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    Trophy Hunting Onus is on African Countries - Researcher

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    A top line-up of UK celebrities and MPs have signed an open letter calling on the government to outlaw hunting trophies and their importation to the UK. Signatories include Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and singer Ed Sheeran.

    Sputnik has discussed the issue with Dr. Muchazondida Mkono, a Fellow Researcher at the University of Queensland.

    Sputnik: Will the UK government listen to the call of these prominent personalities?

    Dr. Muchazondida Mkono: The more people sign this petition and the more influential voices speak up, the more the UK government is likely to listen.

    So I think we just need everybody who feels passionate about this issue to add their voice and to say unequivocally that enough is enough. We need something to be done, we need a message to be sent to trophy hunters that enough is enough.

    I hope that they will listen, but of course we will have to wait and see.

    Sputnik: Could such ban ever be implemented?

    Dr. Muchazondida Mkono: The UK probably follows what other players are doing: we have seen France move to ban the importation of lion trophies, for example; 

    Australia has done the same. Unfortunately the United States have reversed bans that were in place, but overall I think that the direction is to have more and more countries implementing bans – or at least seriously considering to do so.

    So I am hoping that the UK will join the other countries that have similar interests in achieving sustainable futures for wildlife. I hope we will see this happen not too far into the future.

    I am really optimistic, but all of us who feel strongly this way need to speak up more and more, and put pressure on people who make the laws in the UK and in other parts of the world to act.

    Sputnik: Hunting lobbies claim that offering big game safaris to shooters helps bring funds into Africa and conserve both the wildlife and landscapes, but this really the case?

    Dr. Muchazondida Mkono: I can tell you that I have been to places where hunting is happening, I have seen communities that live in proximity to hunting areas, and I have looked for evidence of the benefits that they are supposed to be getting as hunters claim again and again. And I can tell you there is very little to show, if anything at all.

    I am also not convinced that there is sufficient evidence to show that there is a link between hunting and conservation and – let’s say – the maintenance of numbers: we know that these numbers have been going down in Africa; we know that lion numbers have been declining for a long time, and this is true also for other species.

    Of course there are other reasons as well, like poaching, but I have not seen a convincing case where hunting has changed the lives of communities in any significant way for the better.

    I have not seen cases where hunting has led to increases in numbers of endangered species. I have not seen that. The overwhelming evidence seems to be opposite, that trophy hunting is taking out those healthy individuals, and it also undermines other moves to demonstrate that, as a society, we value animals: if we are going to say we value animals and we want to conserve them, but on the other hand we are giving people permission to come and shoot these precious creatures.

    I think there is a contradiction in that. So I am not convinced that these arguments that hunters are consistently making, that the end justifies the means, aren’t just convincing. I am not convinced at all.

    Sputnik: If trophy hunting tourism were to stop, what other alternatives would African countries have to explore to attract visitors?

    Dr. Muchazondida Mkono: The alternative that has been tabled, in my understanding, is photographic tourism – and I know that Botswana is making progress in promoting photographic tourism, and ensuring that it still continues to generate revenues and fund their conservation programmes, even after implementing a hunting ban a few years back.

    So I think that is one viable alternative. Of course some people will say ‘Well, that only provides a small amount of revenue per head of tourist.’ That is true, but if we have more information out there for tourists visiting Africa, encouraging them to go on these safaris, we can see those numbers rise, and again, I also think that African countries are underpricing their wildlife to these activities.

    Tourists go, for instance, to Zimbabwe or to any other African country, and they are paying maybe 50 dollars, maybe 100 dollars to go on safari drives. I think they should be paying more. They should be paying twice or three times or even four times as much for that kind of experience. It is sublime, it is a special experience, and if African countries are asking for 50 dollars or 100 dollars, they should start asking for 500 dollars.

    Once we educate people, and people realise the value of these animals, I think people will be prepared to part with much more than what has been asked of them at the moment. In terms of alternatives, which you asked about, African countries need to sit together. The onus is on them to ask ‘What can we do differently? What alternatives can we try?’ They can go through a process of trying different kinds of activities for tourists that do not involve killing animals.

    The onus is on them, and we should not be giving up on them and thinking ‘Well, there are no alternatives.’ We are better than that. They can sit down, we can sit down, and we can think about what can we do to fund conservation but do it in a humane way that does not involve killing precious animals, like lions, like rhinos. Enough is enough.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr. Muchazondida Mkono and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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