Hunting tourism is defined as a tourist activity in which the person involved may travel either at home or abroad with the idea of hunting. According to the industry, hunting tourism and sports hunting in general, contribute positively to the species and habitat conservation, and is an important source of income for locals.
Although hunting tourism –especially big game hunting– is a lucrative business, ecotourism (which is based mainly on animal sightings) generates 15 times more income. The reasons are clear and they are spelled out in a study called “The $200 million Question”, commissioned to Economists at Large by IFAW, Born Free and the American Society of the United States. In spite of the hunters paying large sums of money, ecotourists are greater in number. Furthermore, the hunters pay to shoot an animal which is killed and thus loses its economic value, whereas the ecotourists can “shoot” the same animal hundreds of times (with their cameras) and it will maintain the same “value”. In most places the sports or canned hunting season has a limited duration, whereas ecotourism and sightings can be carried out throughout the year and create more places of work.
The result is that hunting tourism income is only 1.8% of that of general tourism in the 9 main countries where it is permitted. And it is calculated that, because of the corruption that exists in developing countries only 3% of that income really reaches the population of the areas where hunts are carried out.
Hunting tourism is also endangering ecotourism -the most important source of livelihood for locals- and whose representatives complain that the hunters scare the animals making them hide. The tourists are also afraid, as they may become inadvertent witnesses to the killing of an animal.
What the hunters are looking for are “special” trophies and to get them many are prepared to bribe or pay an “extra” in order to shoot endangered species, animals of a forbidden sex or age or to hunt using illegal methods.
In South Africa about 160 farms breed lions for canned hunting and the number of these animals in captivity has increased to about 5,000, whereas there are only about 2,000 roaming wild.
Scientists around the world warn that the consequences for these species can be very serious and indicate that for each adult lion shot down up to 12 cubs die. This happens because another dominant male will take its place, killing its offspring. This phenomenon has been widely documented in lions, bears and leopards, and generates serious genetic implications. The hunters aim at the best-looking specimens, with the longest manes and the biggest horns. As a general rule these are the ones that defend the rest of the group, meaning that in future generations these characteristics will start disappearing or be less pronounced. If the strongest animals disappear, only the weakest will reproduce and those genetic characteristics will not be maintained naturally. As a practical example, the hunting of elephants has brought about the birth of more and more African elephants without tusks and in Canada the dimensions of mouflon horns have reduced by 25% in the last 40 years.
This activity is destroying the natural dynamics of entire populations of animals and has contributed to the extinction of species throughout the world, such as the Tasmanian tiger and the Irish elk.
Animals are often left to bleed to death as the hunters don’t want to spoil their trophy by giving the animal a faster death. And they are not the only victims, the families and entire herds end up affected. For animals like wolves, which have life-long relationships and live in very united groups, the loss of a family member may have grave repercussions. The stress that these animals suffer may affect their feeding habits and complicate the storage of fat reserves and energy that they need for the winter. Stress and fear may also make the animals get too close to roads, abandon their cubs or they get so weak that they end up ill or they die.
Canned hunting is a touristic phenomenon which has become popular in South Africa and is putting the conservation of species such as the lion (the most sought-after prey) and other wild animals in serious danger.
The term “canned hunting” refers to a hunt restricted to a small area where the hunter cannot miss the target. The most popular claim of this activity is, “No kill, no pay”.
The animals used in these shoots have mostly been bred in captivity in farms which provide the industry with animals. The cubs are separated from their mothers a few hours after birth and bottle-fed so that they get used to the presence of humans. Exhibiting animals from an early age is very profitable while they are attractive to tourists.
When the hunter arrives the animals are often under the effects of tranquillisers or they are in the same place where they had been used to eating on previous days.
These hunters are attracted by the guarantee of success and the relatively cheap fees. Hunting a wild lion in Tanzania can cost almost €60,000, but doing so in a canned hunt costs between €6,000 and €45,000. All this has meant that in recent years the number of lion trophies exported from the country has gone from 1,830 between 2001 and 2006 to 4,062 between 2006 and 2011, signalling an increase of 122% (data from the investigation carried out in 2013 by Patrick Barkham in "The Guardian")
At the present time there are 160 farms which breed lions for this industry in South Africa and bring the number of lions in captivity to about 5,000 individuals. More than double the number that are roaming free, which are numbered at only 2,000.
In 2016 the USA banned the importation of lion trophies to US territory in an attempt to slow down the disappearance of these animals now listed as an endangered species in risk of extinction.
At the state level
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