US trophy hunter one of many spilling blood on “the dark continent”
Robyn Simpson
27th May 2022

Trophy hunting is still legal in South Africa, and people like Tom Miranda from the USA represents a R1.4 billion sector that has many up in arms. Along with the bloody fate stamped on our wildlife is a supposed socio-economic strategy that calls our country’s policies into question – again.

Miranda, who goes by Wingman115 on YouTube, has racked up 48.2k subscribers. His channel is “all about adventure”, as he describes. “Bushcraft, camping, hiking, shooting and everything in-between.”

Part of his “in-between” is avid trophy hunting. According to Discover Wildlife, trophy hunting is described as “the shooting of carefully selected animals – frequently big game such as rhinos, elephants, lions, pumas and bears – under official government licence, for pleasure”.

In 2017, Tom Miranda, hunted a rhino and shared the footage on his channel.

This article contains graphic videos. Not for sensitive viewers.

But Miranda is just one part of South Africa’s R1.4 billion (2019) hunting sector, an income that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) Minister, Ms Barbara Creecy, said “is expected to continue to show economic and employment growth in the foreseeable future”.

In February, Creecy confirmed the quotas for the trophy hunting of black rhino, leopard and elephant in South Africa for 2022.

The quota granted the following:

The quota for leopards was set at 10 animals and “is informed by robust data generated through a sophisticated national leopard monitoring programme,” the quota states. Conditions include hunters only being allowed to kill in “areas where leopard populations are stable or increasing”. As well as this, the leopards have to be male and seven years of age or older. “Implementing a strict seven-year age minimum for trophy leopards dramatically reduces the risk of overharvesting.”

Also on the quota kill list is a total of 10 black rhinos and 150 elephants. “Only adult male black rhinos will be hunted, and only on conservation management grounds in accordance with a set of strict criteria to ensure that demographic and/or genetic conservation is enhanced (as stipulated in the black rhinoceros Biodiversity Management Plan),” the statement reads.

“The quota for black rhino is based on the national population estimates for black rhino per subspecies, all three of which show an increasing trend at present.”

“Only a very small portion of the overall elephant population is hunted in a year (less than 80 elephant bulls, which is less than 0.3% of the total population),” the quota continues.

The pushback: 

However, this was contested in March. Animal protection organisation Humane Society International/Africa argued that the DFFE failed to comply with the consultative process prescribed by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA) when making the quota decision.

HSI argued that the 2022 trophy hunting quota was unlawful for the following reasons: 

  • The DFFE announced the quotas on 25 February 2022 without consulting the public, which renders the decision invalid and unlawful; 
  • The notice for the 2021 quota, which was purportedly deferred to 2022 by the DFFE, was, in any event, defective and thus rendered any quota decisions arising from that process invalid and unlawful; 
  • The DFFE may not issue a quota for trophy hunting and export of elephant, black rhino or leopard without valid non-detriment findings. 

In May, the Western Cape High Court suspended Creecy’s quota.

Still, trophy hunting remains legal in South Africa:

“South Africa is one of many countries that implement a sustainable off-take of elephants, black rhino and leopard. Regulated and sustainable hunting is an important conservation tool in South Africa as it incentivizes the private sector and communities to conserve valuable wildlife species and to participate in wildlife-based land uses, ultimately contributing to the conservation of the country’s biodiversity.

“Income generated by trophy hunting is especially critical for marginalised and impoverished rural communities,” the quota reads.

Income for who?

In an article shared on Mongabay, Namibian conservation scientist and doctoral candidate, Frowin Becker, looks beyond the billions, throwing Creecy’s hack at community empowerment under the bus. “A 2016 study of the total revenue generated by trophy hunting revealed that 92% went to ‘freehold’ landowners, over 70% of whom are white, while less than 8% went to communal conservancies,” the study reads.

Whilst it’s not untrue that revenue generated through trophy hunting contributes to poverty alleviation, it’s a plaster solution for a gaping socio-economic wound. For example, most of Namibia’s hunting clients are either EU or US citizens – like Tom Miranda.

“If Namibia’s conservation sector insists on driving an equality-based narrative around trophy hunting, then skirting the land issue seems hypocritical at best,” says Becker.

Miranda, under African Bowhunting Safaris, released a price list for 2022. There are over 60 species listed, many of which are native to South Africa – or “the dark continent” as he calls it.

A baboon is valued at $200 (just over R3 1oo); a caracal is $1 200 (just over R18 828) and a giraffe goes for $3 000 (just over R47 000). Animals including those in our Big 5, like lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, and elephant, are “priced on request”. 

In Jaunary 2021, Tom Miranda hunted a polar bear and shared the footage on his channel.

*Not for sensitive viewers.

Many are looking at the bigger picture. The black rhino, for example, is permitted to be hunted but remains “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Tropy hunting also presents an incredibly tangible case study on racialized inequality.

Merrill Sapp, professor, cognitive psychologist, and Director of Research, argues that “animals should not have to pay the price for human development. This worldview drives a need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves”.

According to the 2022 Good Governance Report, the South African government’s take on trophy hunting “neither considers the opportunity costs associated with the practice nor its negative externalities”. Rather, while trophy hunting may generate some economic benefit, this is hardly enough to substantiate the overall harm that it does.

“Perhaps better economic policies, not directly related to conservation, would have more benefit than the potential income from trophy hunting,” Sapp suggests.

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