Governments push hunting the big bucks, boars, et al–for the price on their heads
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2004:
NAIROBI–Australian government agencies are
missing the gravy train by hiring sharpshooters
to kill non-native wildlife, University of
Queensland faculty members Gordon Dryden and
Stephen Craig-Smith reported in early September
2004 to the Rural Industries Research &
The RIRDC is a federal think-tank formed
to create jobs in the Outback. It envisions the
Outback as a tourism draw rivaling Africa–for
one type of tourist.
“Wealthy hunting enthusiasts around the
world would be happy to cull these animals that
nobody in Australia wants, and would pay for the
privilege,” Craig-Smith said. “This would be a
niche tourism market targeted at cashed-up
hunters,” he added, “not a wholesale slaughter
Translation: if the non-native target
species were extirpated, as the present
philosophy of the National Parks and Wildlife
Service mandates, the proposed trophy hunting
business would collapse.
Thus hunting Australian feral species
might save them, much as regulated hunting
contributes to the survival of other trophy
animals–even if they have to be raised in
captivity to be kept abundant enough to shoot.
Recommended targets include wild horses,
pigs, deer, camels, water buffalo, and goats,
said Dryden and Craig-Smith.
They found that about 10 hunting safari operators
in Queensland and the Northern Territory already
escort approximately 150 hunters per year to kill
non-native hooved stock. The hunters spend an
average of about $1,000 per day in the field.
Hunt Australia managing director Bob
Penfold told Daily Telegraph reporter Lisa Miller
that water buffalo hunting alone is worth $7.2
million per year to Australia, and could become
five times as lucrative if restrictions on
hunting were relaxed.
Penfold’s estimate, however, suggests
that water buffalo hunters spend an improbable 48
days apiece in the field to bag their slow-moving
The Dryden/Craig-Smith recommen dation
followed an agreement reached in July 2004
between Parks Victoria and the Australian Deer
Association to use deer hunters to cull deer,
pigs, and goats.
The Dryden/Craig-Smith report also came
parallel to a year-long still unresolved
controversy over a Northern Territory Parks &
Wildlife proposal to promote safari hunting for
The Northern Territory banned commercial
crocodile hunting in 1971, after the population
fell to about 3,000, but it has now recovered to
an estimated 75,000. Aboriginal residents are
presently allowed to kill a cumulative total of
600 crocs per year for their hides, sold for
about $350 apiece. The Northern Territory Parks
& Wildlife proposal would authorize each
aboriginal band to sell up to 25 of their
crocodile hunting permits to paying visitors.
The hunting permits are expected to fetch prices
of up to $3,500 apiece.
The proposal was endorsed in May 2004 by
the U.S.-based Crocodile Specialist Group,
including about 350 wildlife managers from
nations with crocs around the world. Many of
them are also eager to secure Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species
permission to allow exports of crocodile trophies.
Cuba, Namibia, and Zambia are seeking
crocodile trophy export quotas at the October
2004 CITES meeting in Bangkok.
Seeking new thrills
Nations whose wildlife management is
funded by the sale or lease of hunting
privileges, or hope that it can be, as in the
case of Cuba, are engaged an increasingly
frantic competition to attract declining numbers
of high-spending trophy hunters.
The Safari Club International and allied
pro-hunting organizations are at peaks of wealth
and influence because their constituencies of
mostly middle-aged and elderly men are at or near
their peak earning years, but as the post-World
War II “baby boom” generation reaches their
fifties, when hunters typically participate less
and less, there is no large new wave of hunters
coming to replace them.
Hunting recruitment has lagged far below
attrition for more than 25 years now, while the
number of active hunters in the U.S. has declined
That makes wildlife managers desperate
not only to recruit, but to get more money out
of the present hunting population, before the
entire system of “sustainable consumptive use”
Getting more hunting days out of the
remaining hunters is the motivation behind a
pending federal bill introduced by U.S. Senator
Charles Schumer (D-New York) late in the current
Congressional session, which would apportion $50
million in USDA funds to subsidize liability
insurance for farmers who allow hunting. This
would enable hunters to find places to hunt more
State bills to expand hunting
opportunities, introduced with the fall
elections looming, would open Sunday hunting in
Pennsylvania, and liberalize hunting regulations
in Alabama, including by allowing the use of
turkey decoys, crossbows, and sights on
The most prized lure for hunters, however, is a new target species.
Thus the legislatures of Michigan and Minnesota
in mid-2004 reinstituted dove hunting, after
suspensions of 99 and 58 years. The chief
argument used to pass the enabling bills was that
opening dove seasons would help to keep hunters
and their money home.
They like ’em rare
Some Michigan and Minnesota hunters have
been known to drive to nearby states to kill
doves, but the real money is in trophy species:
big animals and rare animals.
Thus the Montana Department of Fish,
Wildlife, and Parks in June 2004 proposed a
hunting season on bison who wander out of
Yellowstone National Park.
“Bison from the park have been hunted
before,” recalled Associated Press writer Becky
Bohrer. “During the winter of 1988-1989,
hunters killed 569 bison on the park’s northern
boundary. But the hunt was ended by the
legislature after a storm of protest.
Yellowstone bison are accustomed to seeing
humans, and game wardens led each hunter
directly to the animal to be killed.”
The proposed new bison hunting rules
would increase the illusion of challenge while
continuing to enforce the Montana policy that no
Yellowstone bison are allowed to escape alive to
dwell in cattle country, lest they carry the
livestock disease brucellosis, endemic among
Hunters have been aggressively culling
elk who wander north for decades. Blaming the
wolves who were reintroduced to the Yellowstone
region in 1996 for a recent paucity of bull elk
with trophy-sized antlers, hunting outfitters
now want to cull wolves as well–emulating
counterparts in Alaska.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on
August 29 announced an expansion of aerial
wolf-hunting, from the Nelchina Basin and
McGrath areas, where 144 wolves were killed last
winter, to the regions west of Cook Inlet, near
Anchorage, and in the central Kuskokwim River
The 2004-2005 goal will be to kill upward
of 500 wolves, partly for their pelt and trophy
value, but mostly to make moose and caribou
hunting easier by making the target animals more
abundant and less wary.
Wolves have always been legally hunted in
Alaska, and may soon be legally hunted in parts
of the Lower 48, since Interior Secretary Gail
Norton proposed in July 2004 that they should be
removed from Endangered Species Act protection by
The tiny Columbian whitetailed deer, on
the other hand, has not been legally hunted
anywhere since 1973. There are only two
populations of the deer, one in the vicinity of
Roseburg, Oregon, and the other at the Julia
Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge in
After 30 years on the federal endangered
species list, the Columbian whitetailed deer was
declared “recovered” in 2003, only six years
after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired
USDA Wildlife Services to kill coyotes at the
Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge on
the pretext that the coyotes might extirpate the
In June 2004 the Oregon Fish and Wildlife
Commission tentatively approved a hunting season
on Columbian whitetailed deer.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department
is offering an even scarcer target this year,
having authorized the first prairie chicken hunt
in the state since 1945.
Whether or not hunting a new or unusual
trophy species actually poses any sort of
challenge does not seem to enter into the
In June 2004 the Norwegian parliament
even approved a three-year-old proposal by
fisheries minister Svein Ludvigsen to allow paid
guests to participate in commercial sealing.
Norwegian sealers rarely fill their
governmentally assigned quota of about 2,000
seals per year, Ludvigsen pointed out, and
hunters would pay much more to kill seals than
the hunters make from pelt sales.
There are two ways for wildlife agencies,
anywhere, to boost trophy hunting.
One is by authorizing hunting in and
around nature reserves. This is usually done on
the pretexts that the target species are
overabundant, and/or that rogue individuals must
Such arguments are easily made wherever
either expanding suburbs or communities founded
on tourism have hemmed in or even encroached upon
U.S. parks and wildlife refuges overtaken
by urban sprawl are typically the home range for
deer herds who spread into nearby yards and
disrupt traffic. Most of the deer are doe and
spike buck, the legacy of decades of “buck laws”
that encourage hunters to kill the majority of
mature males each year, sparing most females and
Hunter mythology holds that some big
bucks survive the annual onslaught by hiding
wherever the hunters cannot go. Bucks with
larger antlers than have ever been seen much
outside of game ranches are said to lurk within
the least accessible parts of even suburban
refuges. This in turn underlies much pressure to
open refuges to hunting.
Officials eager to boost hunting
sometimes in turn encourage the legends, perhaps
most notoriously when the Illinois Department of
Natural Resources opened the Rend Lake Wildlife
Refuge to hunting in 1996. Several big bucks
were killed there in the first years that the
refuge allowed hunting–and web sites promote the
notion that more remain.
Expanding trophy hunting opportunities in
the name of controlling herd size and preventing
harm to refuge neighbors are equally common ploys
in Africa, building upon local tension wherever
residents of pastoral background have brought
their herds of cattle, sheep, or goats with
As grazing land is exhausted, herders
tend to cut fences to allow their livestock to
exploit the grass and water inside nearby
wildlife reserves. Competition from livestock
and introduced livestock diseases soon reduce the
populations of prey species for lions, leopards,
hyenas, jackals, and wild dogs, who turn to
killing livestock and sometimes people. The
Thus roan antelope, oryx, Bright’s
gazelles, and Derby’s elands were extirpated
from northeastern Uganda during the past 10-20
years. Now similar damage is occurring in the
southern half of the country. A virus believed
to have been introduced by livestock killed more
than 100 hippos in late summer 2004 at Queen
Elizabeth National Park.
Predators took a deliberate hit.
“Lake Mburo National Park may soon be
deprived of carnivorous animals, as leopards
follow lions into extinction,” warned Kampala
New Vision reporter Gerald Tenywa on July 31,
2004. Tenywa cited recent reports from Uganda
Wildlife Authority chief Arthur Mugisha and
hunting safari promoter Kaka Matama that Lake
Mburo region pastoralists are poisoning leopards
at the rate of at least one per month.
Uganda Wildlife Authority board chair
John Nagenda in late August 2004 reportedly
warned poachers that they “risk death” if caught
in the act. Kenya and Zimbabwe both pursued
shoot-to-kill policies against elephant and rhino
poachers during the late 1980s, while private
militias funded by international conservation
organizations took up the pursuit of poachers in
other nations, but by the mid-1990s such tactics
were largely discredited and abandoned.
In fairness, pastoralists who poison
predators are only emulating the practices of the
descendants of colonialists, who still own and
operate most of the biggest ranches in Africa,
raising cattle primarily for the export beef
industry. The difference is that while the
pastoralists often poison predators on nominally
protected land, the ranchers mostly confine
their poisoning to private property.
Namibian ranchers are reportedly killing
200 to 300 cheetahs per year, prompting the
Cheetah Conservation Fund to initiate a Predator
Friendly beef certification program in July 2004.
CCF founder Laurie Marker told Wezi Tjaronda of
the Windhoek New Era that European consumers will
pay premium prices for Namibian beef if assured
that it is raised without killing wildlife.
Tjaronda wrote that Marker believes about
two-thirds of Namibian beef producers are already
able to meet the Predator Friendly certification
Beef exports to Europe are the largest Namibian industry.
If wildlife goes wild…
While incursion, encroachment,
pastoralist predator control, and poaching for
profit all menace wildlife within African
reserves, and Asian reserves too, many animals
in turn take advantage of cut fences to leave the
reserves, raiding crops and attacking humans who
try to stop them. Elephants and baboons leave
reserves to run amok somewhere almost every day.
As the September 2004 edition of ANIMAL
PEOPLE went to press, elephant rampages had
recently occurred in Bangladesh, Botswana,
India, Kenya, Lagos, Nigeria, Sierra Leone,
South Africa, and Sri Lanka–and those were just
the reported cases.
Crop-raiding by baboons is so frequent as to rarely receive media notice.
Hippos, on the other hand, can hardly be ignored.
“Hippos eat the grass where people farm,
live in the water where people fish and eat the
rice the farmers grow, too,” Burkina Faso
environmental official Joseph Bono fumed in June
2004, alleging that the national hippo
population has increased from fewer than 100 to
more than 1,400 since hippo hunting was banned
and hippo reserves were established in 1991.
Within two days Burkina Faso reauthorized a hippo hunting season.
Kenya heat rises
Increasing pressure to lift the ban on
sport hunting in effect in Kenya since 1977 comes
from four sources: large landowners, mostly in
the Laikipia district, eager to emulate the
South African hunting industry; pro-hunting
organizations including the World Wildlife Fund,
African Wildlife Foundation, and Safari Club
International; USAid, backing the pro-hunting
policies of the George W. Bush administration;
and subsistence farmers and villagers, whose
resentment of predators and crop-damaging
wildlife is whetted by politicians looking toward
grabbing some of the loot from trophy hunting.
Among the landowner faction are some who
fled to Kenya from the former apartheid nation of
Rhodesia, now renamed Zimbabwe. They see
opportunity in the present Zimbabwean troubles,
which have scared away about half the hunters who
formerly went there. The irony of the Rhodesians
winning political support from some of the
poorest black Kenyans has mostly eluded notice,
while the politics of hate have had an effect.
Populist president Mwai Kibaki all but
declared open season on wildlife in a pair of
August 14 speeches at the Kinamba and Kwa Wanjiku
marketplaces in Laikipia.
Blaming the desperately underfunded Kenya
Wildlife Service for animals wandering outside
the national parks, Kibaki told the crowds that,
“If wild animals invade farms, do not blame
farmers for their deaths.”
Nine days later the KWS responded to a
five a.m. call complaining that three sub-adult
bull elephants from Aberdares National Park were
running amok in the villages of Kinyogoori,
Ngarariga, and Gitogothi.
Initially the rangers tried to coax the
elephants back into the reserve, but “Attempts
by KWS rangers to dissuade the villagers from
following the animals,” further upsetting them,
“were unheeded,” wrote Cyrus Kinyungu of The
The rangers finally shot the elephants,
but “They did not have the right guns for the
job,” a KWS spokesperson told Nixon Ng’ang’a of
the East African Standard.
Then the mob struck.
“The human hounds decided not to wait,”
Ng’ang’a wrote. “By the time the elephants
breathed their last, little of their bodies had
flesh. Rapacious villagers cruelly parceled out
chunks of meat into plastic bags from whatever
quarter their knives and pangas could cut from
creatures still resisting death from a hail of
police bulletsŠIt was a macabre feast that would
send the average animal rights crusader into
One elephant was butchered alive after
falling into an open-pit latrine.
Eventually, reported Thuo Gitu of the
East African Standard, members of the mob fell
to fighting each other for the spoils.
The hue-and-cry for hunting briefly
subsided, but resumed in early September after
six buffalo pursued by five lions crushed crops
outside Tsavo East National Park.
“The lions and buffaloes have destroyed
hundreds of acres of cow peas, bananas and
cassava,” and killed six goats, local
councillor Christopher Menza Tongoi told Walker
Mwandoto of The Nation.
Fellow councillor Ndigiria Karisa Nyiro
hinted, however, that the wildlife were only
scapegoats for a local famine caused chiefly by
political corruption. He alleged that unnamed
government officials had stolen and sold some
relief supplies, and unfairly distributed the
“Some of the proceeds [of the illegal
sales] were allegedly spent on a dais for a
minister’s entourage,” Mwandotoa wrote.
Ranching beats limits
Hunting wildlife from reserves has
limits, since hunting rapidly reduces the
alleged overpopulation of most large animals,
and even more rapidly exhausts the supply of
The most lucrative form of trophy
hunting, long established in South Africa and
Zimbabwe, fast spreading elsewhere, is to raise
target animals like livestock, to be hunted in
more-or-less natural-looking but nonetheless
securely fenced enclosures.
This is called “canned hunting,” because
the hunter is as assured of success as if he had
opened a tin to find meat. Wildlife agencies
collect permit fees and provide breeding stock
from the reserves, but otherwise have little
Traditional wildlife managers and
outfitters who escort hunters into wild habitat
typically disapprove of “canned hunts,” not
least because they are economic competition.
Many jurisdictions where traditional
hunting still has a strong constituency have
banned canned hunts, including Montana, where
challenges to an anti-canned hunt initiative
approved by the voters in November 2000 are still
coming before the courts.
Ontario natural resources minister David
Ramsay on August 16 pledged to follow the lead of
British Columbia and Manitoba in prohibiting
canned hunts, but immediately ran into
unexpectedly strong opposition.
“The ministry says there are 10 to 25
such operations across the province, and that
between 200 and 400 animals are killed annually,
but one operator says it is more like 2,000 to
5,000,” reported Richard Brennan of the Toronto
In the U.S., the Competitive Enterprise
Institute, a far-right group with strong
influence on George W. Bush administration
policies, has long urged through the subsidiary
Center for Private Conservation that wildlife
management should follow the now catastrophically
collapsed Zimbabwean model –meaning, in effect,
that wildlife agencies should exist to facilitate
canned hunts and made-for-tourism wildlife parks,
much as the USDA exists to facilitate agriculture.
Proponents of trophy hunting as the
economic mainstay for wildlife conservation have
long sold African governments on the idea that
revenue from culling problematic animals and
raising more to shoot can buy peace from the
refuge neighbors whose livestock, crops, homes,
and families may be at risk.
The “sustainable use” theory, however,
has tended to break down in practice, as
relatively little money actually reaches the
pastoralists and villagers, whose main interest
remains producing more food, for themselves and
Thandee N’wa Mhangwana of BuaNews in
Pretoria reported in June 2004 that while the
Limpopo region of South Africa attracts 63% of
the hunters who visit South Africa, “At the
moment there are less than 20 professional black
hunters (guides) in Limpopo, and no black
hunting outfitters, safari operators, or game
Limpopo recently secured CITES permission
to sell permits to kill 35 leopards. Seven
permits–20%–were allocated to poor and mostly
black communities. That left 80% still going to
outposts of the mostly Dutch-descended Afrikaner
“If black people see how big the hunting
industry is, and how much they can benefit from
it, then maybe they will join in,” opined
Limpopo hunting regulations manager Abraham
Other such efforts to expand the economic
base of hunting in South Africa are officially
encouraged. Much of the “unused” property
obtained from ranchers and redistributed to
tribes under land ownership reform schemes has
proved unsuitable for agriculture. This is
typically why the land was “unused” and available.
After about a decade of trying to farm on
a 600-hectare former game ranch at
Bambathaskraal, the Negome Community Trust
recently “signed a four-year control with the
KwaZulu-Natal Hunting and Conservation
Association,” Craig Elyot of BuaNews reported in
June 2004. The hunting organization guaranteed
the Negome trust a basic level of income plus 80%
of the accommodation revenue and 85% of the
Ngome Community Trust chair Thembinkosi
Lathe anticipated that “Hunting will create
training and jobs,” plus “income from hunting
and the byproducts of hunting, such as taxidermy
and the sale of meat.”
But whether the anticipated revenue will develop remains to be seen.
There are now as many as 10,000 game
ranches in South Africa, according to University
of Pretoria Centre for Wildlife Management
professor Kobus Bothma. Many more facilities are
raising animals to be sold to hunting venues than
actually offer opportunities to shoot them.
As of 2002, 14.6% of Eastern Cape
province was fenced to keep wildlife, and the
amount of land reserved for hunting was
increasing at about 10% per year, Port Elizabeth
Technikon agriculture and game management
department chief Pieter van Niekirk recently told
Nicky Padayachee of the Johannesburg Sunday Times.
Kobus Bothma in March 2004 reported that
19,576 wild animals were sold at 58 auctions in
2003, and that 8,900 animals were shot by
hunters in 2001.
Critics of “canned hunting” believe that there
are as many as 3,500 captive-bred lions in South
Africa available for shooting at any given time.
But fewer than 3,000 foreign hunters per
year visit South Africa–and no other nation
Exactly 876 Americans and 115 Spaniards
hunted on the Eastern Cape in 2002, van Niekirk
About 2,000 hunted in Limpopo, BuaNews added.
The Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces
together generate about half of the total hunting
revenue in South Africa. Many hunters visit
both, to be sure of bagging all the “big five”:
elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and Cape
buffalo. But this is a matter of lingering
custom, from the days when animals were chiefly
hunted in the wild. These days, many hunting
venues offer the chance to kill them all–in one
day, if the price is right.
South African hunting revenue peaked in
2000, and has fallen off since, but South
African officials blame the slump on economic
conditions rather than declining numbers of
“Fifty-five percent of our clients come
from the U.S.,” Professional Hunters Association
of South Africa chief executive Gary Davies told
Padayachee. “The rest come from Europe.”
Recent auction prices hint that the
canned hunting industry may have reached the
saturation point, especially with intensifying
competition from other nations.
Two hand-reared common duiker and 10
dassies (the South African rock hyrax subspecies)
sold for record prices at the 16th annual
Ezemvelo ZwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Authority auction
on June 11, 2004, but those are species kept
mainly for show.
As in most years, “The majority of the
animals were sold to private reserves for
dollar-denominated hunting,” Business Day
correspondent Nicola Jenvey affirmed. But
hunting demand was weak. Auction revenues were
down 42% overall.
“Several of the 30 white rhinos on
auction were withdrawn, as bidders missed the
reserve price,” Jenvey wrote.
Instead of selling whole black rhino
families, the Ezemvelo auction management
offered only three individual males. They
fetched just 13% of the record price paid several
years ago for a six-member family.
But more getting in
Despite the slumping South African
market, the Namibian cabinet in late June
ratified a June 8 preliminary decision to start a
wildlife auction. Pauline Lindeque, director of
scientific services for the Nambian Ministry of
Environment and Tourism, is to establish
criteria for making loans to encourage
freeholders and newly resettled farmers to go
into wildlife ranching.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority in 2001
created an exemption from a 1979 national ban on
hunting to allow a local firm called Game Trails
to promote hunting around the edges of Lake Mburo
“The UWA got 25% of the money, county
authorities shared 5%, and community protected
areas took 5%. It is not clear how much Game
Trails got,” wrote Alfred Wasike and Gerald
Tenya of the Kampala New Vision.
The proceeds encouraged the UWA to enter
into a parallel contract with an Austrian firm
called Zwilling Safaris, to promote hunting near
the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve in Hoima.
In April 2004 Zwilling Safaris suddenly withdrew.
“Zwilling says they have gotten a better
deal with the Congolese,” UWA executive director
Arthur Mugisha said.
But that claim came coincidental with
reports from Garamba National Park in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo that at least a
thousand of the park’s estimated 7,000 elephants
have been poached recently, while the northern
white rhino population, the last in the wild,
has been reduced to two dozen.
Garamba National Park conservation
coordinator Kes Hillman-Smith told members of the
London Zoological Society in May 2004 that
animals who have survived heavy poaching during
seven years of civil war are now further
jeopardized by the same Janjaweed militias now
terrorizing the Darfur region of Sudan. Two
forest guards and three poachers were reportedly
killed in a shootout just a few days before
Machine-gun-wielding Janjaweed have also
killed 90% of the Swayne hartebeests in Ethiopia,
Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority group
leader Minase Gashaw charged in an August 19
interview with the Addis Tribune.
Tourists normally will not visit a war
zone. Trophy hunters might, if the targets are
Thus the government of Nepal recently
served notice that it intends to vigorously
encourage whatever market can be developed for
hunting captive-reared Himalayan species. A new
Nepalese Wildlife Farming, Reproduction and
Research policy issued in May 2004 authorizes
ranching barking deer, spotted deer, black
buck, sambar, hog deer, wild boar, antelope,
gharial crocodiles, and five species of
pheasant, including the Impeyan pheasant–the
Permits for commercially breeding rhesus
macaques, snakes, and vultures had already been
issued. The macaques are being raised for export
to laboratories, in collaboration with the
University of Washington Regional Primate
The snakes are raised for medicinal use,
including both the production of antivenins and
traditional remedies made from snake remains.
The vultures are apparently being bred in
anticipation of a market for captive birds to
facilitate “sky burial” by Parsees and others
whose traditional disposal of human remains has
been jeopardized by the declining Indian vulture
The government of King Gyanendra Bir
Bikram Dev, an enthusiastic hunter and
practitioner of animal sacrifice, rushed the
Wildlife Farming, Reproduction and Research
policy into effect by ordinance decree.
“Parliament is dissolved and the country
is reeling under political uncertainty,” noted
Environmental News Service correspondent Deepak
Nepal has been battling a Maoist insurrection
since 1996. The fighting has recently displaced
between 100,000 and 200,000 people, according to
the Norwgian Refugee Council.
Non-consumptive wildlife tourism provides
more employment to host communities than hunting,
where well-developed, but the profits come from
attracting and accommodating relatively large
numbers of visitors.
The economic attraction of hunting is
that it provides quick infusions of cash with
relatively little investment required in
infrastructure. Building a profitable
eco-tourism venue, by contrast, can be slow.
The Khama Rhino Sanctuary at Paje village
in Serowe, Botswana, began restoring rhinos and
other species to former ranch land in 1999.
Starting with four rhinos, it now has 29, 16 of
them born on site. It employs 23 people from
nearby villages, sanctuary manager Moremi Tjibae
recently told Meekaeel M. Siphambili of The
Reporter in Gaborone.
Like many attempts to develop ecotourism,
the Khama Rhino Sanctuary has relied for start-up
capital on nonprofit support.
“Donors cannot fund the project forever,”
Tjibae said. “We are living from hand to mouth,
but we manage to pay our staff even though we are
left with nothing afterward. Since 2000 we have
been paying our staff from tourist fees,” Tjibae
The open question for eco-tourism
promoters is whether their market, like the
hunting market, will become saturated.
Opportunities to view rhinos in the
semi-wild have rapidly increased in recent years,
for example, even as authentic wilderness has
Nigeria joined the already intense
competition for rhino-watchers in late August
2004 by agreeing to purchase black rhinos,
giraffes, zebras, kuku, impalas, and kori
bustards from Namibia to replenish the depleted
Yankari Game Reserve.
South African National Parks meanwhile
expanded its attractions by releasing four white
rhinos into Mapungubwe National Park. Mapungubwe
has not been rhino habitat within recent memory,
but archaeological diggings in the area have
turned up a 2,000-year-old gold rhino and various
other indications that rhinos were nearby as long
as 15,000 years ago, according to Dirk Nel of
The park is a component of the Greater
Limpopo/Shashe Transfrontier Park, also
including Kruger National Park, Limpopo National
Park in Mozambique, the Tuli Block of Botswana,
and the Tuli Safari region of Zimbabwe and South
Almost simultaneous with the Mapungubwe
rhino introduction, Limpopo National Park
administrator Gilberto Vicente declared that
formerly flagrant poaching in the Mozambiquan
part of the Transfrontier Park is now under
control, and authorized the release of 10 white
More than 3,000 animals imported from
South Africa have been introduced to Limpopo
National Park altogether, according to the
Mozambique Information Agency, and another 3,000
are to be added by 2008.
Vicente called the poaching problem
history only five weeks after another Limpopo
National Park senior official, Zenio Macamero,
charged that police corruption has undercut
wildlife law enforcement.
Macamero accused local police of
releasing poachers caught in the act due to an
alleged lack of evidence, even when wildlife
wardens have seized weapons, rhino horn, and
the meat from endangered animals.
The Mozambique Information Agency press
release about the rhino introduction concluded
with a hint of a further problem looming: “Plans
are also underway to remove the people living in
the park and resettle them. Resettlement is due
to begin in 2005, and last for about five years.”
This may not be popular among poor
Africans whose chief grievance for decades has
been that their forebears were cheated of their
ancestral homelands by colonialists, leaving
them to scratch out meager livings on the worst
soil, with the least water.
South Africa in recent years has settled
some long smouldering land disputes by deeding
over some government holdings to regional tribal
governments, including portions of nature
reserves. But the legions of landless South
Africans are growing faster than the human
population, as private landowners join the rush
to game ranching.
“Turning farms into game preserves means
moving farm laborers to make way for antelopes,
rhinos, and lions,” summarized New York Times
writer Michael Wines. “Post-apartheid South
Africa has been beset by poisonous disputes
between white farmers and black tenants who have
staked claims to the land. Many farm workers
simply resist movingŠSome experts ruminate that
farmers have set up game preserves expressly to
force contentious black tenants off their farms.”
Resentment over such tactics eventually
erupted into land occupations in Zimbabwe.
Pastoralists in Kenya have repeatedly driven
their herds into nature reserves during the
droughts of recent years, in militant defiance
of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
On August 15, 2004, the 100th
anniversary of the signing of the treaty with
Britain that legally evicted the Masai from the
Rift Valley of Kenya, Masai activists invaded
ranches in the Laikipia district. Riot police
shot one man dead and arrested more than 100
people, enforcing the landholders’ property
rights for the moment.
But the struggle over land is likely to
intensify. Many landholders see introducing
canned hunts as their best hope for keeping the
land. Many conservationists see game ranching
rather than traditional tribal herding as the
preferable option for maintaining wildlife
habitat. Both factions encourage pastoralists
and subsistence farmers to join their clamor that
wildlife should be hunted.
Diverting anger and frustration
originating with poverty and misery toward
animals instead of wealthy landholders is, thus
far, a successful survival strategy for the
landholders. But wildlife will lose no matter
who wins the political struggle.