Most people will agree that the oppression of African people during the colonial era is a very sad and dark chapter in European history. In those days, the widespread idea that Africans were a sort of sub-human savage beings unable to take care of themselves laid the foundation for the exploitation and disrespectful treatment of the native population.
More than half a century has passed since the colonial powers one after another made a full retreat from the continent leaving most former colonies to a chaotic struggle for power between local warlords. Today Africa is still the poorest continent on the planet and far from developed but there is definitely progress in most places.
Unfortunately, the Western civilization and our politicians are not doing very much to support the fragile new African nations in their journey towards a better future. We have certainly not yet reached the point where we – as a general rule – respect Africa’s own solutions to Africa’s own challenges.
A good example of that is the shameless way the western world interferes with African nature management.
Southern African nations like Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have managed to develop a very efficient method of nature conservation within a few decades. The results speak for themselves. Southern Africa is one of the very few places in the world that have seen a steady increase in the population of large wild animals in recent times. There is a very simple reason for this. These countries have made the wild animals valuable to landowners and local communities – which is the best incentive for nature conservation – through utilization of the wildlife in a combination of eco-tourism and regulated hunting tourism. The hunting tourism is especially efficient when measured in population sizes and protected habitat areas. This is because sustainable hunting tourism requires large breeding populations due to the consumption of individual animals.
Throughout the years of hunting tourism, the populations of wildlife have grown with the demand for more hunting. Populations of large wild mammals in privately owned hunting areas in South Africa have increased from about half a million to more than 16 million animals during the last four decades. Numerous species have been saved from the brink of extinction because of African hunting tourism. A well-known example of this is the white rhinoceros but there is many more less iconic species on the list like black wildebeest, southern roan andbontebok. In South Africa an area, roughly twice the size of Scotland has been rewilded specifically for the purpose of hunting tourism. More than half of all wild mammals in the country now lives on private land funded by hunting. The amount of wild meat produced for local consumption is gigantic and the number of local jobs is far greater than it would have been in traditional agriculture on the same areas. It is a massive success and the fact that this solution is 100% African and fully backed up by local authorities does not make the whole thing less impressive.
Nevertheless, there is a problem. The customers of the hunting tourism industry – the hunters or “trophy hunters” as the anti-hunters like to call them – are extremely unpopular and raises strong and hateful emotions on social media and in the lighter segments of the mainstream press. Judging by the comments in the numerous sh*tstorms the resentment against hunting is mainly because it is generally assumed, that the hunters are exclusively motivated to hunt by an evil and perverted lust to “kill for fun”. It is not surprising that these anti-hunters find “trophy hunting” deeply immoral and will go far to have it banned. The fact that most of the hunters are Western Caucasian males does nothing to lift the online mood…
It is of course completely legitimate to dislike hunting and hunters. It is not against the law to moralize over other people’s lifestyle choices and everyone may think whatever they want about hunting and hunters. Hunters cannot demand that the rest of the world understands and respects their actions. However, this does not change the fact that it is the hunter’s money and their willingness to spend it that is the financial foundation of the hunting-based African model of nature conservation. No hunters = no money = no nature conservation on hunting land – which is most of the land set aside for nature.
The outrage over the ”trophy hunters” and their perceived evil motifs are nevertheless so strong that quite a few Western politicians, airlines, shipping companies etc. feel increasingly inspired to score cheap popularity points by following the stream and do whatever they can to put an end to hunting tourism. They attack in many different ways – for instance by proposing legislation that will limit or ban import of legally taken hunting trophies. The companies typically demonstrate their moral outrage by refusing transportation of trophies. What they are obviously trying to do is to strangle hunting tourism with technical trade barriers. Unfortunately, these actions against hunting tourism takes place without counselling the affected African nations and the attackers do not offer any form of compensation or practical alternatives to the current methods of nature conservation.
The consequences of a theoretical stop for hunting tourism are clear. If there is no longer a viable income to make from managing nature and wildlife the next steps are obvious. Millions of large wild animals will die when the rewilded areas they inhabit now becomes livestock farms again. Tens of thousands of Africans will lose their jobs. Millions of extra farm animals will be raised to fill the void in the meat supply left by the hunting industry. However, this does not matter to the anti-hunters who clearly finds it much more important to punish the hunters for their “low moral standards” than to appreciate the enormous nature conservation results that this model has achieved. They have absolutely no respect for the fact that African people have harnessed the power of hunting tourism to achieve much more impressive nature conservation results than any European country.
Respect for African people’s rights are clearly less important than the publics need to feel offended when a trophy hunter kills a lion or a giraffe with a cute name. Whenever a trophy hunting sh*tstorm is raging on social media the western politicians and big corporate populists are almost fighting each other to come up with new technical trade barriers designed to limit African people’s possibilities to manage their own natural resources as they want to.
It is a disgrace. Not just because the uninvited interference happens in spite of heaps of scientific documentation of the fact that the African hunting-based system of nature conservation works. But also because – in fact especiallybecause – it clearly demonstrates how ancient racist ideas about African people’s inability to manage their own affairs are constantly lurking right beneath the polished and politically correct surface.
The shameless attempt by western politicians and corporate leaders to put an end to hunting tourism in Africa is not just a selfish and emotional moral crusade to punish the hunting tourists for their “bad moral standards”. It is also a political process, which is destroying one of the most successful systems for nature conservation in the world today. It arrogantly ignores the value of science as the foundation of modern nature conservation. It demeans African expertise. It ridicules the sovereign right of African nations to manage their own resources. It is brutal neo-colonialism of the worst kind.