The World Bank has allocated $700,000 bolster trophy hunting of elephants and lions in Mozambique as a way to preserve wildlife.
“Hunting, when properly regulated and when revenues are distributed to communities in and around parks,” said Madji Seck, a spokesperson at the bank’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, “is an important tool for the sustainable management of parks and natural assets,”
However, in Mozambique elephants are in a precipitous decline. Between 2009 and 2014, their numbers fell from an estimated 20,000 to 10,300, according to a survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society as part of the Great Elephant Census.
The World Bank “is driven by a utilitarian perspective on the consumptive use of wild species,” said Phyllis Lee, zoologist with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, in Kenya.
The idea of consumptive, or sustainable, use of wildlife, which is written into the Convention on Biodiversity, is that it makes sense for humans to benefit from animals in ways that don’t undermine their habitats and populations.
But, as Lee said, “it now appears to some conservation practitioners that sustainable use has been hijacked to represent [sport]hunting.”
She points to the recent admission of the Dallas Safari Club into the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world body that focuses on valuing and conserving nature by ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and the sport hunting club’s controversial auction of a permit to kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia, as “the worst possible way of allowing a hunting voice to speak for conservation.
“It’s obviously not speaking for species preservation,” Lee said. “It’s killing for revenue.”
Ben Carter, executive director with the Dallas Safari Club, said there’s a biological reason for hunting. “It’s based on a fundamental premise of modern wildlife management: Populations matter; individuals don’t,” he said.
But Will Travers, President of the Born Free Foundation, argues: “Carter’s narrow utilitarian view has wider moral implications which cannot be ignored.
“Individuals matter, he said. “Each one may have survival knowledge to pass on or cultural intelligence, important for social cohesion. But individuals also matter because they have a right to life. They are not the pawns of one species—our own—bent on playing God and dressing it up as modern wildlife management.”
In an interview with CNN on May 20, Jeffrey Flocken, North America Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said that “from a biological perspective, trophy hunting not only flies in the face of a precautionary approach to wildlife management but in some cases has also been found to undermine it.
“Hunters are not like natural predators, Flocken said. “They target the largest specimens, with the biggest tusks, manes, antlers, or horns.”
Faced with losses of their elephants and other animals, Botswana and Kenya have banned big-game sport hunting.
In April 2014, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced the temporary suspension of all imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania, citing concern that the two countries showed “a significant decline in the elephant population and concluded that sport hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe and Tanzania “is not sustainable and is not currently supporting conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species.”
In March, USFWS made the ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe permanent. Corruption was cited as one of the main reasons.
Australia has banned the import of trophy-hunted lions, while the European Union has just ordered the ban on elephant hunting trophies from Tanzania and Mozambique because of the threat posed to the animals by poachers.
Recently a number of airlines, South African Airways, Lufthansa, British Airways, Iberia and Air Emirates cargo divisions, announced embargoes on transporting sport-hunting trophies. They join Air France, KLM, Singapore Airways, and Qantas who have had the ban in place for sometime.
These are promising signs, but, said IFAW’s Jeffrey Flocken, given the gravity of the poaching crisis, authorities such as the World Bank “need to catch on to what the rest of the world already knows—that killing animals to save them is not conservation.”