Legal Disclaimer: Information in this blog is purely informative and should not be construed as legal permission to engage in illicit activities. Hunters must check and comply with the regulations governing the areas where they hunt. Pulsar is not responsible for any loss or damages resulting from engagement in illegal hunting activities.
By: Alette Cook
Edited by: Mark Butler
Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Exotic animals have always fascinated people, and the desire to see them up close is not as out-of-reach as one might think. However, being up close and personal is not enough for some people. Some dedicated animal lovers strive to have them mounted on the wall or stuffed and placed near the fireplace. Regardless of how you perceive exotic hunting trips to African safaris, you can’t argue with the positive impacts hunting has on the local communities. It sounds contradictory for people who admire and respect the great beasts of the plains – that is, to kill a few of them to benefit the collective. But in reality, trophy hunting helps control the wildlife population as well as promote economic prosperity.
The Cost of an African Safari
People travel from all over the world to hunt in various African countries. Hunts can be customized to fit the type of animal you want to snag, how long you want to venture out for and which country you are looking to visit. Most hunters dream of going on an exotic hunt but consider it too costly and never in their cards. However, these hunts are not as exclusive as they may appear. Depending on where you go, which animal you hunt and how much time you are there, the price is comparable to a hunt in North America. For example, it costs roughly the same amount to hunt a Kodiak brown bear in Alaska as it does to hunt a leopard in Africa. The trip rates are typically centered on daily rates and trophy rates (you are only charged for animals you kill or wound). At the end of your trip, you are looking at around spending $3,000 to $7,000 on a guided hunt. Again, this varies depending on the factors mentioned earlier. Some packages include transport to and from the airport, gun rental fees, etc. However, not all prices reflect those costs, so it is important to consider additional expenses such as airlines tickets, gratuities for staff and guides, taxidermy services and shipping your trophies back home. Ultimately, it is not as expensive as people make it out to be, but it is still a pretty large penny to drop on a giant stuffed animal.
Why Hunt in Africa?
So, you’ve booked your hunt of a lifetime and hopefully it is in good conscience. Trophy hunting provides numerous benefits to not only the local economy but wildlife conservation as a whole. Many African countries, including Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, advocate hunting on their lands because of the positive outcomes it produces. Local villages have serious problems with wildlife terrorizing their homes. Lions, leopards and other big cats steal livestock from farmers and locals, and elephants eat and trample crops. In countries where trophy hunting is no longer allowed, there has been an increase of predators moving into inhabited communities. People are afraid to go out after dark for fear of getting mauled by a big cat, and farmers are losing the crops. After the ban on hunting, locals wished for hunters to return. It is hard to see the benefits of trophy hunting until it is gone. In areas with popular hunting spots, 50% of the revenue generated from trophy hunting goes to the nearby villages and provides the people with running water, toilets, money to finance schools and hospitals, and pensions for the elderly. In addition, any meat not eaten by hunters in the camp is given to the local community. Hunters cannot take meat back with them, so this ensures nothing is wasted and promotes a reciprocal relationship where both parties benefit. It is estimated over 286,000 pounds of meat, valued around $600,000, is annually given to rural communities near hunting areas. This is huge. Hunters provide locals with money to fund better standards of living, but hunting-based revenue also plays a major role in Africa as a whole. Trophy hunting in Africa accounts for continental cash revenues between $190 million and $326.5 million per year. The latter number stems solely from in-country expenditures. This adds around $426 million to Africa’s overall GDP as well as creating 53,400 jobs to support the industry. It may not seem like it creates a high number of jobs, but for people who live in the rural areas where hunters prefer to go, it makes a significant difference.
With trophy hunting becoming more widely accepted, farmers and ranchers are starting to convert their lands back to its native roots. This process is commonly referred to as “rewilding,” and it involves reintroducing native species (both plant and animal) back onto the land. Ultimately, this is better for the environment because the native species are already adapted to survive the environmental conditions, and they are less damaging to the land than introduced livestock.
Hunting is very regulated in the areas it is allowed. Hunters and outfitters alike recognize the importance of keeping the wildlife populations balanced. Generally, .5%-3% of the entire population is hunted, and older specimens past the breeding age are specifically targeted. Because of this, it helps the species population to diversify by allowing younger males to introduce their genes into the gene pool. It is not uncommon, especially amongst lions, for older alpha males to prevent the younger males from asserting dominance and breeding with the rest of the group, making the pool less diverse. Selective hunting also reduces the chances of one species dominating another. For example, if lions were to go out of control, they would eat all their prey, which would be a problem for later generations. Anti-poaching groups also help regulate wildlife on the reservations. A portion of the funds generated from hunting revenue goes towards organizations aimed at eliminating poaching. With more money, these groups can buy better equipment and more of it. Equipment, such as thermal imaging and night vision devices, has been distributed to wildlife officials and reservation park rangers. Thermal cameras allow rangers to detect poachers in the middle of the night. Despite the vegetation and the lack of light, the poachers give off a strong heat signature which gives away their location and ruins their plans at taking down another animal. Thermal handhelds, like the Pulsar Helion, can be used to detect both animals and people during day and night. This handheld has a high resolution to give the best image quality to ensure accurate detection. It also comes with a detection range of up to 1,800 meters, so you don’t need to be right next to the animals you are watching. Another key feature is the Helion’s onboarding video recording. This allows the user to record videos directly onto the device. In a poaching scenario, officials could record the poacher’s movements and ultimately, their arrests. With new equipment and protocols comes new training – that money also goes towards those seminars and paying the officials who track down poachers. There has been a large decrease in game population due to uncontrolled poaching, so this is a problem with no sign of slowing down. When countries and communities decide to oppose legal hunting, they are indirectly aiding the business of poaching. With limited resources, wildlife officials are unable to monitor vast swaths of reservation land. Unlike hunters and outfitters, poachers don’t go after the older males; they kill anything from a baby to a female or a young male.
Another common tourist attraction are ‘photo safaris’. Photo safaris allow people to observe animals in their natural habitat without hunting them. This is another popular revenue generator for African countries. Typically, the countries who ban hunting safaris opt for photo safaris to make up for lost revenue. However, the gap is still too big between the two; trophy hunting brings in much more cash. The main reasoning behind this is the land isn’t suitable for pictures. This sounds silly, but if the land is not super aesthetic or full of vast wildlife, people are not willing to spend a fortune to visit it. Hunters are attracted to the remote areas near rural villages because hunting is generally pretty good there, but it is a turn-off to photo tourists. Typically, photo safaris are the most successful in areas that are easy to access, have the proper infrastructure to support comfortable and safe accommodations for large groups of people, and have a wide variety of wildlife to observe. On the other hand, most hunters don’t come to Africa for the lavish hotels and resort-style buffets. They come expecting basic accommodations and are willing to spend a lot of money and energy just to see a few animals. They don’t mind having to charter a plane to get to their hunting location or having to camp out in the middle of the reservation during the hunt. Their expectations compared to other tourists differ regarding what they are seeking in Africa. Many people believe only one type of safari can exist and must out-compete the other. However, when both coexist, it is the best outcome for the community as well as for the animals.
The Bottom Line
Despite people’s personal feelings towards trophy hunting, the facts and statistics cannot be disputed. This type of tourism brings great revenue to the countries who participate, and it promotes conservation of wildlife. Local villages support the efforts due to the compensation they receive. Hunters continue to gravitate towards the great African plains in search of their prized mount and hunt of a lifetime.