Can hunting tourism assist conservation?
Some have argued that recreational hunting can bring in so many dollars for conservation that Australia needs to introduce it in a big way, and also that it will directly help to control pest species
A recent article – http://focusingonwildlife.com/news/why-are-we-still-hunting-lions/ – argues that the killing of healthy adult male lions (mostly to take trophies back to USA) not only removes some of the fittest animals, but often results in rival males coming in and taking over the pride, killing the existing cubs of his former rival in the process. It also claims the money produced by hunting lions in AFrica is minuscule compared to that produced by tourists coming to watch and film live animals.
Donald Trump’s sons didn’t win many friends by posing smugly by the bodies of leopards and other big game. Nor did the head of NSWs shooters party.
Hunting of feral animals such as pigs, foxes, cats, rabbits and goats would be of conservation value in Australia, and in fact is necessary for the longterm survival of many of our wildlife species, but hunters will not pay the same big money for a feral tabby or fox as they would for a lion or elephant, although they may pay a fair bit for a big boar or buffalo.
Potential problems with recreational hunting include:
- danger to rangers and public (either through mistaking a human for a game animal or a stray bullet finding an unexpected mark)
- mistaking native animals for pest species
- irresponsible hunters (which do exist, even though there are clearly some very responsible ones as well) taking potshots at protected species when the allowed ones aren’t found – there has certainly been evidence of rare ducks and even such un-ducklike birds as avocets and spoonbills being shot by duck hunters
- native animals being scared away from their feeding or breeding grounds by the shooting
- native animals that tourists want to see becoming too scared of humans to come close enough for easy viewing or photography
- animal welfare issues such as wounded animals not being immediately dispatched, and young starving after mothers are killed
We do certainly need to reduce or eliminate ferals in many areas (look at the devastating effect feral cats had on the bilby population after the fence at Currawinya was damaged) but does sport hunting have a role to play here, or should it be accomplished by highly-trained professionals on assignment