and villages where hunting occurred. Hunting operators utilise huge areas of land but actually contribute minute fractions of their turnover to  community development.

The myth that hunting benefits communities is therefore largely busted.

But perhaps the biggest myth of all is the hunting fraternity’s contention that “photographic tourism” – the backbone of Africa’s safari industry and generator of billions of dollars in tourism revenue each year – will never equal trophy hunting in economic value.

It is ironic that it falls to South Africa’s government, which, as Vermaak states supports sustainable utilisation and the trophy hunting industry, to lay waste to this particular untruth courtesy of its landmark land restitution settlement on Mala Mala private game reserve.

Mala Mala’s considerable reputation for sustainable eco-tourism which directly benefits neighbouring  netted it a cool sale price of R1-billion which the government will now pay in order to hand the property over to the local community.

Mala Mala will pay R700,000 per month in rent to that same community during a hand-over period while it trains key personnel to assume the full responsibility for the management and upkeep of the land

This is a reflection of the true power of sustainable photographic tourism, and a conservation business model which relies on live animals having a greater economic value than dead ones. A value, in all respects, that the hunting industry will never be able to attain.

Sharon van Wyk

Pretoria, South Africa

Endnote: Sharon van Wyk is an award-winning conservation writer and film-maker working with the Conservation Action Trust