Is Trophy Hunting Necessary for Conservation?

A rifle standing on the ground with a tripod.
Image by ddefillipo from Pixabay.

Here is a fascinating story that appeared in The Revelator last week. It was written by Melissa Gaskill, and it covers a fierce debate within the scientific community about the importance of trophy hunting.

As Gaskill reports, Dr. Amy Dickman of the University of Oxford’s WildCRU, along with four co-authors and 128 signatories, kicked off this debate when they published a letter in the journal Science. In this letter – which is not accessible to the public – Dickman and her co-authors claimed that banning trophy hunting would be detrimental for wildlife conservation, partly because trophy hunting is less harmful than wanton slaughter.

According to The Revelator, multiple conservation scientists then submitted letters of their own refuting Dickman et al.’s claims. Their points included:

  • Trophy hunting does not always lead to good conservation.
  • Local people often receive only a tiny percentage of the revenues from trophy hunting.
  • Trophy hunting is unethical.
  • There are alternatives to trophy hunting; and, rather than rely so strongly on one method to fund conservation, we should use several methods.

The Dickman letter also suffers from potential conflicts of interest. Some of the individuals who signed the letter have ties to pro-hunting organizations, which means they have vested interests in keeping trophy hunting at the forefront of conservation.

I was genuinely surprised by some of the information in Gaskill’s article. I have heard Dickman et al.’s argument, that trophy hunting is crucial for conservation, a thousand times.

However, I have rarely seen other conservation scientists refute this claim. In my experience, when people push back against trophy hunting, it is usually members of the public, animal rights groups, filmmakers, or conservation professionals who are not scientists per se.

The fact that multiple authors would publish letters in a prestigious journal like Science to challenge the dominance of trophy hunting – which is a risky move – makes me wonder if opposition to the practice is growing.

To be clear, I am talking about trophy hunting: the practice of paying vast sums of money to shoot endangered animals in often rigged settings. I am not discussing subsistence hunting, or the carefully-managed, sustainable sport hunting of non-endangered species.

For more information, please read Melissa Gaskill’s original article in The Revelator.

15 Thoughts

  1. Interesting. Even before reading the article I must echo the sentiments of Trophy Hunting period! I don’t like it endangered or otherwise. Even among “subsistence” hunters, there are those that just relish the kill and that bugs me, yet I do get it’s importance in areas where certain animals numbers grow because of the lack of natural predators, other than man.
    I saw a big controlled setup like you mention, when I lived in Alabama. It was huge, with tall fences to keep animals that were flown in for sport hunters. I “heard” that people spent huge money to go there and that within those gates were exquisite accommodations as well. I don’t know if that is specifically what they are referring to, but it always bothered me. It’s like shooting fish in a bowl.
    Most of the hunters I knew in Colorado butchered their kills for their yearly meat. It’s an acquired taste, but at least they ate what they shot. Some would donate their kills elsewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Jolie, killing when one doesn’t have to, or for fun, is always ethically questionable. Unfortunately, sport and trophy hunting are significant sources of revenue for conservation – although I’ve heard different opinions on how significant, exactly. Regardless of the exact figures, the fact is that there are serious problems with trophy hunting, and it’s losing favor among the public. If conservationists choose to remain so deeply wedded to a practice that an increasing amount of people find repugnant, without investing in alternative funding strategies, then the future of conservation is bleak.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hey Josh, how have you been?

    Well personally I’m disgusted by the whole idea of trophy hunting it’s sickening to think that someone would relish in killing and hurting animals as a hoby or for money… or whatever else reason it is.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Naila, I’ve been alright, sorry I haven’t responded to you on WhatsApp!

      The concept if killing for fun or bragging rights is pretty abhorrent. I know controlled hunting is better than unregulated killing, but we still need to diversify the ways we fund conservation. Plus, I’m uncomfortable with the fact that if a local person were to kill an endangered elephant or lion, they’d be labeled a poacher. But if a rich foreigner kills that same animal, they’re a conservationist — that seems like a continuation of some very disturbing colonial legacies.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hello, and happy holidays to you.
        I’m happy to know you’re well, that is okay it’s no issue.

        I know a thing or two about people who kill for bragging rights over here but it was treated more like a right of passage in their community.
        My government made it illegal to kill wild life though, so that is a huge relief.

        It is very double standard to label the local “nobody”a poacher whilst the guys with the monies are not held accountable for the damage they do.
        I tell you, it’s an upside down world we live in.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. A very thought-provoking article! I think there are definitely some colonial sentiments in fencing off land in other countries and promoting trophy hunting. Can we put a price on the existence of an entire species? It also seems that indigenous and local communities and their rights to land and resources are cast to the side in these situations, simply because they aren’t a significant revenue source. You’re right in saying that the outlook for conservation is bleak if making money is the main goal!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly is a thought-provoking article. You can’t do anything – including conserve a species/ecosystem – without money, and all sources of revenue have drawbacks. But trophy hunting’s ethical drawbacks are becoming indigestible for a growing segment of the public, and conservationists need to diversify their funding strategies to prepare for the inevitable rise of trophy-hunting bans.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Pain is pain, conveyed by nerves to the brain.” I Cannot believe that people would enjoy killing those animals, endangered or not. life is life weather it’s a rare animal or common. You can’t just dominate other species just because you can!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The moral implications of trophy hunting are increasingly being scrutinized, too. That’s another reason why we need to explore other ways to fund conservation, because trophy hunting is growing more distasteful in the eyes of the public.


  5. An interesting debate. Some of the things people are trying, like bushcraft training courses, are very innovative. The article certainly makes a good case for banning trophy hunting. I just hope we don’t rush to ban it completely before enough such alternatives are in place.


    1. Hi there, and sorry that it took me so long to respond: I currently have very poor internet access, and your comment was sent to my spam folder for some reason (by-the-way, if multiple comments of yours have been sent to people’s spam folders, you might want to contact Akismet. That happened to me once and it became very annoying).

      One thing this pandemic has hopefully taught us is that no matter what, we need a greater variety of ways to pay for wildlife conservation. Both trophy hunting and ecotourism are vulnerable to any events that reduce foreign travel, making neither one sustainable – although trophy hunting is less morally palatable than tourism. For that reason, I’m definitely in favor of innovative approaches to funding conservation.

      Liked by 1 person

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