The term ‘fake news’ has become popularized over the last few years. The term refers to information, usually presented as ‘news’ that has no basis in fact but is presented as being factually accurate in a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation for propaganda purposes.
Hunting is often on the receiving end of this approach to ‘news’. It is increasingly evident that this is misleading the public, media and policy makers and leading to uninformed policy decisions.
A recent glaring example of this is the now widespread claim that “only 3% of trophy hunting revenues end up in local communities”.
This figure has its roots in a report 1 commissioned by the African Lion Coalition and prepared by Economists at Large Pty Ltd1, which states that “Research published by the pro-hunting International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation […] finds that hunting companies contribute only 3% of their revenue to communities living in hunting areas.” This ‘fact’ has now been taken up and is used widely in both traditional and social media to discredit the validity of trophy hunting as a tool for wildlife conservation and rural development.
As the purported originators of this ‘fact’ we provide clarification.
As the quoted CIC and FAO report 2 makes clear, the figure of 3% is only relevant to one country – Tanzania – at a particular time, i.e., in 2008.
At this time hunting in Tanzania was primarily conducted in state protected areas and income from hunting went to the landholder – the Wildlife Department. Subsequently, Tanzania has introduced new policies to ensure that hunting also takes place on communal land, with the result that communities living in hunting areas are now beneficiaries of income from hunting.
The figure of 3% is no longer relevant even to Tanzania.
To have taken a country specific figure and generalized it to apply to all hunting in African countries is extremely misleading, bringing into question the competence, credibility and motivations of the reports authors.
Quantifying the exact extent of benefits – including cash income, employment, protein, reduction of human wildlife conflict, improved social infrastructure (roads, schools, clinics), enhancement of local governance and community empowerment – for communities throughout Africa is not feasible, not least because there are significant variations from country to country.
Brief research reveals that in Namibia 100% of income from trophy hunting on communal land goes to the local community: whilst in Zimbabwe, 100% of income from hunting goes to the local Council – 55% of which goes to local communities and the remainder is allocated to wildlife management and local administration. Whilst these figures do not represent an accurate picture of community benefits from hunting in even these countries, they demonstrate that extrapolating from one country to another is a meaningless exercise.
Complicating this situation further is the fact that regulations and laws governing hunting revenues are not always optimum or adhered to. For example, rural communities in Zambia are currently taking their government to court over withheld trophy hunting funds. Despite legislation requiring the redistribution of funds to rural communities, the Treasury have failed to do so over the past several years.
The decision to take legal action should not be taken as a criticism of trophy hunting as a management tool; instead, it comes out of an expectation of fair governance, meaning that local communities receive their fair share of profits.
Conservation in Africa takes place in a complex and evolving context of competing environmental, social, political and economic concerns. Understanding the role and implications of hunting within this context requires rigorous research based on sound science. It is incumbent on those reporting on hunting, conservation and community development to inform themselves appropriately and avoid regurgitating ‘fake’ news. To do less is to disregard those peoples whose livelihoods depend on wildlife, as well as best conservation practice.
1 Economists at Large, 2013. The $200 million question: How much does trophy hunting really contribute to African communities? A report for the African Lion Coalition, prepared by Economists at Large, Melbourne, Australia.
2 Vernon R. Booth (2010): The Contribution of Hunting Tourism: How Significant is This to National Economies? In Contribution of Wildlife to National Economies. Joint publication of FAO and CIC. Budapest. 72 pp