This week marked 5 years since “Cecil the Lion” was hunted in Zimbabwe. As a result there has been increasing media attention to trophy hunting – largely calls from animal rights organisations for it to be banned (see for example https://www.bornfree.org.uk/ban-trophy-hunting).

SULi recognises that poorly regulated trophy hunting can be a threat to local populations of some species. And indeed the IUCN Red List points to this danger for lions and leopards in particular. However, the Red List also highlights that trophy hunting is not a major threat to any hunted species at the global level – the major threats are habitat loss, human wildlife conflict, prey base depletions and poaching. Trophy hunting has also demonstrated proven conservation value for many species, through protecting habitat and incentivising landowners to protect (or at least tolerate)  hunted species. There is a danger that removing trophy hunting, without providing a viable alternative revenue stream, could actually exacerbate these far larger threats rather than improve the conservation status of hunted species.

SULi member Amy Dickman, director of the Ruaha Carnivore Project,  discusses these issues in a recent Mongabay podcast, along with Maxi Louis from the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations (NACSO) and Iris Ho from Humane Society International: https://news.mongabay.com/2020/07/podcast-five-years-after-the-death-of-cecil-the-lion-trophy-hunting-debate-rages-on/

The UK Government is currently considering a ban on the imports of hunting trophies. Dilys Roe and Amy Dickman recently discussed the implications of this ban with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Shooting and Conservation. You can view the presentation here: https://www.slideshare.net/IIEDslides/informing-the-debate-on-trophy-hunting

Our recommendations to the UK Government remain the same as those set out in a briefing paper SULi produced on behalf of IUCN in 2016 when the banning of trophy hunting imports was first discussed. This recommended that any decisions that could restrict or end trophy hunting programmes are:

  1. based on careful and sound analysis and understanding of the particular role that trophy hunting programmes are playing in relation to conservation efforts at all levels in source countries, including their contribution to livelihoods in specific affected communities;
  2. based on meaningful and equitable consultation with affected range state governments and indigenous peoples and local communities and do not undermine local approaches to conservation;
  3. taken only after exploration of other options for engaging with relevant countries to change poor practice and promote improved standards of governance and management of hunting;
  4. taken only after identification and implementation of feasible, fully funded and sustainable alternatives to hunting that respect indigenous and local community rights and livelihoods and deliver equal or greater incentives for conservation over the long term.

What is IUCN’s position on trophy hunting?

IUCN does not have a specific policy position on trophy hunting. However the following policy positions are directly relevant to trophy hunting.

  1. IUCN’s position is that “use of wild living resources, if sustainable, is an important conservation tool because the social and economic benefits derived from such use provide incentives for people to conserve them” as outlined in IUCN’s Policy Statement on Sustainable Use of Wild Living Resources, adopted by IUCN Members at the 2nd World Conservation Congress in Amman in October 2000. It recognises that “trophy hunting can be a form of sustainable use, and if conducted according to the Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives developed by the Species Survival Commission (SSC), can provide positive benefits for conservation”
  2. IUCN “supports the philosophy and practice that on state, communal and privately-owned land in southern Africa the sustainable and well-managed consumptive use of wildlife makes a contribution to biodiversity conservation”, and “accepts that well-managed recreational hunting has a role in the managed sustainable consumptive use of wildlife populations,” (Recommendation 3.093, adopted by IUCN Members at the 3rd World Conservation Congress in Bangkok in November 2004)
  3. IUCN does not support moving species outside their native ranges for the primary purpose of trophy hunting – as set out in its Position Statement on Translocation of Living Organisms. Recommendation 3.093 above also condemns “the killing of animals in enclosures or where they do not exist as free-ranging.”

Different Commissions and Specialist Groups within IUCN do, however, have very different opinions on hunting:

  • The IUCN SSC considers that trophy hunting, is likely to contribute to conservation and to the equitable sharing of the benefits of use of natural resources when programmes incorporate the following five components: (1) Biological Sustainability, (2) Net Conservation Benefit; (3) Socio-Economic-Cultural Benefit; (4) Adaptive Management: Planning, Monitoring, and Reporting; and (5) Accountable and Effective Governance (https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/Rep-2012-007.pdf).
  • The Caprinae Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission adopted a formal position statement in December, 2000, recognizing that hunting, and in particular trophy hunting, can form a major component in conservation programmes for wild sheep and goats (http://marco.recherche.usherbrooke.ca/thunt.htm)
  • The Ethics Specialist Group of the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) published an opinion in 2017 (re-posted in 2019 and misconstrued as a new IUCN report by many). This was one of several contrasting positions presented to an IUCN Council meeting in 2017.