Hunting, Poaching and Rhino Horn
February 2015, Volume 13-1

Without getting involved in any debate on hunting or otherwise, the fact is that the wildlife gem [called Bubye River Conservancy] is funded entirely by hunting, and without any hunting revenue to cover costs, it is doubtful whether the investors would be willing to dig deep into their pockets to keep it going. The cost of protecting the rhino population alone is considerable, and this is all funded through hunting revenues.

While I understand the sentiments of the anti-hunting groups, I do believe in Africa’s harsh reality, hunting has its part to play. When I established and ran the Wildlife Unit of Forestry Commission we operated on the basis of “use it or lose it”, and successfully built up some fantastic wildlife areas on funding from hunting.

I feel the ban on hunting in Botswana will be responsible for the elimination of more animals than it will ever save – what the anti-hunting lobby do not seem to understand is that there are large areas of Botswana such as Tamafupa or Bottle Pan which are totally not suited to photographic operations as they are largely teak forest with odd pans – you do not have teeming herds and photo opportunities such as the Delta. These pans have been pumped for years by hunting operators, and this has allowed territorial species such as sable to establish populations. Suddenly removing the water by the withdrawal of hunting operators will condemn these populations to a bleak future and no doubt they will die off in a very miserable fashion. The future of this land as wildlife land is now in doubt as it is now worthless from a wildlife point of view. The land is currently abandoned (which the Zambian elephant poachers have discovered!), and it might eventually be turned over to cattle ranching.

The arguments are also raging back and forth on the sale of rhino horn. There is some fine work been done to tackle the trade issues in Vietnam and China, but the reality is that the poaching pressure is relentless, the demand insatiable, and much funding is required to tackle the protection issues on the ground. The big question is where is the funding to come from? A carefully monitored program of sale of horn on a sustainable basis would provide sufficient funding to ensure the continued survival of the rhino. The argument that the legal sale of horn will increase demand holds no water – the demand already exceeds the horn that could be supplied by the existing rhino population! To me, the main worry would be the channeling of illegal horn into the system, but careful monitoring should keep this in check. The big proviso should be [that] all funds raised from sale of horn are directed into rhino conservation (though in reality this could be difficult to monitor).

If activists can come up with an alternative funding option to save the rhino, and produce the funding required, then all parties would be happy!! (Source: Bhejane Trust November 2014 Newsletter)

Author: Trevor Lane