Safari, Namibia 2016: Next Link In The Chain. Blog #12 “Conservation and Hunting Combined (CHC)”

by david on May 4, 2017

Conservation and Hunting Combined (CHC) probably sounds strange to some but hunting is actually a wonderful conservation concept. Let me tell you about it, which I hope will impart a little knowledge in the process.

    Hunters and biologist have long known the benefits of using hunting as a conservation tool. How can killing animals help conserve them, you ask? First off, hunters can target a specific sex to increase the population of a particular area. The deer herds in the U.S. are a great example of that. By targeting bucks only and adhering to a scientifically based bag limit, the population of deer has increased year after year. Only one male deer in an area is the dominant one and he does most of the breeding. Fewer bucks in the area means less fighting and more time to breed. If the dominant buck is killed by a hunter, another will take his place before the day is over. More successful breeding means more deer. If the population grows too large and starvation or human conflict (like deer and car collisions) become a problem, the buck-only rule can be removed, the number of deer taken can be increased, and the season can be extended. These tools, or any combination thereof, can be employed to keep populations in check. These same methods also work equally well in Africa.

Another thing hunting does in (particularly in Africa) is give the animals value. If something has value, people want more of it and take better care of it. Imagine you are poor and struggling to survive in a remote area, as are a good percentage of the people in Africa. You have two bags of seeds. One bag has corn, beans, and a whole host of other fruits and vegetables. The other has wildflower seeds in it. Both bags contain seeds but one is worth significantly more than the other. Which one has the most value to someone that is barely hanging on and wondering where their next meal is coming from? Of course, the seeds that grow food. If the seeds are planted, nurtured, and protected, they can be harvested and feed the owner and provide more seeds for next year. Wildlife can be managed in the same way. If a hunter is willing to pay to come and hunt the animal, the local people or landowner receives a share of the money and meat from the animal, there is great incentive to take care of the animal and make sure the population grows so more hunters can come and spread more dollars around.

Hunters targeting specific areas of an animal population are also important. Targeting older animals that are out of the breeding cycle has zero effect on the health of the herd as a whole. Taking old bulls and barren females is a rewarding hunt in itself and often more difficult. To me taking an old bull past his prime with good headgear is more rewarding than simply taking the biggest you may come across. By passing up the younger bull, the hunter allows the younger bull to pass along his DNA and breed even more trophy animals for future generations of hunters.

C.H.C. is also about conserving the flora as well as the fauna. Adding waterholes, managing vegetation for optimum nutrition for the animals, is also on the list of available tools. The management and preservation of the natural habitat is important for the Safari industry too. The benefits for wildlife is obvious, but it also allows the indigenous people to preserve their ways and history. Having pristine wild areas makes for a special experience for clients, too. If Mother Nature can’t provide everything it needs, the hunter can provide a little extra help. The good a windmill-driven water hole does has to be seen to be believed. Small animals, large animals, and birds all make use of these artificial oases. Once an area is in good enough shape sometimes a species that was once native to an area but for one reason or another is no longer found there can be reintroduced. This is a win, win situation if ever there was one. Not only does an animal get a second chance to inhabit an area, if it is managed correctly and flourishes, it will eventually give a future hunter the chance to pursue it.

Conservation is only one way of giving back to the local people. The safari industry provides many jobs. In addition to the guides, trackers, and skinners needed for the hunt, there are cooks, housekeepers, groundskeepers, and maintenance jobs to be filled. Even more importantly, the hunter’s dollars provide for game / anti-poaching rangers. These individuals are dedicated to protecting wildlife from illegal hunting and do a good job at it. Hunters are also a good anti-poaching deterrent. Poachers do not want their presence in an area known. If the area is actively hunted, they are in constant peril of being discovered. Therefore, they go to a location without hunters and game rangers. Unfortunately, there all too many areas that fall into that “without” category.

Lastly, conservation means (to me, anyway) wasting nothing. When an animal is taken by a trophy hunter, the hunter is entitled to the animal. Normally, since the meat can not be transported across borders, the hunter only takes the cape, head and horns. The size of African game and the number of species available to be hunted in Africa normally preclude all of the meat from being used in camp. That is a wonderful thing for the local people. Meat from the game animals first goes to feed the hunter and camp staff. If it is not used up there, it can go to a local village, school, orphanage, or any place that needs meat locally. Meat is needed everywhere. If the supply still exceeds demand, there are special butchers in most towns that specialize in game meat. The butchers pay a small amount to the supplier of the game and then sell it to the local folks for pennies on the pound compared to the price of farm-raised beef. Even the leftover hides and bones go to local artisans for use. Nothing is wasted.

None of this is new. In fact, these practices have been in place for a great many safari companies for many years. The difference is that now C.H.C. is using its marketing and advertising to educate as well as sell safaris. If getting out this information changes the minds of a few non-hunters, convinces some folks to finally pull the trigger and go on safari, or influences a few more safari companies to change and use a more conservation minded model, we will all be better off.

 

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