In the wake of the recent controversy surrounding the death of Zimbabwe’s regal and famous lion, Cecil and elephants at Matusadona National Park near Zambezi River, the sport of trophy hunting has been a heavily discussed topic. With so much poaching around Kariba Dam area, critics now question the morality of hunting beautiful and endangered creatures for sport. Others insist that illegal hunting and poaching are the true threat towards Africa’s wildlife, and that trophy hunting actually helps protect these animals.

trophy hunting zimguide zimbabwe


As stated before trophy hunters are wealthy persons that typically come from outside Africa to hunt themselves a “trophy”—an African animal which they can take home with them to display. Several countries have outlawed this practice, but many still rely on it heavily as a source of tourist income. The South African trophy hunting industry is valued at around $490 million per year, and the influx of wealthy tourists due to trophy hunting generates millions upon millions of dollars for poorer African communities.


These hunters prefer to kill exotic animals because they are beautiful and rare, and they pay great amounts of money to local governments to obtain hunting permits. Many of these species that they are allowed to hunt are considered endangered. Often the rarer the animal, the more thrill a hunter gets in making the kill.


Now, trophy hunting may sound bad, but many argue that it is in fact a direct deterrent of a much worse form of hunting—poaching. Poachers kill 35,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos per year in Africa, and experts predict that if these rates continue then both species will go extinct within 20 years. Poachers hunt illegally out of desperation and as a way to make ends meet. Just one pound of ivory from an elephant’s tusk can sell for $1,000, which is the average Zimbabwean annual salary. If a community is poor enough, its members will turn to poaching, which is illegal and therefore not regulated.


Zimbabwe, for example, earns $20 million every year from wealthy trophy hunters. South Africa earns a whopping $700 million per year from trophy hunters, and this supports tens of thousands of jobs. If these countries did not have a trophy hunting industry, then many citizens would be without jobs and the resulting poverty would lead to illegal pursuits such as poaching.


These revenue streams flowing into Africa from the trophy hunting industry are also a huge incentive to maintain and manage the wildlife. African countries work to preserve and maintain their wildlife in order to keep their countries appealing for the trophy hunters. Countries which allow trophy hunting impose quotas on the hunters—typically only 0.5 to 2.0 percent of the animal population can be hunted.


Since poaching is illegal, no such quota is maintained and animal populations are decimated. Not only does poaching lead to mass animal death, but it also doesn’t provide any incentive to maintain the African wildlife. For example, Kenya instated a hunting ban in 1977. In the past four decades since then, illegal poachers have completely destroyed 70% of the country’s wildlife.


One of the biggest poaching industries in Africa is the ivory trade. Poachers will kill elephants in order to harvest their immense ivory tusks, which are very valuable. In a 2014 animal welfare paper it was stated that roughly 30,000 elephants are killed per year in Africa due to this industry. There has been more than a 50 percent decline in elephant population over the past three decades, and experts predict that the African elephant could become extinct in as little as 10 years. Every week, several hundred elephants are killed by poachers. This level of death is not sustainable, and the population will continue to dwindle due to illegal poaching.


Trophy hunting, on the other hand, does not result in mass animal death due to its strict regulations, imposed by African governments. The sport also brings in huge amounts of money to countries in Africa, which helps to stimulate its economy and provide incentive towards preserving African wildlife, including animals and habitats. In Namibia, trophy hunters brought in $11 million US to spend in the Namibian economy. Figures such as these don’t include the money brought into Africa by other forms of legal hunting. Non-trophy hunting is limited to four species which are not deemed endangered, and they are hunted freely by hunters who also bring in great amounts of money to help boost the economies of African countries.


When surveyed, it appears that trophy hunters themselves are concerned for the environments the hunt in and animal species they hunt. Nearly 90% of trophy hunters indicated that they preferred to hunt in areas where proceeds go back into the local economy. Many are also unwilling to hunt in countries that intentionally disregard their quotas, or areas where animals are illegally shot. A huge amount, 90%, indicated that they’d be willing to hunt in areas that were not aesthetically pleasing. These places typically would not make as much money as other areas with prettier scenery.


Finally, there is evidence that trophy hunting actually increases the populations of endangered animals. South Africa recently legalized the hunting of the white rhinoceros, a highly endangered species. This motivated landowners to reintroduce the species and stimulate their population growth, in order to draw in trophy hunters and money. The white rhinoceros population grew from less than one hundred to more than 11,000, while only a small number were killed by trophy hunters. A similar scenario occurred in Zimbabwe with their elephants.


Although at first glance trophy hunting seems barbaric and cruel, it truly has many benefits. Trophy hunting brings in great amounts of money which stimulate African economies and communities, encourages the preservation and conservation of African wildlife, and actually aids in population growth of endangered animals. It also helps to deter poaching, as the great economic benefits it has creates jobs for the African people, making them less likely to turn to illegal hunting. Poaching is the true enemy of Zimbabwe Tourism industry. It should be openly and deliberately tackled as it is an illegal and unregulated practice which completely decimates already dwindling animal populations. Those concerned with animal welfare should turn their eyes to poaching practices rather than the surprisingly beneficial sport that is trophy hunting.