Trophy hunting is, unfortunately, a pastime shared by a number of people, and one which is unlikely to fall by the wayside any time soon. It has long been a thorn in the side of conservationists, as not all trophy hunters care about laws, like the dentist who shot Cecil the Lion last year, an individual animal who was legally protected.
But according to conservationists, there may be a good side to trophy hunting of species like lions: it can actually benefit conservation. In the case of lions, they need very large territories, which are hard to maintain, but they are also increasingly only found in protected areas. This means that lions are on their way to being a species that only exists because of careful conservation, and maintaining populations is an important part of that conservation.
A study by researchers from the University of Kent has found that hunting companies that are granted hunting rights within preserves for long periods of time—for example, 10 years or more—take much more care in how they manage that land. They are more careful about how often they allow hunts and what kind of limits they allow, all of which fall under national guidelines in places like Zimbabwe. Companies that had rights for shorter periods of time were less concerned with conservation.
The research team says that by carefully using incentives and hunting rights contracts, preserves could actually use trophy-hunting culture to the advantage of lions. It is cheaper to manage the territory needed, and the animal populations are kept in check, so that lions don’t over-hunt other species in the preserves, or drive each other out of the preserves in search of food sources.
Of course, this kind of management would require some rewriting of contracts, but that seems a small price to pay.
What do you think? Is it possible for trophy hunters to actually help conservation efforts, as the researchers argue? Please share your thoughts in the comments.