Why hunting can’t save African wildlife
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2005:
NAIROBI–Used to fighting heavily armed Somali poachers who
strike Tsavo National Park from the northeast, Kenya Wildlife
Service wardens found themselves under fire from a different
direction near Lake Jipe on January 21 when they ordered a battered
blue Toyota pickup truck to stop.
Hauling two eland carcasses, the truck appeared to be
engaged in routine bush meat trafficking. Bush meat traffickers
rarely risk their lives in shootouts. They tend to try bribery
first, then pay a small fine and perhaps spend a few days in jail.
But this time the wardens’ vehicle was quickly disabled by a
.404 slug from an elephant gun. The wardens shot back.
“Two middle-aged poachers died on the spot. Three made a
hasty escape through the scrubland, leaving their bloody cargo and a
shotgun behind,” Kenya Wildlife Service deputy director for wildlife
security Peter Leitoro told Edward Indakwa and Evelyne Ogutu of the
East African Standard.
The dead poachers were identified as Tanzanians. Tanzania,
like Kenya, has abundant wildlife–or recently did. Hunting there
is legal. In all of Africa, only South Africa has a bigger hunting
industry than Tanzania, now that land invasions have occupied many
of the biggest Zimbabwean hunting ranches.
Why, Indakwa and Ogutu asked, would Tanzanians shoot
wildlife in Kenya?
“Tanzania has stiffer penalties,” returned Leitoro. “They
interpret poaching as an economic crime, and put poachers away for 15
to 20 years. Here, poachers face maybe six months, with the option
of a fine.”
Added Kenya Wildlife Service director Julius Kipng’etich,
“We must harmonise wildlife policies and laws, and strengthen
That could be taken as either an endorsement of reintroducing
hunting to Kenya, which could complicate identifying poachers from a
distance, since their weapons and possession of carcasses would no
longer be giveaways, or of persuading Tanzania to close a booming
hunting industry which is actively promoted by USAid.
While contemplating the meaning of the Tanzanian incursion,
the Kenya Wildlife Service also faced the necessity of bringing to
justice one of their own, alleged renegade ranger Hassan Diba
“He was denied bail and remanded in custody after denying
that he had been involved in any illicit activity when he was
detained at the Lewa Ranch on January 18,” Agence France Presse
reported. “Konsicha, who was with an apparent group of poachers,
was arrested on the ranch after a firefight with KWS rangers and
police, during which another unidentified KWS ranger, also
suspected of illegal hunting, was killed.”
Lewa Ranch, a private wildlife breeding facility that works
with the Kenya Wildlife Service, had lost at least 10 white rhinos
to poachers since mid-2003. After Konsicha was arrested, six white
rhinos from Lewa Ranch were trucked to nearby Meru National Park,
whose rhinos were extirpated by poaching in 1989. Mukora, the sole
survivor of a raid that killed five of the last six Meru white
rhinos, was evacuated in 1990 but returned to Meru in 2001,
followed by nine other white rhinos who were moved from Lake Nakuru
National Park in 2003.
Pro-hunting Kenyan landowners argue that a legal hunting
industry would increase the value of wildlife, encouraging stronger
wildlife law enforcement. Proceeds from hunting would help to hire
wardens, who would be well enough paid to discourage corruption.
Using that argument, with support from USAid, Safari Club
International, and the African Wildlife Foundation, the pro-hunting
faction sneaked a hunting reauthorization bill through Parliament in
2004, vetoed on the last day of the year by President Emilio Mwai
Kibaki. The pro-hunters vowed to return with a renewed effort, and
But Kenya has enforced a shoot-to-kill policy in the past
against elephant and rhino poachers, who are often guerillas linked
to the Al Qaida and Hamas militias.
Kenya has historically been much more tolerant of indigenous
poachers and wildlife traffickers. Some of the wealthiest and most
influential Kenyans have been among the most flagrant offenders. The
family of first Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta, for example,
reputedly expanded their fortune enormously during the 1970s by
selling ivory stolen from the national stockpiles.
Countless other Kenyan politicians know that bushmeat
poachers, traffickers, vendors, and their families vote. They
might not economically benefit from operating hunting ranches, but
are people for whom legal hunting would provide invaluable cover.
Indeed, data published in 2004 by the David Sheldrick
Wildlife Trust demonstrates that authorizing “cropping” of ranched
wildlife in 1990 has already provided cover for poaching that has
reduced the Kenyan wildlife inventory by up to 60%. Anti-snaring
patrols fielded by the Sheldrick Trust and Youth for Conservation
removed nearly 15,000 snares from Kenyan national parks in 2004 alone.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust director Daphne Sheldrick estimates
that poachers kill as many as 300,000 animals per year in Tsavo
National Park alone, whose animal population at any given time is
about 800,000. Most of the snared animals are small species such as
dik dik antelope and rock hyrax, but poachers also killed at least
150 elephants and 33 black rhinos in 2004, Sheldrick recently told
Luke Mulunda of the East African Standard. Storm Stanley of The
Nation saw snares used to kill three giraffes and a cheetah during a
day spent with a desnaring team in Tsavo.
National parks throughout Africa are under similar siege.
The 5,200-square-mile Odzala-Kokoua national park in the Congo
Republic is defended by just 30 rangers, Agence France-Press
reported on February 3. They made 30 arrests in 2004, seizing 37
sets of elephant tusks and 20 firearms. Twenty thousand elephants
roamed the park a decade ago. How many remain is anyone’s guess.
A decade ago African conservationists dreamed of creating
international “peace parks” along national frontiers, which would
combine the functions of no-man’s-land and tourist magnets. The
prototype was to be the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, linking
South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
But that was before 2000, when the shaky Robert Mugabe
regime in Zimbabwe sought to prop itself up by encouraging landless
“war veterans” to invade farms.
The Zimbabwe Independent, published in defiance of Mugabe
regime efforts to suppress dissent, reported on February 4 that
“Donors are withholding funds for the Great Limpopo Transfrontier
Park until Zimbabwe restores the rule of law.” The Independent
understands that Germany has already donated five million euros to
both South Africa and Mozambique for infrastructure developments,
but flatly refused to bankroll the Zimbabwean side,” the report
continued. The World Bank, European Union, and nonprofit
conservation groups are withholding funds from Zimbabwe until the
Mugabe regime removes squatters from Gonarezhou National Park, the
Indep-endent added, citing anonymous “well-placed” sources.
Gonarezhou was to be a key part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier
“The Independent understands that government has resettled
about 750 families on 11,000 hectares inside Gonarezhou,” the report
Hunting ranches promise quicker cash returns to politicians than
protecting wild habitat–and readers of the government-run Harare
Herald might have judged from reports published on January 18 and
February 7 that trophy hunting is booming, if they did not know the
current exchange rates.
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director general
Morris Mutsambiwa projected in the first article that trophy hunting
would bring $5.8 million in U.S. dollars to Zimbabwe during 2005,
and blamed shortfalls on hunting promoters trying to evade taxation.
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority public relations
manager Edward Mbewe said in the second article that Zimbab-we
collected $12 billion from hunters in 2004.
If Zimbabwean currency was worth as much against the U.S.
dollar on February 7 as on January 18, actual Zimbabwean hunting
revenues for 2004 were about $2 million U.S., about a third as much
as Mutsambiwa hoped to take in for 2005. In the interim, however,
the Zimbabwean dollar crashed from 6,057 per U.S. dollar to 11,500
per U.S. dollar, so $12 billion in Zimbabwean money came to barely
more than $1 million U.S.
Zimbabwean trophy hunting revenues in 2004 included $12,000
from Virginia taxpayers, Louis Hansen of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot
disclosed on February 2.
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries board chair
Daniel L. Hoffler, department director William L. Woodfin Jr., and
deputies Michael Caison and Terry Bradberry “acknowledged that they
spent at least $12,000 in taxpayer money on luggage, equipment and
clothing for their 17-day trip” to Zimbabwe in September 2004,
Hansen wrote. “The men initially had sought to have the state pay
for the [entire] safari, but that request was turned down. Hoffler,”
a developer, “said he personally spent more than $40,000 to fund the
trip,” Hansen added.
Hoffler pledged that the $12,000 would be refunded to the
Whistleblower complaints about the safari prompted State
Internal Auditor Merritt L. Cogswell to audit spending by several of
the men involved for the third time in three years. A November 2002
audit “rebuked Woodfin for costly and questionable purchases
including high-end shotguns,” Hansen wrote.
A second audit a year later found that Caison “used state
equipment for his private catering business and was paid to cater
several agency events,” Hansen summarized. “The report also found
that Caison violated a state policy against carrying alcohol in
government vehicles, which could have resulted in dismissal.
Instead,” in an outcome echoing Zimbabwean wildlife management
practices, Caison was promoted from captain to major one year after
the report was issued.”
Among the many African nations seeking to lure the trophy
hunters who no longer brave Zimbabwe, Namibia may have been most
aggressive. Now third behind South Africa and Tanzania in hunting
revenue, Namibia won permission from the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species in November 2004 to auction the rights to
shoot five endangered black rhinos per year, expected to fetch
$200,000 U.S. per head, and is soon to auction 18 hunting
concessions on state land, the most it has offered ever.
The rhino auction will be watched especially closely in
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where Ezemvelo Nature Reserve wildlife
chief in February 2005 called for public hearings on introducing
But Namibian minister of environment and tourism Philemon
Malima in February 2005 warned the general meeting of the Namibia
Professional Hunters Association that populations of African lions,
buffalo, and black-faced impala are struggling.
The U.S.-based Goldman Found-ation has recently funded
agencies called Integrated Rural Development & Nature Conservation
and the Human Animal Conserv-ancy Conflict Compensation Scheme to pay
villagers in the Caprivi and Kuene regions of Namibia for losses and
injuries suffered as result of wildlife. Similar to the
Defenders of Wildlife practice of compensating ranchers in the
Yellowstone region for losses of livestock to wolves and grizzly
bears, the Goldman-backed schemes have already paid several dozen
claims resulting from depredations by lions, buffalo, elephants,
Zambia, slower to pursue hunters who used to go to Zimbabwe,
has been trying to catch up by allocating land rights in official
Game Management Areas to foreigners with the capital to develop
hunting concessions. This has occasioned concern from Zambia
Wildlife Authority managing director Hapenga Kabeta and Zambia Land
Alliance coordinator Henry Muchina, reported Nomusa Maunga of the
Lusaka Post on February 15.
“This is causing conflict,” Kabeta said. “It’s a tragedy
for our future, because wildlife is our last heritage.”
Added Muchina, “We need to come up with a policy which looks
at the interested parties to benefit both the poor and the rich.”
That is the perennial crux of the African wildlife management
problem. Because the rich have often preached conservation while
exploiting wildlife, the poor tend to grab what they can, when they
can, before someone stronger makes off with it.
Thus a mob fought over the remains of a roadkilled
hippopotamus on February 22, 2005, near Kenyatta University in
Nairobi. When police organized a line for those who wished to take
meat, half of those who joined the line and waited reportedly got
In such an atmosphere, the work of conservationists can
amount to little more than game-scouting for poachers, especially if
they run out of money for hiring local help.
For example, Arcadia University professors Gail W. Hearn, a
biologist, and Wayne A. Morra, an economist, founded the the Bioko
Biodiversity Protection Program in 1997 to protect the wildlife of
the Gran Caldera de Luba, an ancient volcanic crater in Equatorial
Guinea. The Bioko region was noted for relatively abundant
populations of drills and red colubus monkeys.
Hearn and Morra “encountered few traces of hunting in the
last six years,” recounted Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Andrew
Maykuth on January 15, 2005, but on their winter 2005 trip “found
signs of a shooting spree” and only two-thirds as many monkeys of all
six resident species as a year ago.
“The hunting appeared to have occurred since May,” continued
Maykuth, who accompanied Hearn and Morra, “when the Bioko program
laid off 12 forest monitors, leaving the caldera unguarded.”
In an earlier report Maykuth mentioned that “Hearn turned
over responsibility for the forest monitors to Conservation
International. But CI was unable to raise funds for the forest
guards and said it preferred to focus on encouraging Equatorial
Guinea to protect its own forests.” Conservation International in
the most recent fiscal year for which IRS Form 990 is available had
$59 million in cash and securities reserves, plus $261 million in
If rich conservation groups will not fund on-the-ground
protection of endangered monkeys, it is possible that fear of
gruesomely and inevitably fatal Ebola virus will eventually instill
avoidance of bushmeat–but the combination of hunting pressure,
habitat loss, and disease, including Ebola, could meanwhile
exterminate many of the rarest species.
Wildlife Conservation Society researchers Pierre Rouquet,
William Karesh, and nine co-authors reported in the February 2005
edition of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that all recent
Ebola outbreaks among humans in Gabon and the Republic of Congo
resulted from handling infected wild animal carcasses.
“The paper provides definitive proof that Ebola moves from
wildlife to humans through the consumption or handling of bushmeat,”
summarized John Delaney of the Wildlife Conservation Society in a
posting to the ProMed electronic bulletin board maintained by the
Society for Infectious Diseases.
“Specifically, the researchers found that Ebola infections
in wild animals such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and occasionally
duikers, a diminutive antelope species, cross the human/wildlife
divide through hunters taking either sick animals or carcasses for
meat. Hunters then spread the disease to families and hospital
workers,” Delaney explained.