Charles began his career learning from the most successful conservationists in the world with the Rhodesia National Parks and Wildlife Management Department. He spent 13 years of his life as a game warden living in the bush amongst the wildlife that he loved and worked to protect. For the past 41 years he has focused on utilizing hunting and photographic safaris as management tools in the sustainable use of wildlife and it’s supporting habitats. He was a pioneer in promoting the engagement of local village people. Charles strongly believes that their involvement is the bedrock on which conservation should be based and that empowering local communities through education and financial incentives creates true, sustainable conservation. Here are his views on sport hunting and the role he feels it should play in conservation.
For decades sport hunting has been used as a tool to generate conservation dollars which is vital to the management and preservation of wildlife populations. If done ethically, sport hunting can and should promote viable and healthy wildlife populations. That requires that all hunters adhere to a strict set of rules about how, where and what to hunt. Non-hunters and hunters alike must embrace proper hunting as a necessary instrument in saving the earths remaining wildlife populations. Otherwise, I am afraid that our efforts to save the wildlife will be futile.
Kenya has lost 70% of its wildlife since hunting was closed in 1977. Conversely, many European and American countries are successfully utilizing sport hunting as a major source of income for wildlife conservation and have significantly increased the quality and quantity of their wildlife populations through wise use of hunting revenues. Pheasant, partridge and grouse shooting in the UK have survived and thrived as a result of the revenue generated by the hunting of those species. Had it not been for this activity much of the land used in these endeavors would have been taken over by alternative uses and the wildlife habitats destroyed forever.
Without the wildlife to generate income for local populations, their people will turn to subsistence farming as they have done for hundreds of years. The practice of farming or ranching for the short term then abandoning the land once the nutrients have been depleted causes desertification, rendering the land useless to humans and animals alike.
Wildlife are indigenous to their land, unlike most alternative forms of land use. Each species has evolved to utilize a total cross section of the habitat. They eat everything available to them in their habitat, but not to the point where it cannot replenish itself. Domestic livestock or crop production, on the other hand, require constant recovery and enhancement efforts to sustain production. Most African countries are not able to provide the infrastructure or resources needed to support viable agricultural production. Thus the management of wildlife is the obvious choice to sustain them. Who better to manage that resource than hunters? They use their own resources and dollars to provide the infrastructure necessary to manage the most valuable renewable resource on the African continent.
If hunting were to be closed, wildlife and its supporting habitats would succumb to poachers or be decimated by un-sustainable forms of farming. Tourist hunting is a form of wildlife use that, when well managed, generates substantial funds that are used for habitat protection, population monitoring, law enforcement, research, or management programs. It also returns benefits to the local people, encouraging their support and protection of wildlife, and motivating investment at community levels. If hunting were stopped, this vital contribution made by hunters would cease to exist, as would the support for and by local populations, and consequently large numbers of wildlife.
The anti-hunting lobby may dispute these facts but they cannot provide data to show that agriculture is more viable and sustainable in areas designated as wildlife management areas. They will also find it difficult to explain where the funding for such unrealistic programs would be found. Hunting is contentious and we understand the desire to save all the wonderful species on the African continent. Nevertheless, sustainable, law-abiding hunting plays a major part in conserving this irreplaceable resource.
Africa has failed to realize just how important and valuable its wildlife is to its culture and economy and the world. Corruption and greed in most all African countries have trumped the efforts of conservationists and are dictating the fate of Africa’s wildlife. Anti-poaching efforts coordinated by hunting operators are the only thing keeping the poachers from completely wiping out entire species such as Elephant, Rhino and Lion. We are now at a pinnacle juncture where cooperation between hunters and non-hunters is critical to saving Africa’s wildlife. So we must find a way to work together. Study the data, agree on what works and does not work and get on with the job of protecting one of our planets most extraordinary resources. One thing we can all agree on is that we do not want our children and grand children to live in a world that does not include these magnificent creatures.