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New research says trophy hunting endangers South Africa’s tourism industry

New research has revealed that South African citizens and international tourists want to see an end to trophy hunting, in favour of wildlife-friendly experiences. This comes as South Africa opens-up consultation on its draft Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity white paper.

World Animal Protection commissioned research into public attitudes towards trophy hunting, surveying 10,900 people from around the world, including international tourists from countries who most frequently visit South Africa, and South African citizens. It revealed universally strong opposition to the blood sport and a desire to finance the protection of the nation’s iconic wildlife through non-lethal alternatives such as responsible wildlife tourism.

The key findings from the research revealed:

*84% of international tourists agree that the South African government should prioritise wildlife-friendly tourism over trophy hunting

*74% of international tourists agreed that making trophy hunting a key pillar of policy will damage South Africa’s reputation, and 72% would be put off from visiting the country altogether

*7 in 10 South African citizens agree their country would be a more attractive tourist destination if they banned trophy hunting

*Three quarters (74%) of South African citizens agree that trophy hunting is unacceptable when wildlife-friendly tourism alternatives have not been fully utilised.

Nick Stewart, Global Head of Campaigns for Wildlife at World Animal Protection said:
“The white paper seeks to create a prosperous nation, living in harmony with nature where biodiversity is conserved for present and future generations, this is a great start. But it falls short on clarity or tangible commitments to end global commercial wildlife trade, which includes captive lion breeding, the use of big cats for traditional medicine and trophy hunting.

“The Republic of South Africa needs to take decisive action to move towards a more wildlife friendly future. It’s not too late for them to grasp the opportunity to make a clear stand, by fully embracing non-lethal wildlife-friendly alternatives, including responsible wildlife tourism, which is clearly what international tourists and local people are seeking. It’s time to make public, time bound commitments, starting with killing off trophy hunting – for good.”

Edith Kabesiime, Wildlife Campaign Manager (Africa) at World Animal Protection said:
“The life of a wild animal is worth so much more than the trophy it is too often reduced to. This is the shared view of tourists, who want to visit the country to see wildlife alive and thriving, and of South Africans who want to see the incredible wildlife on their doorstep, protected properly, in a humane and ethical manner.

“The government needs to listen to South African voices who clearly don’t want their wildlife heritage plundered any further and want to see change. Continuing to make wild animals shoot-to-kill targets at the mercy of wealthy westerners is outdated in a world where public attitudes are swiftly shifting.

“Without taking a firm stand, South Africa is starving the oxygen from creative thinking to identify, incentivize and implement non-lethal alternatives to conserve Africa’s iconic wildlife. Wildlife has the right to a wild life free from cruel commercial exploitation; we need to respect and protect them.”

World Animal Protection welcomed the decision from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment of South Africa in May 2021, when new measures to halt the domestication of captive lions, as well as the phasing out of the commercial captive lion industry was announced. Yet this progressive step has stalled, with little progress taking place in the year that has followed.

The development of wildlife-friendly tourism and the removal of wildlife exploitation like trophy hunting and captive lion breeding, has the potential to enhance South Africa’s international reputation as a global leader for wildlife-friendly experiences. It would reposition the country as an even more competitive destination of choice for responsible travellers and tour operators.

World Animal Protection is now calling for the Republic of South Africa to:

Reject cruel, lethal practices such as trophy hunting as a default approach to sustainable development and conservation.

Make a public commitment to end trophy hunting.

Invest in other non-lethal economic alternatives, including wildlife-friendly tourism instead.

World Animal Protection is asking the public to add their voice to the 60-day public consultation on the white paper and demand a genuine wildlife friendly future for South Africa.

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  • Lions are a special case. Wild lions are protected in South Africa and very few wild born lions come up for hunting – about ten per year, mainly escapees from reserves or farm stock-killers.
    The cheaper option is to hunt farm-born lions released to be hunted as ferals. Most provinces require feral lions to be self supporting in at least 2000 acres before they can be legally hunted, otherwise it is illegal. Hunting grounds have to be fenced by law – you can’t have lions running around the country. You can’t take an illegal lion trophy home because you won’t have a CITES certificate, export or import permit.
    Lion farming is not hunting. It is farming lions. Lion farmers sell lions to anyone who wants them, just like any other livestock. They are sold to petting parks, private zoos and reserves, hunters, taxidermists and also the makers of traditional medicines at home and abroad. Many are sold to hunting companies – about 100 feral lions are hunted for every wild-born lion that is hunted.
    There is an existing demand for lions estimated to be about 1500 per year. Without lions farming, that demand will fall upon South Africa’s 2500 wild lions in the reserves. Lion farming therefore protects the wild stock from poaching. I hope this information helps.
    I am not a hunter – my interest is in rural economics and the voice of rural Africans.

  • More silly PR from another charity intercepting donations that would be better spent in Africa. Of course people don’t like the idea of killing for fun. Its a stupid question. You already know the answer.
    All wild animals trophy hunted in South Africa are subsequently eaten. Nothing is wasted. The hunting grounds are 40 million acres of private farms that raise wild animals for hunting and meat in almost natural bush. Over a million animals are shot every year, but some three million are born, so unlike further north, ALL of the wild animals are increasing in number. If you stop the hunting, especially trophy hunting, cattle become more profitable for the farmers, who will simply clear the land of all wildlife and raise cattle instead. They have to make a living.
    If farmers could make a living through photo tourism, they would, but it is impossible. There are not enough tourists to support South Africa’s 22 National Reserves (where animals are not hunted), so how would you support an extras 40 million acres???
    A ban on trophy hunting might cause farmers to clear more than half of the land for cattle. So, if you ban trophy hunting, you will lose at least twenty million acres of wild animals. Is that what you want?
    Twenty million acres pf animals produce a lot of meat, that’s why rural Africans like trophy hunters – trophy hunters create jobs, pay for the animals and take only trophies, leaving the meat for the locals. A ban will deprive rural Africans of jobs, income and meat, without any alternatives.
    Now ask the correct question. Do you want to kill 20 million acres of wild animals and starve hundreds of Africans?

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