In a landmark victory for African conservation, Great Britain is set to ban the importation of hunting trophies, including endangered and threatened species. The move forms part of a wider commitment by the UK government drive to place a greater focus on international conservation.
The new measures announced by UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice, plan to place a blanket ban on importing hunting trophies from thousands of endangered and threatened species, including lions, rhinos, elephants, and polar bears.
According to a UK government press release, “the new ban will apply to imports of hunting trophies from endangered and threatened animals into Great Britain, supporting long-term species conservation and protecting some of the world’s most endangered and threatened animals.”
These include the frequently killed ‘Big Five’ African animals, the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.
The previous five decades have seen a 60% decline in global wildlife populations, according to the press release.
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The ban, seen as one of the toughest in the world, will protect a range of species including nearly 6 000 animals that are currently threatened by international trade, both legal and illegal.
It will also include well over a thousand additional species which are considered near-threatened or worse, such as African buffalo, zebra and reindeer. This goes further than the Government’s initial manifesto commitment to prohibit the import of hunting trophies from endangered species.
The British public was asked to respond to the following points:
introducing a ban for certain species.
stricter requirements for moving certain species.
introducing a ban on all hunting trophies.
doing nothing (continuing with internationally agreed rules).
The government consulted on this ban in 2019 and received over 44 000 responses which showed clear public and conservation group support for tighter restrictions with 86% supporting further action which ultimately will lead to the tabling of a complete ban on the importation of all hunting trophies to the UK.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that “more animal species are now threatened with extinction than ever before in human history and we are appalled at the thought of hunters bringing back trophies and placing more pressure on some of our most iconic and endangered animals.
“This would be one of the toughest bans in the world, and goes beyond our manifesto commitment, meaning we will be leading the way in protecting endangered animals and helping to strengthen and support long-term conservation.”
Eduardo Gonçalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting said in response that “the government’s bill looks set to be the strongest ban in the world. This is the leadership that we have been calling for to save endangered species and help bring this terrible trade to an end.”
Dr Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of Humane Society International/Africa said: “A UK’s hunting trophy import ban would send a clear message that first-world countries are turning their backs on this sick trade. Killing wild animals simply to adorn homes as souvenirs is simply unacceptable.
“Studies show that trophy hunting does not aid conservation or uplift communities as hunters have claimed – it is nothing but a sad PR spin to cover an indefensible act. We welcome this commitment by the UK government and applaud them for ending their involvement in the destruction of some of our most endangered and threatened species. We urge the UK government to introduce and implement the bill soonest”.
An October 2018 research paper titled ‘The Economic Impact of Trophy Hunting in the South African Wildlife Industry’ conducted by Melville Saayman, Petrus van der Merwe and Andrea Saayman found that the annual amount spent by trophy hunters in South Africa is an estimated $250 million (R4 billion).
Using multiplier analysis based on the Social Account Matrix (SAM) of South Africa, the research also revealed that trophy hunting contributes more than $341 million (R5.4 billion) to the South African economy and that it supports more than 17 000 employment opportunities. The agricultural sector benefits the most, holding important implications for rural development and poverty alleviation in the country.