Banning Trophy Hunting Will Exacerbate Biodiversity Loss

Author: Enrico Di Minin, Nigel Leader-Williams, and Corey J.A. Bradshaw


The article discusses the challenges of using trophy hunting as an effective tool for creating conservation incentives in sub-Saharan Africa. It acknowledges that banning trophy hunting might not be the best solution, as biodiversity loss could be worse without it.

Concerns about Trophy Hunting

There is uncertainty over the sustainability of hunting rates and their impact on wildlife populations, as quotas and offtakes often lack scientific assessments.

Additionally, restrictions on the age of hunted animals are frequently not implemented, further complicating the situation. Moreover, some forms of trophy hunting, such as ‘canned lion hunting,’ are considered unethical and do not contribute to conservation efforts, casting a shadow over the entire practice.

Misdirected Revenue

The profitability of the hunting industry varies among sub-Saharan countries, but it generates millions of dollars in revenue for countries like South Africa, Tanzania, and Botswana. However, only a limited portion of the revenue goes toward conservation efforts. For example, in Tanzania, only 22% of the gross revenue from hunting in 2008 was allocated to the Wildlife Division.

Additionally, the revenue from trophy hunting often provides few benefits to local communities living alongside wildlife. Namibia is an exception, where trophy hunting revenue has increased community participation in conservation and expanded protected areas. The distribution of hunting-permit revenue for community development projects is less evident in other African countries.

Prescriptions for Improved Trophy Hunting

Several measures can be taken across various aspects of the practice to maximize the conservation benefits of trophy hunting.

For net conservation benefits, mandatory levies should be imposed on safari operators, with the funds being invested directly into conservation and management trust funds. Additionally, eco-labeling certification schemes should be adopted for trophies from areas contributing to biodiversity conservation and respecting animal welfare concerns.

To ensure biological sustainability, population viability analyses should be required to guarantee that hunting does not cause a net population decline. Furthermore, post-hunt sales of any part of the hunted animal should be banned to prevent illegal wildlife trade.

In terms of socio-economic and cultural benefits, promoting and funding trophy-hunting enterprises operated or leased by local communities is crucial. Trusts should be established to facilitate equitable benefit-sharing within local communities and to promote long-term economic sustainability.

Adaptive management is also essential, with the mandatory scientific sampling of hunted animals, including tissue, teeth, stomach contents, morphometrics, and disease screening. Additionally, 5-year reviews of all hunted individuals and detailed population management plans should be submitted to government legislators in order to extend permits.

Accountable and effective governance can be achieved through the entire disclosure of all collected data to the public while keeping the personal details of proponents confidential. Independent government observers should be placed randomly and without prior notice on safari hunts to monitor practices, and trophies should be confiscated and permits revoked when illegal activities are discovered.

Finally, in order to address animal welfare concerns, backup professional shooters and trackers should be present during all hunts to minimize any potential suffering or distress for the animals involved.


In conclusion, while trophy hunting has the potential to contribute to conservation incentives in sub-Saharan Africa, its current implementation is plagued with various challenges. A comprehensive set of prescriptions has been proposed to address these issues and enhance the role of trophy hunting in conserving biodiversity.

By adopting these measures, trophy hunting can be transformed into a more responsible and effective tool for conservation, benefiting both wildlife and local communities in sub-Saharan Africa.