king of the beasts

A major controversy is brewing in Kenya right now about whether to remove the ban on wildlife hunting in order to raise money for conservation. Poaching has been devastating Kenyan wildlife; the logic is that since big-game hunters will pay lots of money to hunt big game, this will offer greater incentive to protect species and funnel money into underfunded conservation efforts.

Hunting is no doubt a part of conservation efforts in many countries, but it is unsurprisingly met with resistance from some environmentalists who feel that there is somewhat of a contradiction in killing some of the animals that one is trying to protect. Also, many question whether it actually does lead to better overall conservation.

At the end of the day, the answer comes down to economics. The positive incentives for conservation can also come from people who want to shoot photos, not bullets. The question is, why isn’t this working in Kenya? In many places throughout the world, the fact that rich tourists want to come see wildlife and pay good money to do so provides sufficient incentive for protection.

One reason that viewing often doesn’t generate the revenue hunting does is that park fees are often low, much lower than tourists would be willing to pay given that airfare, hotels, and tours are in the many thousands of dollars already. This may be something for the Kenyans to consider looking into.

Also, the question must be asked, if poaching is already decimating wildlife, what is there to stop additional illegal hunting if the ban is removed? Without enforcement of existing laws, there is not much reason to think new laws will dramatically change the situation.