Hunting as Conservation? Just Ask Tanzania

At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive that hunting would provide for conservation. After all, a successful hunt results in the harvesting of an animal. Writing in The New York Times, however, Tanzania’s  highest-ranking wildlife official, Alexander Songorwa, states that hunting is just what is helping African animals—and it is at risk.

How do safari hunters help safari animals? By paying fees that go toward wildlife and environmental conservation (to say nothing of the money they put into the local economy):

In Tanzania, lions are hunted under a 21-day safari package. Hunters pay $9,800 in government fees for the opportunity. An average of about 200 lions are shot a year, generating about $1,960,000 in revenue. Money is also spent on camp fees, wages, local goods and transportation. And hunters almost always come to hunt more than one species, though the lion is often the most coveted trophy sought. All told, trophy hunting generated roughly $75 million for Tanzania’s economy from 2008 to 2011.

The money helps support 26 game reserves and a growing number of wildlife management areas owned and operated by local communities as well as the building of roads, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure — all of which are important as Tanzania continues to develop as a peaceful and thriving democracy.

This could all be at risk because animal rights groups are pushing for the African lion to be listed as an endangered species under U.S. law, which would send American hunters elsewhere and hurt the funding for conservation programs.

Three important circumstances warrant note: Tanzania heavily regulates lion hunting; the lion population in Tanzania is higher than anywhere else (16,800 animals); and lion hunters constitute 60 percent of the Tanzania trophy-hunting market.

This is similar to the threats faced by conservation hunting in the U.S. Conservation hunting ranches have helped bring back species that are extinct or nearly extinct in Africa, such as the scimitar-horned oryx and the addax. Their numbers are thriving in America because the cost of a hunt gives ranchers the resources to provide an environment for the animals to proliferate. It’s a proven success.

Just as in Africa, animal rights activists don’t want these animals hunted. They are putting their ideology ahead of good sense.