Safari Club International is serious about hunting and true wildlife conservation. Some people may question the propriety of hunting, but no one can refute the tremendous dedication and accomplishments of hunters when it comes to true conservation of wildlife around the world.
It cannot be denied that hunters kill individual animals – but true conservation is not about saving individual animals – it is about saving entire species. In several key ways, hunters are better at conserving species than anyone else.
First, hunters make significant financial contributions to wildlife conservation. Those who criticize the “pay for play” system are misguided. Conservation takes money and hunters are always first in line to provide those funds. The money that hunters pay to participate in hunts, particularly in Africa, goes in part to habitat restoration and wildlife management. While it may be true that not every dollar contributed by hunters finds a direct path to the wildlife, nevertheless the funds that are contributed to conservation are a significant source of the financing available in those countries for that purpose.
Second, hunters contribute to the economies of the local communities that co-exist with the wildlife. Not only does hunting provide jobs for those who would otherwise need to kill the wildlife to put food on their families’ tables, but hunting also provides that food. In most circumstances, the meat from the animals that hunters take in Africa is donated to the local villages. Hunter generated revenue also provides community improvements. In Zimbabwe for example, through the CAMPFIRE program, revenue from hunting goes to community development, providing wells, schools and other projects. The revenue generated by hunting improved local tolerance for the species that destroy crops and attack local residents.
Third, hunters combat poaching. SCI and its members abhor the illegal killing of animals and support penalties for those who engage in the wholesale slaughter of wildlife through poisoning, snaring or otherwise illegally harvest animals in order to traffic in their horns, tusks or other parts. SCI and its members also support the apprehension and punishment of individuals who intentionally violate hunting laws and regulations for the personal gain. Hunters, including SCI members, don’t simply “talk” about ending poaching – they do something about it. Many of the major anti-poaching programs operating in African countries are run by hunting companies and are financed by the revenues from hunting.
Fourth, hunting gives wildlife value – to the people who actually have to live with that wildlife. In Africa, an elephant that tramples the crops that villagers depend upon to feed their families and the lion that attacks and kills the family’s cow are not revered in the same way they are in many other parts of the world. These animals represent threats to the family’s survival and families often believe that these animals must be destroyed; it is literally a them or us fight. However, when a foreign hunter is willing to pay to hunt that elephant or lion, and brings with that hunt jobs for locals, meat for families, and wells and improvements for the communities – then the elephant and the lion become less of a nuisance and more of a source of community revenue. Only then do they become worth conserving for local residents.
As a result, hunting translates to true conservation. In geometric proportions, hunters are responsible for far, far more animals being alive on Planet Earth than hunters have ever taken from nature.
Recent news focus on a single lion in Zimbabwe has cast a sinister shadow on hunting and has rekindled public debate about wildlife, hunting, poaching and conservation. Those who know little about hunting are driving criticisms of hunting and mistakenly believe that conservation is about trying to save individual animals. They are so focused on a single lion that they have lost sight of the importance of conservation of the species. When the controversy dies down and some new media frenzy takes its place, where will the critics of hunting be? Few if any will be in the wild, saving the wildlife and the habitats and engaging with the communities in Africa. In contrast, when hunting critics no longer invoke Cecil’s name, SCI will still be in Africa, on the ground, making a positive difference for wildlife.
It takes massive efforts by all concerned human beings to conserve wildlife, fight poaching and protect habitat. SCI and the international hunting community have led the way, and will continue to lead when it comes to on-the-ground programs that make a real difference to species conservation. We welcome the partnership of others who are serious about hunting and wish to engage in true wildlife conservation. Let’s stop making “hunting” the villain and start focusing our efforts on strategies that actually make a difference in ensuring that our wildlife is here for everyone to enjoy. SCI is ready – in fact we never stopped. Are you?