Globalization has not only been leading to greater trade among countries but also higher levels of international tourism. As a result, tourism companies have become creative to take advantage of rising income levels as well as meet consumers’ demands of one-of-a-kind experiences. Ecotourism and hunting safaris are two of the products that have been getting a great deal of attention. Both ecotourism and hunting safaris involve visiting animals’ natural habitats but as the name implies, hunting animals is only allowed under hunting safaris. While the average revenue per person is much higher in hunting safaris, they should be banned and completely replaced by ecotourism because social and economic costs of hunting safaris far outweigh the benefits.
A research analysis of both photographic and hunting safaris in Okavango Delta in Botswana found that photographic safari resulted in employment of 76 people year-round while hunting safari provided employment to 12 people for 6 months and only 2 people year-round. Similarly, Air Botswana earned $631,000 from photographic safaris while the corresponding figure for hunting safaris was only $7,200. Photographic safaris customers also accounted for booking of 6,840 bed nights per season while the figure for customers of hunting safaris was only 420 bed nights per season. The total revenues generated by photographic and hunting safaris were $1.55 million and $448,000, respectively (League Against Cruel Sports). This study tells us several things about the economic advantages of ecotourism over hunting safaris. Hunting safaris may result in higher per capita revenue but it is not possible to accommodate as many tourists in hunting safaris as it is in ecotourism. This is why ecotourism’s overall economic impact is quite higher as compared to hunting safaris. In addition, ecotourism also provides employment to greater number of people and for longer periods of time because it can be conducted year-round while hunting safaris are seasonal, thus, have less impact on local employment levels.
The supporters of hunting safaris often argue that they keep the populations of certain animals from growing too big and, thus, disturbing the balance of nature but they forget that the nature has its own way of doing things and was doing fine even when hunting safaris had not been invented. In fact, hunting safaris sometimes contribute towards endangering certain species and have even become the cover for activities that would be illegal otherwise such as hunting animals such as elephants, rhinoceros, and lions for their bones, tusks, and horns etc. Hunting safaris also harm the nature because hunters usually aim for the strongest ones for bragging rights and it is a common knowledge that healthiest males usually offer the best chances of healthy off-springs and, thus, the long-term future of the underlying species. Moreover, high corruption in African countries means a significant proportion of hunting revenues go to influential politicians (League Against Cruel Sports) and it may not be surprising if they allow hunting of endangered species for personal gains.
Ecotourism results in sustainable industry because animals are not killed, thus, they continue to be source of revenues year after year. But hunting safaris lead to death of animals and dead animals do not contribute anything to the economy. Unlike hunting safaris, ecotourism leads to appreciation of animals in their natural habitat and promotes concern for the environment. Thus, it also leads to positive attitudes in the tourists. Hunting safaris only promote damage to the environment and when corruption is high and laws are weak, it is not difficult to obtain license to hunt endangered species under the disguise of helping nature achieve a balance.
The supporters of hunting safaris may argue that laws exist that ban hunting of endangered species but history shows that such bans are rarely effective. Even though hunting ban has been in existence in Kenya since 1977, the country has still seen a decline of 40 to 90 percent in most animal species (Deere). Another problem with ban is that the financial incentive in hunting endangered species for their horns, tusks, and bones is too high and demand from them sees no signs of slowing down from wealthy individuals in both developed and fast-growing developing countries. Thus, only ban on hunting of all kinds will help us better protect endangered species. Allowing hunting of animals such as elephants under safari programs also sends the message that hunting bans are mainly political in nature and claims of endangered species are usually exaggerated.
Hunting safaris should be banned and completed replaced by ecotourism because their economic benefits to African countries are far outweighed by the social and economic costs and ecotourism is a much better alternative. Unlike hunting safaris, ecotourism is not dependent upon seasons and it also provides year-round employment to greater number of people. In addition, it is possible to provide service to far greater number of people under ecotourism as compared to hunting safaris. Ecotourism is also more sustainable than hunting safaris because animals are not killed, thus, continue to be a source of income. Moreover, ecotourism leads to appreciation of animals and helps promote positive attitudes towards preservation of animals’ natural habitats.
- Deere, Nicolas Jordan. “Exploitation or Conservation? Can The Hunting tourism Industry in Africa Be Sustainable?” Environment July-August 2011.
- League Against Cruel Sports. “The Myth of Trophy hunting as Conservation.” Report to British Environment Minister, Elliot Morley MP. December 2004.