National Geographic : 2017 Oct
opposite tack, directly owning and leasing hunt- ing grounds. Critics say that no country should be in the business of selling and profiting from dead animals. When coffers run low and funds are needed, they say, hunting quotas get raised without regard for the animals’ population num- bers. And in those hunting areas where funds aren’t reinvested, there’s no wildlife left to hunt. That could explain how 40 percent of Tanzania’s designated hunting areas have been emptied of game animals during recent decades. A promo- tional video that surfaced in 2014 shows a hunt- ing company, Green Mile Safari, guiding hunters from the United Arab Emirates on a disturbing shooting party. The minister of tourism and nat- ural resources said the party violated a host of laws by, among other things, firing automatic weapons, hunting female and young animals, and allowing a minor to hunt. The government banned Green Mile from conducting hunts in Tanzania in 2014 but reissued the company’s license last year, leading to accusations of cor- ruption. No arrests were made, and Green Mile claims that the guide was at fault. In the Selous Game Reserve ecosystem, a prized trophy hunting destination, aerial surveys estimate the elephant population at some 15,000, down from perhaps 50,000 as recently as 2009. “ Why has the Selous been such a killing field?” says Katarzyna Nowak, a conservation scientist associated with the University of the Free State, Qwaqwa, in South Africa. “If hunters are coming in from all around the world, and you’re really pumping money earned from trophies back into the Selous for conservation and antipoaching, where have all the elephants gone?” Craig Packer sees the conservation of African wildlife in practical terms: If hunters were shoot- ing lions “for a million dollars and returning a million per lion directly into management, they would be on solid ground. But lions are shot for tens of thousands of dollars, and very little of that money goes back to conservation.” With two bil- lion dollars a year we could save and protect the wildlife in Africa’s national parks, Packer says. But that would have to come from international part- ners such as the World Bank, eco-philanthropists, and nongovernmental organizations. Some trophy hunters say it’s not fair to blame them. Make of their sport what you will, they don’t set the fees or determine the quotas. And they can’t control endemic corruption in some countries, even if they indirectly feed it. Some claim to share the concerns of environmental- ists who see collapsing habitats and dwindling populations. Kevin Reid, a big-game ranch own- er in Texas, says he raises endangered African species not only for the sport of trophy hunters but also to create “a seed vault of animals,” in- cluding oryx and white rhinos, to help rewild Af- rica once its problems have been sorted. “ We’re trying to reverse extinction,” Reid says. In the never ending ironies of the issue, though, the near extinction of African elephants, rhinos, and lions comes today courtesy of the barrel of a gun. Estimated number of white rhinos in South Africa Start of regulated trophy hunting Major escalation in poaching begins, 2008 6,141 White rhinos under private management 12,472 White rhinos managed by state conservancies 1895 1,800 Fewer than 50 18,613 0 1968 2015 RISE OF THE WHITE RHINOS Nearly extinct in South Africa a century ago, southern white rhinos rebounded thanks to conservation efforts, limited trophy hunting, and the harvesting of horns, which regrow. But with a recent surge in poaching, those rebounding numbers are leveling off. MONICA SERRANO, NGM STAFF; MEG ROOSEVELT SOURCES: MICHAEL KNIGHT AND RICHARD EMSLIE, IUCN SSC AFRICAN RHINO SPECIALIST GROUP White rhinos are considered “near threatened”—they could face a high risk of extinction if conservation came to a halt.