Trophy hunting, a sport where animals are killed in a hunt and part of the body are kept as a trophy, has increasingly been debated in parliaments across Europe and civil society organisations, with the concern focused on protecting key endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and lions. With the interests of conservation and protection at the heart of the ongoing conversation about trophy hunting activities in Africa, the knowledge and culture of African leaders are being removed by the discussion. While it is beyond the scope of this article to address the morality of animal hunting, it will assess how African voices can be included in future decisions on conservation and hunting practices.
A brief history of hunting in Africa
The practice of hunting animals has occurred on the continent of Africa for centuries and features throughout the traditional rituals and practices of many local and indigenous communities. Early indications of hunting tools have been found in Southern Africa dating back to the Stone Age, with early versions of bows and arrows made from wood and bone and often dipped in poison.1 Traditionally, hunting for indigenous and rural populations was a means to an end; the meat obtained during a hunt was what fed the population. Hunting practice in pre-colonial Africa was grounded in the moral philosophy of Ubuntu, characterised by the phrase ‘I am, because you are’.2 Ubuntu reminds us that we are all connected and could not exist without each other; that everyone and everything should be treated with humanity and the deepest respect. Animals were valued highly and seen as guardians and closely linked to spiritual practices.3
However, the 20th-century colonisation of African nations changed the rules of hunting. The respect appears to be lost, as hunting in Africa became a popular sport for the colonisers of the continent and tourists who could pay for the experience. Hunting developed into an activity for visitors, with animals that once lived alongside communities becoming fenced in. Native Communities found themselves excluded from the practice that had sustained generations of families.4 Animals, such as elephants and lions, became a commodity which elite tourists could buy, and the essence of Ubuntu was lost.
Fast-forward to present-day Africa. Among other species, the Black Rhino, African Elephant, and North African Ostrich are currently endangered and face extinction.5 Cecil, a lion living in a nature reserve in Zimbabwe, was killed and left to suffer a cruel death at the hands of an American tourist partaking in trophy hunting, sparking an international movement with non-governmental organisations calling for a ban on the importation of trophies.6 This was also supported by Western media and the public.7 Indeed, Western states are increasingly concerned with protecting the species for future generations. States such as Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands have all presented bills in parliament to ban the importation of hunting trophies.8 At present, the UK’s new Parliamentary Bill titled the ‘Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill’ is awaiting the second reading in the House of Lords.9 This proposed legislation, aiming to ban the importation of hunting trophies into Great Britain, has a large civil society following, backed by organisations such as Born Free, an animal charity campaigning for animal welfare. This support is rooted in the hope that the Bill will stop the practice of hunting.
While the idea of preventing trophy hunting imports will prevent legal imports, the practice of killing game will continue. The director of the community-based natural resource program in Zimbabwe, Charles Jonga, highlights how the Bill proposed by the UK parliament will stop the legal practice of trophy hunting that supports communities financially, while ignoring the harmful poaching activity that has contributed to the decline in key animal species.10 As noted above, hunting has occurred on the continent for centuries, but it is the recent commodification of trophy hunting that causes more concern. Research conducted by Mucha Mkono on African attitudes to trophy hunting found that many Africans perceive trophy hunting as a ‘neo-colonial’ practice due to the extraction of natural resources from the continent.11 Additionally, her research echoed the concerns raised by conservation organisations that the beneficiaries of trophy hunting are not the local communities who live alongside wildlife.12 Despite this, the voices of African leaders, and those in the field of conservation who are opposed to Western legislation restricting trophy hunting practices, are growing. A spokesperson from the Community Leaders Network, an organisation that represents indigenous and rural communities in Africa, highlighted in a UK newspaper that civil society in the West needs to recognise that it is poaching, not trophy hunting, that is the biggest risk to African wildlife.13 Animal conservationists have warned that a ban on trophy hunting imports will push businesses underground, facilitating the illegal practice of poaching, which does not benefit the environment or the communities living alongside the species.14
In addition to the concern of perpetuating the activity of poaching, there is a growing consensus amongst African leaders that the rights of indigenous and rural communities are being infringed upon as their traditional practices and livelihoods become increasingly restricted through Western legislation. Maxi Louis, director of Community-Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations, expressed uneasiness with the proposed legislation, dubbing the bans on imports imposed throughout European States ‘a form of colonialism’.15 This would force legitimate hunting businesses run by rural communities to close. Furthermore, the funding of game guards who prevent poaching activities will cease, removing the protection in place for endangered species. Therefore, before considering banning the activity of trophy hunting, the unintended consequences for both animals and communities need to be acknowledged.
People-centred conservation practices
As a result, grassroots movements in Southern Africa, led by communities and conservationists, are calling for their voices to be heard in the international arena. Protecting animal populations for future generations is central to the campaign for more sustainable hunting practices; however, this needs to be paired with the protection of rights for communities in rural Africa. People-centred conservation priorities community voices, ensuring that practices are beneficial and sustainable to both animals and nature as well as the communities living in close proximity. Of course, people-centred conservation practices in Southern Africa are nothing new. Namibia, for instance, has been a leader in sustainable practices: in 1996, its communities gained the right to manage the use of plants and animals on their land.16 Since this change in legislation, animal population numbers have increased, providing hope for a future with the much-loved endangered species. In Nambia, elephant numbers grew from a low of 7000 to over 23000.17
The Community Based Natural Resource Management model prioritises the rights of communities who live alongside wildlife, allowing them to be full beneficiaries of the natural environment.18 Namibia is an excellent example of how the model can be implemented. Communities are empowered to register their land as a conservancy, allowing them to manage the natural resources on their land, including animals, in accordance with the regulations promoting sustainable use and conservation.19 A similar project is also employed in Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern African. Rural communities in Southern Africa are more likely to suffer from the effects of extreme poverty and high unemployment rates. Consequently, they are more reliant upon the natural environment for survival.20 There is no doubt that the natural environment can be a source of income, with organic products and photographic tourism providing economic opportunities. The Nature Conservation Amendment Act 1996 combines policy and legal reforms, devolving resource rights to local communities registered as conservancies.21 The regulations implemented in Namibia prevent the long-term decline of animal population numbers by tracking the births and deaths of the species concerned, ensuring numbers are kept at a sustainable level. Through national plans and effective wildlife management, species numbers are monitored using the official Events Book given to each conservancy.22 The 2021 recordings of animal numbers show population figures are stable - or increasing - for key species such as the lion and cheetah.23
In essence, the Community Based Natural Resource Management model protects indigenous and rural communities' rights by ensuring that culture and traditions can be passed from generation to generation. In addition, the natural resources that often feature heavily in traditions are protected through this model, with the sustainable usage of resources such as plants and animals, promoting biodiversity. Moreover, as employment and business in rural communities is dependent on the sustainability of resources, poaching and illegal trade are reduced, serving to protect endangered species further.24
The way forward?
The protection of endangered species is a key issue for both the international community and indigenous and local communities. However, without effective collaboration, any Western efforts are futile. The Namibian Government has demonstrated that communities can play a central role in resource management while ensuring their rights are protected and promoted, allowing for self-determination over their land and lives. The wider international community and policymakers need to recognise the value of indigenous and rural community voices. Legislators should work alongside those living with nature to design and implement legislation that discourages poaching and allows businesses that sustainably use natural resources such as game animals to flourish. Activists and organisations involved in the protection of endangered species should seek to support communities to build their capacity to manage their land and facilitate new business, stimulating economic growth and new opportunities.
1 “Hunter-Gatherers and Herders in Southern Africa,” South African History Online, 2019, accessed April 3, 2023,https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/grade-5-term-1-hunter-gatherers-and-herders-southern-africa. 2 Hlumelo Siphe Williams, “What Is the Spirit of Ubuntu? How Can We Have It in Our Lives?” Global Citizen, October 29, 2018, accessed April 3, 2023, https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/ubuntu-south-africa-together-nelson-mandela/. 3 Danie Qekwana, Cheryl McCrindle, Beniamino Cenci-Goga, Delia Grace, “Animal welfare in Africa: Strength of Cultural Traditions, Challenges and Perspectives,”, Animal Welfare: from Science to Law (2009): 103-107, accessed Apr 25, 2023, https://www.fondation-droit-animal.org/proceedings-aw/animal-welfare-in-africa/.
4 Kerri Tenniswood, “The Colonial Roots Of Trophy Hunting,” Faunalytics, July 7, 2022, accessed April 25, 2023, https://faunalytics.org/the-colonial-roots-of-trophy-hunting/#. 5 Olivia Lai, “10 of the Most Endangered Species in Africa,” Earth.org, July 27, 2022, accessed April 25, 2023, https://earth.org/endangered-species-in-africa/. 6 Ira Fisher, “The Demise of Trophy Hunting in Africa,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Saving Earth (Blog), 2023, accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/explore/savingearth/the-demise-of-trophy-hunting-in-africa.
7 Ibid. 8 “HSI’s campaign against trophy hunting in Europe”, Humane Society International, 2023, accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.hsi.org/news-media/hsis-campaign-against-trophy-hunting-in-europe/. 9 Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, 2023.
10 Charles Jonga, “UK hunting trophies bill would be damaging to Africa,” New African Magazine, March 14, 2023, accessed April 25, 2023, https://newafricanmagazine.com/29315/. 11 Mucha Mkono, “Neo-Colonialism and Greed,” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 27, no. 5 (2019): 689-704, accessed 25 Apr, 2023, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09669582.2019.1604719. 12 “Born Free’s Position on Trophy Hunting”, Born Free, February 2021, accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.bornfree.org.uk/trophy-hunting-position. 13 Community Leaders Network, “A Wave Of Legislative Proposals Throughout Europe To Restrict The Legal Import Of Hunting Trophies Threatens The Rights And Livelihoods Of African Communities Involved In Conservation, And The Wildlife Itself,” Community Leaders Network (Blog), July 7, 2022, accessed April 25, 2023, https://communityleadersnetwork.org/a-wave-of-legislative-proposals-throughout-europe-to-restrict-the-legal-import -of-hunting-trophies-threatens-the-rights-and-livelihoods-of-african-communities-involved-in-conservation-and-the- wildlif/. 14 Andy Gregory, “Banning trophy hunting won’t protect animals, scientists warn,” Independent, September 2, 2019, accessed April 25, 2023,https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/trophy-hunting-africa-lions-biodiversity-habitat-endangered-an imals-iucn-a9087366.html.
15 Maxi Louis, “It's a form of colonialism to tell us Africans what to do with our wildlife: As a parliamentary committee calls for an end to trophy hunting, leading conservationist MAXI LOUIS argues that far from protecting big game it will guarantee its destruction,” Mail Online, June 29, 2022, accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10966891/MAXI-LOUIS-Ending-trophy-hunting-far-protects-big-game-g uarantee-destruction.html. 16 Andrew Heffernan, “Community-Based Natural Resource Management,” E-International Relations (Blog), April 8, 2020, accessed April 25, 2023,https://www.e-ir.info/2020/04/08/community-based-natural-resource-management-and-global-climate-change-in-na mibia/. 17 Community Conservation Namibia, “Facts and Figures,” Community Conservatino Namibia, 2023, accessed April 25, 2023, https://communityconservationnamibia.com/facts-and-figures.
18 Pempelani Mufune, “Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) and Sustainable Development in Namibia,” Journal of Land and Rural Studies, 3, no. 1 (2015): 121-138, accessed April 25, 2023, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2321024914534042?casa_token=B6PkKqNVuRkAAAAA:iOp6aM9S kOFjT3WFM5jMJ__p69AXMvpmSE9Q66-jeat-O84SkJkVovSHU2PBt1lY4NridaqHoVE. 19 Ibid. 20 Santos Bila and Mduduzi Biyase, Determinants of Subjective Poverty in Rural and Urban Areas of South Africa (EDWRG, 2020), accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.uj.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/bila-and-biyase-determinants-of-subjective-poverty-in-rural-and-u rban-areas-of-south-africa-1.pdf. 21 Ministry of Environment and Tourism, National Policy on Community Based Natural Resource Management (Namibia, 2013), accessed April 25, 2023, https://sdacnamibia.org/sites/default/files/3.%20CBNRM%20Policy.pdf.
22 Community Conservation Namibia, “Namibian Communal Conservancies,” Community Conservation Namibia, 2023, accessed April 25, 2023, https://conservationnamibia.com/factsheets/communal-conservancies.php. 23 Community Conservation Namibia, “Wildlife Populations,” Community Conservation Namibia, 2023, accessed April 25, 2023,https://communityconservationnamibia.com/support-to-conservation/natural-resource-management/wildlife-populati ons.
24 International Institute for Environment and Development, “Q&A: Strengthening community voices to tackle illegal wildlife trade in Tanzania and Zambia,” International Institute for Environment and Development (Blog), March 24, 2022, accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.iied.org/qa-strengthening-community-voices-tackle-illegal-wildlife-trade-tanzania-zambia.
Bila, Santos, and Biyase, Mduduzi. Determinants of Subjective Poverty in Rural and Urban Areas of South Africa. Johannesburg: EDWRG, 2022. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.uj.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/bila-and-biyase-determinants-of-subjective-poverty-in-rural-and-urban-areas-of-south-africa-1.pdf.
Born Free. “Born Free’s Position On Trophy Hunting.” Born Free, 2021. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.bornfree.org.uk/trophy-hunting-position.
Community Conservation Namibia. “Facts and Figures.” Community Conservation Namibia. 2023. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://communityconservationnamibia.com/facts-and-figures.
Community Conservation Namibia. “Wildlife Populations,” Community Conservation Namibia, 2023. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://communityconservationnamibia.com/support-to-conservation/natural-resource-management/wildlife-populations.
Community Leaders Network. “A Wave Of Legislative Proposals Throughout Europe To Restrict The Legal Import Of Hunting Trophies Threatens The Rights And Livelihoods Of African Communities Involved In Conservation, And The Wildlife Itself,” Community Leaders Network, 2022. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://communityleadersnetwork.org/a-wave-of-legislative-proposals-throughout-europe-to-restrict-the-legal-import-of-hunting-trophies-threatens-the-rights-and-livelihoods-of-african-communities-involved-in-conservation-and-the-wildlif/.
Fischer, Ira. “The Demise of Trophy Hunting in Africa.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Saving Earth (Blog), 2023. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.britannica.com/explore/savingearth/the-demise-of-trophy-hunting-in-africa.
Gregory, Andy. “Banning trophy hunting won’t protect animals, scientists warn.” Independent, September 2, 2019. Accessed April 25, 2023.
Heffernan, Andrew. “Community-Based Natural Resource Management and Global Climate Change in Namibia.” E-International Relations (Blog), 2020. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.e-ir.info/2020/04/08/community-based-natural-resource-management-and-global-climate-change-in-namibia/.
Humane Society International. “HSI’s campaign against trophy hunting in Europe.” Humane Society International, 2023. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.hsi.org/news-media/hsis-campaign-against-trophy-hunting-in-europe/.
Jonga, Charles. “UK hunting trophies bill would be damaging to Africa.” New African Magazine, March 14, 2023. Accessed April 25, 2023, https://newafricanmagazine.com/29315/.
South African History Online. “Hunter-Gatherers and Herders in Southern Africa,” South African History Online, August 27, 2019. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/grade-5-term-1-hunter-gatherers-and-herders-southern-africa .
International Institute for Environment and Development. “Q&A: Strengthening Community Voices to Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade in Tanzania and Zambia.” International Institute for Environment and Development (Blog), 2022. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.iied.org/qa-strengthening-community-voices-tackle-illegal-wildlife-trade-tanzania-zambia.
Lai, Olivia. “10 of the Most Endangered Species in Africa.” Earth.Org (Blog), 2022. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://earth.org/endangered-species-in-africa/.
Louis, Maxi. “It's a form of colonialism to tell us Africans what to do with our wildlife: As a parliamentary committee calls for an end to trophy hunting, leading conservationist MAXI LOUIS argues that far from protecting big game it will guarantee its destruction.” Mail Online, June 29, 2022. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10966891/MAXI-LOUIS-Ending-trophy-hunting-far-protects-big-game-guarantee-destruction.html.
Ministry of Environment and Tourism. National Policy on Community Based Natural Resource Management. Namibia, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, 2013. Accessed April 25, 2023, https://sdacnamibia.org/sites/default/files/3.%20CBNRM%20Policy.pdf.
Mkono, Mucha. “Neo-Colonialism and Greed: Africans’ Views on Trophy Hunting in Social Media.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 27, no. 5 (2019): 689–704. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09669582.2019.1604719.
Mufune, Pempelani. “Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) and Sustainable Development in Namibia.” Journal of Land and Rural Studies 3, no. 1 (2015): 121-138. Accessed 25 April 2023. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2321024914534042?casa_token=B6PkKqNVuRkAAAAA:iOp6aM9SkOFjT3WFM5jMJ__p69AXMvpmSE9Q66-jeat-O84SkJkVovSHU2PBt1lY4NridaqHoVE.
Qekwana, Daniel Nenene., McCrindle, Chery., Cenci-Goga, Beniamin., and Grace, Delia . “Animal Welfare in Africa: Strength of Cultural Traditions, Challenges and Perspectives.”’ Animal Welfare: From Science to Law, 2009, 103–7. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.fondation-droit-animal.org/proceedings-aw/animal-welfare-in-africa/.
Smith, Henry, and Bellingham. Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, Pub. L. No. 26, 3 58 (2022). https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3202/publications.
Tenniswoood, Kerri. “The Colonial Roots Of Trophy Hunting.” Faunalytics, 2022. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://faunalytics.org/the-colonial-roots-of-trophy-hunting/#:~:text=Hunting%20animals%20for%20sport%20would,gave%20rise%20to%20trophy%20hunting.
Williams, Hlumelo Siphe. “What Is the Spirit of Ubuntu? How Can We Have It in Our Lives?” Global Citizen, October 29, 2018. Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/ubuntu-south-africa-together-nelson-mandela/.