A leading SADC safari hunting company that has so far spent over US$3,2 million to support wildlife conservation and socio-economic development in Tanzania has appealed to the British Government to discontinue the Trophy Hunting Imports Ban Bill saying it will harm African people and wildlife.
“Does the UK Government really want to destroy those human lives, let alone the wildlife in these conservancies?” said Mr Robin Hurt of Robin Hurt Safaris, in his appeal asking the British Government to stop the wildlife-harming trophy hunting imports ban Bill.
“Safari hunting is a legal and much-valued industry in African countries that allow it, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, South Africa and Mozambique.
Namibia alone has over 80 community wildlife conservation projects, all managed by indigenous peoples; that depend 100 percent on safari hunting revenue.”
Mr Hurt’s appeal comes ahead of the 18 March 2022 British parliamentarians’ vote on the second reading of the animal rights groups fundraising industry-sponsored private members’ Bill to ban trophy hunting imports into the UK, including Africa’s big five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo).
Mr Hurt has, like other safari hunting companies operating in Africa, continued to use international hunting revenue to support wildlife and habitat conservation, including socio-economic development in hunting communities.
“I chose to support wildlife and habitat conservation, anti-poaching as well as socio-economic development in Tanzania’s hunting communities where we operate,” he said.
“Since 2006 we have built 37 schools, 75 teachers’ houses, 28 medical dispensaries, 34 village government offices, 19 wells and water pumps, nine water storage tanks and five water pipe lines.”
Born in Britain, Mr Hurt who celebrates his 59th season as a full-time professional hunter this year and also his 77th birthday; has lived his whole life in Africa.
Although he has British blood, he is “African at heart” and considers himself African. Robin Hurt Safaris Tanzania is now being run and managed by his sons, Derek and Roger.
“My sons are both professional hunters who continue enthusiastically with my conservation ideals,” said Mr Hurt.
The Robin Hurt Safaris supports key wildlife and habit conservation as well as community socio-economic projects that include anti-poaching activities such as the collection of steel snares, supporting community game guards, building classrooms, community health programme, bee-keeping, village community banks and education improvement activities.
Mr Hurt said that one of the most important parts of “our anti-poaching efforts is the removal and destruction” of steel snare lines.
“These snares are hugely destructive to wildlife numbers,” he said. “Although the snares are set to catch buffalo and antelope, numerous predators get killed as well. Additionally, elephant and rhino occasionally get maimed by these snares.
We estimate that each snare kills an average of five animals annually. Since 1986 we have destroyed approximately 60 000 snares. This has saved the lives of approximately 300 000 animals.”
“Robin Hurt, who in my long years in conservation, is probably the single most committed conservationist I know,” said Mr Wilfried Pabst, a German who operates in Zimbabwe’s Sango Conservancy and who has made an immense contribution to wildlife conservation that includes the translocation of 100 elephants using his personal finances.
If implemented, the British Government trophy imports hunting ban Bill would destroy not only the wildlife and habitat conservation gains that Mr Hurt has supported for the past 59 years as a professional hunter; but would also crush the socio-economic development hopes of African hunting communities.
“This ban is an ‘excellent’ idea if destroying our wildlife is what the UK Government has in mind”, said Mr Pabst who warns the British Government that “it is a form of neo-colonialism” if it proceeds with the Bill without conducting site visits to African hunting communities and also without consulting African politicians, chiefs, rural councils, and the local population.
Meanwhile, over 100 leading wildlife scientists and conservationists worldwide, this month wrote an open letter to the British Government warning it against introducing the trophy imports ban Bill because it takes away both the revenue and incentives to conserve African wildlife.
“Although supporters of trophy hunting import bans claim such legislation will save African animals, these bans will ultimately achieve the exact opposite, resulting in unprecedented rates of habitat loss, with consequent wildlife depletion,” said President of African Professional Hunters Association, Mr Mike Angelides.
CITES allows the hunting of all wildlife, including endangered wildlife, as long as it’s not harmful to the hunted population, and acknowledges hunting as a necessary wildlife management tool. Hunting doesn’t have a detrimental impact on wildlife, as only 0.5-3 percent of the population is hunted.
Despite knowing that CITES allows the hunting of endangered species as a scientific method to successfully manage wildlife, a British newspaper based in London, The Times, this month, chose to demonise hunting and mislead the public in an article written by Ms Judi Dench and Mr Peter Egan.
“…British hunters are shooting endangered animals in growing numbers,” they said in an attempt to mislead the ignorant world to think that international hunting of endangered species is illegal.
Elsewhere, observers say that it’s hypocritical and dictatorial for the UK to allow hunting domestically while seeking to prohibit hunting trophy imports.
The Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa said in a recent statement that such double standards undermine the human rights of millions of its members, threaten their livelihoods and disrespect the SADC region’s unparalleled conservation success.
“So it seems, unfortunately, that Africa is facing a new kind of racism – one where one life is worth much more than another,” said CEO of the Operators and Professional Hunting Association of Africa, Ms Danene van der Westhuyzen.
The Times’ Ms Dame Judi Dench and Mr Egan’s demonisation of international hunting has been questioned.
They said without quoting a single villager from African countries where hunting takes place: “Some of their operations are multi-million-pound businesses, yet villagers say they receive no benefits from them.”
“Why is The Times set on demonising the legal Safari Hunting Industry?” asks Mr Hurt. “It (legal hunting) is a means of funding the expensive stewardship of wilderness and wildlife outside of protected areas – and importantly funds local communities that co-exist with wild animals and justly have the right to earn revenue for setting aside lands for wildlife habitation. Furthermore, it funds anti-poaching programmes.”
Mr Hurt said that contrary to The Times’ misrepresentation of international hunting benefits, there is enough evidence on the ground in African hunting communities to illustrate the benefits of hunting.
“The wildlife hunting revenue-built Masoka Secondary School in Zimbabwe, has so far produced two medical doctors and more doctors and professionals will be produced in the future,” said a Masoka wildlife hunting community representative, Mr Ishmael Chaukura.
“The school also produced accountants, teachers, nurses, technicians and engineers, etc. Wildlife revenue enables children born into poverty to escape from it; through education.
These hunting benefits make us appreciate the need to conserve wildlife and its habitat.”
International hunting benefits have impressively made Namibia’s Anabeb Conservancy residents switch from the tradition of using their land for cattle production to safari hunting. Their attitude to wildlife has changed positively.
“I remember poaching a big kudu for meat,” said chairman of Namibia’s Anabeb Conservancy, Mr Ovehi Kasaona.
“My friends were also poachers for meat, including my father and grandfather. My uncle even poached for rhino horn sale. In the past when we saw wildlife, we saw meat for the pot.
Now we are associating wildlife with tourism businesses such as lodges that we have built, using money from wildlife hunting. This has created employment for people who work at the lodges and those involved with game drives.”
Africans are known not to ever conserve wildlife as long as they don’t benefit from it – they would rather poach it.
Therefore, it remains to be seen whether or not the British government will go ahead with a Bill that takes away these never-seen-before international hunting benefits and in the process add to the list of the British’s bad legacy of colonialism in Africa – the needless destruction of Africa’s wildlife and its habitat.
“Great Britain has a dark past of colonisation, exploitation, slavery and the cause of a litany of sadness across our continent (Africa),” said Mr Paul Stones who runs Paul Stones Safaris and hunts in Mozambique and South Africa.
“Africa is tired of being treated like the mongrels (dogs of no definable type or breed) of the world, by what are regarded as ‘first world’ countries. The Covid-19 pandemic was proof enough of this.”
Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning independent environmental journalist who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.