Foreign Policy Blogs

Trend of Trophy Hunting Ban is Promising for African Wildlife

Phototourist safaris vastly outgross hunting, prompting certain countries in Africa to pull the plug on the trophy hunting industry.

Phototourist safaris vastly outgross hunting, prompting certain countries in Africa to pull the plug on the trophy hunting industry.

Botswana has maintained a long and extensive history of hunting, as trophy hunters have flocked from all over the world at a chance to shoot some of the world’s most exotic animals. However, recent shifts in the benefits of the industry have prompted drastic changes for potential hunters and hunting organizations. Towards the end of 2012, the President of Botswana, General Iam Khama, announced that they will not issue anymore hunting licenses for 2013 and all trophy hunting across the country will be banned by 2014. “The shooting of wild game for sport and trophies is no longer compatible with our commitment to preserve local fauna,” the environment ministry said.

Only one month later in January 2013, Zambia followed suit, stating that they had banned hunting of all leopards and lions. “Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry,” remarked Sylvia Masebo, the current Tourism and Arts Minister of Zambia.

Both of these moves drew a plethora of praises and criticisms from various factions of the industry.

Trophy hunting in Africa has always held an allure over the rest of the globe with visions of picturesque landscapes populated with hundreds of species of exotic animals. Beginning with the early game hunters during colonial times with such high profile sportsman as former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt and author Earnest Hemingway, the continent hosted some ambitious and arduous hunters. These days, some of the wealthiest people on earth are among those that hunt for big game in the wilds of Africa, with a list that includes Donald Trump Jr., Bob Parsons – CEO of – and Spain’s King Juan Carlos, these multi-millionaires have all taken expeditions for a chance to slay some of the continent’s prized beasts. Hunting big game in Africa draws the extremely rich because the price tags for bagging any substantial animals can be extremely expensive.

The fees and licenses for an elephant can range as high as $US 70,000, while a license for a Black Rhinoceros in South Africa can reach $US 350,000. So why is there a sudden trend in fighting back against an industry that draws in some of the world’s wealthiest citizens?

Well the move may simply be an economic one. While hunters and hunting advocates point to large profits being made in hunting of animals in Africa, particularly the Big 5 – water buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros – the reality is that photographic tourism far outdistances any money made in hunting safaris.

In Botswana, tourism ranks as the second largest industry behind diamond mining, and the economic growth of tourism has grown by at least 14 percent each of the last eight years. As a landlocked country, the majority of tourists flock to this majestic wildlife refuge in search of a glimpse of their favorite animal, not to shoot one. In fact, tourism now makes up almost 11 percent of their annual GDP.

However, in a 2007 study conducted by Peter Lindsey the impact that hunting industry played in actually protecting and conserving animals was studied. Lindsey argued that if trophy hunting was well managed, the profits could be utilized towards anti-poaching efforts and more importantly, private land owners would have financial benefits of reintroducing and protecting certain species, such as the rhinocerous, in an attempt to lure hunters to their land and reap the economic benefits. However, that same study examined Botswana specifically and trophy hunting only represented approximately .1 percent of GDP, as opposed to phototourism which represented 11 percent.

The move by Botswana was prompted by the drastic diminishments of certain species, as they discovered that 11 species declined by more than 61 percent since 1996. Some of the most severely affected were the Ostrich and Wildebeasts which saw their numbers dwindle by more than 90 percent. The potential for hunting to completely eliminate certain species was too much of chance for the country to take, so they yanked the plug on the entire industry.

While Zambia took a less drastic approach, their actions also deal directly with numbers and the potential to lose out on valuable tourists if the population of certain species dipped below current numbers. It is estimated that there are less than 4,500 lions and the number of leopards is unknown.

Critics of the decision argue that it will encourage poaching over the long-term in Botswana and that the move will cost many professional hunters their jobs. Many point to Kenya – which outlawed game hunting in 1977 and has never rescinded the ban. They state that poaching in the country has reached alarming levels and the same would happen in Botswana and Zambia if they continue to block potential hunters.

While poaching continues to be a problem in all African nations, Kenya boasts $USD 800 million in revenue annually from safaris, a figure that significantly adds to the national economy. In addition, recent revelations of major poaching violation in both Tanzania and South Africa – two of the largest hunting profiteers on the continent – show that even countries that encourage trophy hunting are not immune from illegal hunting. South African rhinocerous poaching has reached epidemic levels and major problems with elephant and giraffe poaching in Tanzania have driven a call to action. Many blame Chinese buyers for their interest in ivory and rhino horns.

Ultimately each country must decide whether hunting hurts or helps the conservation of endangered or vulnerable species. The economic benefits of phototourism and non-hunting safaris far outdistance the hunting industry. For Botswana and Zambia the move was made specifically to harness the phototourism industry. Kenya’s safari industry continues to thrive, but they still battle poachers on a daily basis. Ultimately, each country must decide which direction will benefit them both ecologically and economically. The problem of poaching will not disappear until the buyers disappear. However, a change in stance by these two nations should be applauded, if only because they realized that the hunting industry did not provide enough financial windfall to potentially destroy the safari juggernaut and that the figures do not support the ideology that hunting prevens poaching.


  • Community conservation

    If only you knew something about remote areas there only have 1 single viable land use option that conserves the wildlife and provides a sustainable revenue stream for stakeholders!

    You have quite carefully neglected to mention the destruction caused by the removal of hunting in Kenya where 80% of their wildlife was lost when hunting was banned, and that trend is already showing in Zambia, a mere 6 months down the line!

    Sustainable consumptive tourism is necessary and vialble in many areas throughout Africa where access is only possible for a fraction of the year and the land is too vast for any other form of tourism or land use!

    Get your facts straight and stop giving a one sided approach.

    It is very simple, if controlled hunting takes place in these areas, although the economic return is less than photographic safaris (which simply aren’t viable) then hunting provides the best form of conservation.

    • More Lions like Cecil

      and you are someone benefiting from trophy hunts aren’t you? don’t deny it. Very transparent from your use of word “stakeholders” meaning you have a strong stake in the trophy hunting business. Very tired of trophy hunting safaris disguising themselves as “angelic conservationists” who happen to line their pockets with lots of cash. Poaching is taking huge toll in countries that ENCOURAGE trophy hunts — South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania. So where is your excuse for that? Just logical, there are MORE POACHERS EVERY DAY, who don’t really care whether that country has rules for or against it. No one needs Legal Hunters on top of Illegal Poachers, just making matters ever worse — and that is the reason for the dwindling numbers we see. Most trophy hunt money goes to graft and the people running the hunts. It’s a money-machine and professional hunters do not care to find any other work, or hobby. I mean, it’s just too easy to string up a carcass on a tree as bait, and wait to put an arrow in the lion. The rhino and elephant is easier and more dough. Could we pay a white big game hunter to watch TV instead of getting a trophy for his client or himself? That is the skill set.

  • Caroline Mason

    Unfortunately hunting on private land in Botswana will still continue. The ban on hunting applies to State owned land only and came into force on 1st January 2014. On private land, It is business as usual!

  • J

    Dear sir,
    You cannot be promoting Kenya’s conservation policy as a success based simply on how good its tourism operators are. Kenya has lost 85% of its wildlife since the hunting ban in 1977, as many remote areas are not attractive for tourism and local communities receive no benefit form wildlife. Conversely South Africa and Namibia have seen a 20fold increase in wildlife numbers thanks to utilisation policies. Hunting and tourism are not mutually exclusive in a country that is half a million km2. There are areas where tourists do not visit. They would be ideal for hunting. The same happens with Botswana. Ask how many tourists visit the remote North West of the delta, or the areas around Ghanzi. Try promoting that principle for the areas around Katavi in Tanzania, or the communities 8h away from the Luangwa NP in Zambia. Or even a better challenge, CAR or Chad.

    Mr. Lindsey has published a peer reviewed report. As a counter argument you post opinion….. not very solid

  • Peter

    Your comments are chock full of the usual errors in fact and logic we are used to seeing in people who take your point of view. I really don’t know where to start with your errors. But as an elementary example of your many errors let’s point out that there are no water buffalo anywhere on the African continent. But you’re an expert, right? Wow.

  • Nancy V Fortunato

    There is enough in this USA to kill, why kill all the animals in another country. In years to come there will be no more for our younger children to see. put the hunters heads on the wall. ok.Nancy

  • ZorroSjc

    This gives me some hope which right now I am in great need of. For elephants are not just murdered fot the ivory or trophy hunting but are abused in traveling circuses, zoos and more. Some at the age of 44 are used to give rides or to entertain and then left in a solitary concrete cell. They die of neglect and of a broken heart. No being on earth should leave this planet never having known kidness, love or freedom.


Daniel Donovan
Daniel Donovan

Daniel is the Executive Director of a non-profit development organization that focuses on building infrastructure and training in rural Sub-Saharan Africa called the African Community Advancement Initiative ( . He has a Master's degree graduate in International Relations with an emphasis on conflict resolution and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Coupled with his extensive financial background, Daniel also works as a consultant for Consultancy Africa Intelligence in Pretoria and the Centre for Global Governance and Public Policy in Abu Dhabi. In addition to his work at FPA, he is also a regular contributor to The Continent Observer and International Policy Digest. He currently resides in Denver, CO.