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Trophy hunting organization to the rescue of rhino's

You are here: Bush-Talk Forum Conservation Hunting - an integral tool in wildlife conservation? Trophy hunting organization to the rescue of rhino's

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Trophy hunting organization to the rescue of rhino's

Link to this post 18 Jun 10

Letters of support from organizations that support Save The Rhino's decision to accept SCI support.


From: Dr Anthony King
Executive Director
The Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Kenya

[Save the Rhino International has helped fund the LWF's Community Conservation Programme since its inception in 2002 and the Environmental Education Programme since its launch in 2004.]

The Laikipia Wildlife Forum supports the position taken by SRI on sustainable use of natural resources and has no issue with SRI’s acceptance of support from Safari Club International.

Laikipia is the most important rhino conservation area in Kenya, with 50% of the national black rhino population. The cost of conserving rhinos is staggeringly high, and consequently few people or places, including Government, can contemplate creating space for rhinos. This is a tragedy for rhinos, but it reflects a broader tragedy concerning wildlife in Kenya, where wildlife has little or no value to the majority of rural Kenyans on whose land the fast dwindling populations of the wildlife live.

Only 10% of wildlife in Kenya is found in National Parks and these Parks cover less than 8% of the land area of Kenya. 40% of Kenya’s wildlife is protected on private land. Laikipia is the only region of Kenya where wildlife populations are stable and increasing, with more threatened and endangered species protected than anywhere else in the country; yet there are no National Parks or Reserves in Laikipia. Since the ban on hunting in Kenya in 1977 wildlife has declined by more than 60%, and recent surveys show that catastrophic declines continue. For example in the last three years populations of Wildebeest declined 83%, Zebra declined 71%, and Buffalo 61% in and around the world famous Amboseli National Park.

The Laikipia Wildlife Forum knows through experience and global evidence that only by ascribing direct value to the wildlife resource are people encouraged to sustain that resource – wildlife must be seen as an asset rather than threat, and be able to compete as a system of land use if sufficient habitat is to be maintained. Habitat loss is the single most important threat to wildlife in Africa, a far more significant factor in declining wildlife population trends than either legal consumptive use or poaching. Whilst non-consumptive use (ecotourism) brings some benefits, this is not an option everywhere for obvious reasons. Sustainable consumptive use of wildlife remains necessary for wildlife populations to persist. Sadly this is not an option in Kenya, and the consequences are being seen in the catastrophic declines.

It is worth noting that every mainstream Conservation organization in the world has a pro-consumptive use position, including those in the United Nations. Sadly, animal welfare organizations, distinct from conservation organizations, have gained higher profiles through their simplistic and emotive, and lucrative, positions; muddling the public’s understanding of what conservation is and what is needed for wildlife and habitats to persist, and consequently undermining conservation. The Sunday Times continues to perpetuate the muddle, further undermining the often life-threatening efforts of dedicated conservationists in Africa working to save rhinos from the brink of extinction.


From: Dr Jonathan Moss
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya

We note with concern the article in The Sunday Times on 30th May 2010 by Daniel Foggo, in which he disparages SRI’s conservation credentials. We wish to assure you of our support for the stand you have taken in exploring all possible avenues towards the conservation of endangered species.

We are particularly familiar with the invaluable role SRI has played in supporting rhino conservation efforts in Laikipia, Tsavo, and the Chyulus, and congratulate you for your significant contribution towards the ongoing success of the KWS black rhino management strategy. The KWS programme has resulted in a growing population of over 600 black rhino in Kenya, 25% of which are on Lewa and Ol Pejeta, under LWC stewardship.

We support any organisation that uses the full range of wildlife conservation tools to further the rhino conservation agenda. As a member of the AfRSG, we are party to the debate on rhino conservation in Africa, including issues surrounding utilisation. Whilst Kenya currently subscribes to a policy of no wildlife utilisation, we recognise and respect the wildlife conservation policies of other African countries. We acknowledge the contribution that other countries, including those that permit utilisation, have made towards the conservation of rhino, and respect the efforts made by others to explore the use of all possible means towards the conservation of endangered species.

Please accept our congratulations for taking a very clear stand for conservation on what is a frequently misunderstood and highly controversial issue.


From: John Corse
Selous Rhino Trust, Tanzania

[Save the Rhino Internationa helped fund the Selous rhino monitoring programme from the late 1990s until 2009, when it was forced to suspend operations by Tanzania's Wildlife Divison, apparently for reporting on the dramatic increase in elephant poaching.]

I am very aware that Save the Rhino International consulted us before accepting donations from SCI and we happily gave our consent.

We completely support your stance on receiving donations from organisations like SCI as we too take a pragmatic and broad-minded view about how conservation works in the real world. We are aware that trophy hunting, when carried out lawfully and ethically, has a great part to play in the conservation of our valuable ecosystems, whilst earning valuable income for our countries and communities. If they can also financially support conservation organisations, whose remit is in the areas that they operate, that is even better.


From: Dick Pitman
The Zambezi Society, Zimbabwe

[Save the Rhino has supported The Zambezi Society’s rhino monitoring programme in Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe, since 2003.]

If each objector to SRI's association with SCI were to stump up £12,000 not to have a rhino hunted, I'd be more inclined to listen to them. If The Sunday Times was prepared to put up the £170,000 they quote as the cost of hunting a Namibian rhino, I'd be more inclined to listen to them, too. Come on, Mr Murdoch, how about it?

It's a very simple matter. Rhino conservation is hugely expensive. I know; I've worked in this field for 25 years. Those who want to dictate how we should go about it, must foot the bill if they want to be regarded as anything more than irritants. "Put their money where their mouths are", is the expression that comes to mind.

That's all there is to it, really. End of story. But I can't help expanding on this a little. Even £12,000 would make a huge difference to the project I am currently involved with. However, this represents the gross from over 1,000 'bed-nights' at a typical Parks 'non-hunting' campsite. Even then, a lot of visitors moan about the cost as they photograph their rhino, or elephant, or lion.

Like it or not, sport hunters are prepared to pay heavily for their pleasures, whereas 'photosafari' tourists, by and large, are not. I have to add that I do not hunt, and I don't want to. That is my personal choice. But I am also acquainted with many hunting professionals. One or two are questionable. But the majority are highly ethical, and their commitment to conservation is beyond question. And - in Zimbabwe, at any rate - our entire wildlife management structure would collapse without the income they generate.

Furthermore, where was the anti-hunting lobby during Zimbabwe's 'bad years'? They certainly weren't in our Parks, paying camping or other fees. Most of them were too damn scared, and the remainder were banging on about the 'morality' of visiting Zimbabwe, or even donating to us. All they succeeded in doing was throwing large numbers of ordinary people out of work in the tourism industry, reducing a lot of Park rangers to penury, and our Parks Authority to bankruptcy. Great way to save rhinos, or any wildlife!

But the sport hunters still came, and paid.

And Save the Rhino International, almost alone among donors, also continued to support us through those terrible years. They – and the hunters – are made of sterner stuff. They also understand the costs, complexities – and immense difficulties – involved in rhino conservation 'on the ground'. The SCI cash can make a huge contribution to rhino conservation. Don't give it up.


From: Raoul du Toit
Lowveld Rhino Trust, Zimbabwe

[Save the Rhino has supported the Raoul's work in the Lowveld Conservancies of Zimbabwe since 2005.]

As oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico, the shock of that pollution it is not stopping people from using their oil-driven cars. Societies throughout the world compromise on conservation concerns, finding ways to justify their environment impacts in terms of what they see as their fundamental economic requirements. However, some societies tend to preach rather moralistically to other societies about what goes on in distant backyards.

For rhinos to survive in the backyard of Africa, they not only need some space in that increasingly messed-up backyard, they also need that space to be protected. This can only be achieved in the face of competing land-uses and growing human demands if the wildlife has a direct financial value to the relevant stakeholders.

It may be thought that donations via conservation NGOs will be sufficient to provide both space and protection. However, while NGOs like Save the Rhino International put essential grease on the gears of rhino conservation, those gears have to mesh in with much bigger machinery that that drives economic development in Africa.

The engine of tourism? This is OK as an economic driving force where there is lots of wildlife, unique scenery and no travel advisory warnings. But much of Africa, including Zimbabwe, doesn’t score totally positive ticks on the travel agents’ brochures. So instead of nice tourists, it is the safari hunters who come to kill trophies to put on their walls, for whatever kick that gives them, and they pay for that. Safari hunting of a range of species (although in Zimbabwe, these huntable species don’t include rhinos) provides the only income to keep Zimbabwean conservancies going at present, as the enabling environment for three-quarters of the country’s rhinos.

That said, it also has to be recognized that the safari hunting industry has a number of dark corners. In South Africa, where regulated safari hunting of rhinos is allowed (unlike in Zimbabwe), conservationists on the one hand applaud the role of the hunting industry in stimulating rapid expansion of the white rhino population to a far more secure level. But on the other hand, we have also seen a tendency towards exploitative behaviour by some of those who are involved in this industry.

Hunting organizations such as Safari Club International need to ensure that they are fully informed of such activities, and must act on reliable information to freeze out the miscreants from their ranks. That SCI are engaging with and financially supporting level-headed conservation NGOs such as Save the Rhino International should be seen as mutual progress by these parties towards better networking in rhino conservation.

So, instead of simply twanging the heartstrings of their readers, it would be more helpful for rhino conservation if newspapers such as The Sunday Times made some effort to look behind the clichés and superficial sentiments that tend to obscure the real world that rhino species have to survive in.


From: Verity Bowman
Marwell Zimbabwe Trust, Zimbabwe

[Save the Rhino International has supported the Marwell Zimbabwe' Trust's work since 2009.]

Marwell Zimbabwe Trust has been active in rhino conservation in Zimbabwe during the most testing period in that country’s history and is part of a small, focused group of conservationists and NGOs who are determined to keep rhino populations viable in both National Parks and Conservancies, in the face of unprecedented poaching. The fact that this is even remotely possible is thanks to organisations such as Save the Rhino International (SRI), who work with us to support appropriate actions to combat poaching and to protect and manage the remaining rhino populations.

SRI has provided sustained support to many important rhino conservation projects in Africa and Asia, where other donors have been scarce because they don’t approve of a country’s politics or have some other prejudice. In this day and age, no single entity can afford to underwrite an endangered species protection programme, particularly in the absence of a viable / stable economy which is why so many rhino range states depend on help from wealthier societies.

It is to their credit that donors such as Safari Club International (SCI) recognise SRI as a safe pair of hands for their contribution to responsible conservation practice and that SRI recognise the potential for new revenue streams to continue or expand their work. It is only when different views converge with a common vision and purpose that rhinos, their habitats and the wildlife they co-exist with will stand a chance of escaping extinction.


From: Pierre du Preez
National Rhino Coordinator
Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia

[Save the Rhino has supported Namibian rhino conservation since the early 1990s.]

It was with dismay that I read the article in The Sunday Times written by Daniel Foggo especially the sensational implication that SRI endorse the shooting of black rhino for fun and that SRI is directly profiting from “trophy hunts” of other species. Furthermore also the reference that the endorsement only came after Safari Club International (SCI) “approached” SRI offering money.

In Namibia, Save the Rhino International (SRI) have made their commitment to conservation clear and assist through essential and strategic funding MET to actively manage and protect the black rhino. It is good to see that ethical hunters through SCI has donated about £32,000 to SRI for rhino projects in Africa and Asia and I think it would be wonderful to see similar commitment from some of the so-called “animal welfare organizations”.

I just want to give an example of SRI’s commitment to conservation of the black rhino is the assistance and the support that SRI gives to Namibia and Save the Rhino Trust (SRT):

A major success story in rhino conservation in Namibia is the case of the desert adapted black rhino population. This population, the largest population of black rhino outside any protected area in the world has increased from the brink of extinction in the 1960’s to the current situation today where portions of this population has reach and even over shoot carrying capacity. This achievement was achieved through the strong partnerships between MET, SRT and the local people in the Kunene and Erongo Regions, with much needed financial support from SRI.

By providing sustainable sources of income that rely on conserving its wildlife, the Namibian government has provided its people with a motivation to protect rather than exploit the wildlife. The effect of this can be observed in the people’s interactions with wildlife outside of the protection areas. Since independence, no known species have become extinct, and rare and endangered species are increasing in numbers and expanding back into areas where they had previously become eliminated and now being used sustainably.

Namibia has set an example that if other countries were to follow, then it would give an excellent chance that Africa’s most endangered species can be pulled back from the brink of extinction. The continued support rendered by SRI in the conservation of black rhino not only in Namibia but also in other range states as been essential for this critically endangered animal to flourish and even expand its ranges.

For us in the forefront of rhino conservation, SRI has been a friend, a partner, a campaigner and passionate supporter and I would urge all supporters of SRI to come out and support SRI as they are one of our biggest allies and supporters in the times where the onslaught against rhino has escalated to unforeseen levels and funds and assistance were never more needed to pay and assist with anti poaching measures.

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