Uganda Ends Sport Hunting as Wildlife Numbers Decline

Investors in sport hunting in Uganda’s game parks have up to January next year to stop shooting wild animals for fun, The Uganda news site The New Vision reported recently.

According to The New Vision: “This follows a resolution from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to cancel hunting concessions offered years ago to the wildlife reserves.’We are concerned about the dwindling numbers of wild animals in the wildlife reserves. Hunting is prohibited,’ said Mark Kamanzi, the acting director of UWA.”

Kamanzi was reported as saying that the share of benefits of sport hunting were lopsided and unlikely to deter poaching or improve UWA¹s capacity to manage the wildlife reserves.

Wildlife managers had argued that the only way to save wildlife in Uganda was to use it to attract the private sector to invest in the management of wildlife reserves, The New Vision explained.

Read the full story on The New Vision website.

Nat Geo News Watch spoke to Dereck Joubert, a veteran wildlife filmmaker based in Africa who has been warning for years that hunting could be devastating the continent’s remaining herds of wild animals and especially their predators.

Dereck Joubert and his wife Beverly Joubert are National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence and founders of the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, a program designed to restore and conserve Africa’s last wild lions, cheetahs, and leopards.

Dereck Joubert interviewed by David Braun

Uganda has re-imposed a ban on hunting, reportedly citing the failure of hunting concessions to halt dwindling of populations of wild animals in preserves. You have long been opposed to hunting as a means of conservation. What is the argument against controlled hunting as a means to give economic value to wildlife conservation?

I have been against unethical hunting, not so much hunting itself, for many years. Sadly that has become one and the same recently.

I have been against hunting of declining species. We have endured 50 years or more of conservation by the gun in many parts of Africa and the one lesson we can take away is that it does not work.

With lions now teetering on the edge at around 20,000 animals, clearly the old ways have to change. Trophy hunting of the iconic animals really knocks back the genetic best of those populations as they decline and the selection process gets more refined and there is more targeting at the few decent specimens we have left.

Imagine for a moment that not long ago we could hunt tigers! Today we have only about 2,500 left! Lions, leopards, jaguars are all heading towards the tiger numbers fast.

Very little actual revenue from hunting makes it back to Africa in reality, and while the paper “rules of engagement” seem clear, there are many, many examples of blatant disregard not only for these gentlemanly rules, but laws of the country being broken.

So the drain on many regions, the risk to predator populations, to the corruption that some hunting generates, and the depletion of key populations far outweigh the conservation, moral or economic benefits today.

The one rule that hunting fraternities live by, that of “fair chase,” is a vestige of an era when the plains were black with animals and the luxury of making a sport out of killing things was okay, (well semi okay…I don’t think anyone today thinks it’s the test of a real man, or a polite thing to do.)

I believe that hunting will one day be relegated to the category of awful things we did as humans, alongside apartheid and the Holocaust, just in an animal context.

Has the failure of the economic theory of hunting in support of conservation in Uganda been paralleled in other parts of Africa?

Hunting has been banned in many places largely not for being uneconomical but mostly because of the negative impact it has on animals. And here we should be clear. Statistically it seems okay to siphon off some wildebeest in a migration of over a million. It may even seem to be reasonable to pick off or harvest other prey animals that are resident, but it gets very difficult to justify taking out, and specifically targeting the top predators that should roughly equal 10 percent of the mammals in a balanced system, but very quickly collapse under this kind of pressure.

Even selective hunting by a rather unnatural set of qualifying filters (such as size and fitness) is exactly the opposite of the natural selection that one sees going on in the wild. We don’t see lions circling a herd to find the fittest, largest bull buffalo while there are injured and weak nearby.

The investment by nature in those fit, large males is disproportionately great in that they are the ones that have worked their way through life to breed, and they should be the ones to breed more strong breeders that will lead and carry the herds, prides and populations into the next generation and next era.

But we take an enormous amount of time, spend a lot of money, and effort, finding and killing those perfect animals! It’s like burning the best antiques of our collection to keep the house warm.

Kenya banned hunting in 1977 for that reason. Many critics of this decision point to the fact that there are now fewer lions than in 1977. Well, there are also ten times as many humans, and that has a lot to do with the decline of lion numbers.

Are African governments becoming more aware that hunting might not be what it is cracked up to be in terms of generating revenue AND protecting their wildlife heritage?

Very definitely, and the Botswana model of low-impact, high-cost tourism has turned the economic reality of its wild places around completely.

As these wild resources on the planet shrink, we will all be looking at them as a shared and precious commodity and with a universal responsibility to protect the last of them.

In the next 50 years or so, we can expect wars to be fought over game reserves and natural resources other than gold or silver, or even water, because each lion will be a gem, each acre of untouched land will be worth more than the gold underneath it. Imagine the value of the last pride of lions!

I think also that as the world’s communication leaps to more efficient levels, a sentiment felt in New York is transmitted instantly to the capital of Botswana, that influences leaders and drives policy changes. There is less room for misunderstanding. If the world sentiment is that hunting is no longer socially acceptable then governments in the remotest places hear that argument and can weigh it up with all the information.

What economic models have worked to support the protection of wildlife and sanctuaries? Are there any outstanding examples of success?

Well I am biased, but the Botswana eco-tourism model is the best I know of in Africa. It is rapidly being recognized as such and we are seeing efforts to replicate it in Tanzania, and Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. There are low-density lodges starting in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and South Africa has long had this.

What do you say to the statement by hunting concerns that they manage wildlife areas and keep poaching under control?

Huh? I don’t understand the question! You are suggesting that hunting has anything at all to do with curtailing poaching? That is what the propaganda magazines will have you believe. Here is the way it really is: Hunting concessions allow hunting for five months a year in most countries. That means for seven months there is no one in residence. So seven months of poaching–un-manned, un-policed, the Wild West!

And, in areas where there are five months of hunting, anyone patrolling (99 percent of the time not hunters) who hears gunshots assumes it is hunting, while in fact it is poaching.

So the barrage of wild gunfire in hunting areas, and trust me there is a lot of gunfire going on, from target practice to multiple guns shooting at animals, sometimes from cars (80 percent of animals shot on safari–according to one source, Dr. Ian Parker in 2005–are shot illegally, from cars, at night on baits, and so on) is all a perfect smoke screen for poachers.

Poachers shy away from eco-tourism areas in general because it is constantly silent. When they fire a gun there are vehicles and planes on to them. Hunting and poaching go hand-in-hand, not in opposition.

Poaching gets reduced by creating wealth and health among rural communities so they can join a real world economy and not have to rely on bush meat to live.

Hunting, as we have seen, leaves most of its revenue outside of Africa, so that doesn’t help much. Eco-tourism creates 12 times as many jobs in most cases, has a real skills-transfer process, and eases people into that real economy.

Many business sectors do this, of course, but eco-tourism does it on the canvas of conservation, so not only does it feed the system with educated and trained people, but those people go out into the business world converted to conservation by default.

Poverty is linked to lack of education and lack of conservation ethic. If we want to fix wildlife, and stop poaching, it won’t be done with hunting. We tried that for 50 years, at least.


Read more about the work of Dereck and Beverly Joubert.

NGS photo by Mark Thiessen

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Jake White

    I really think Mr joubert is not all well there are many pro and cons to both and Botswana has a livley hunting concession ging on with up to a Hundred Elephant being hunted a year there now where does only eco tourism come into it

  • Douglas Pettit

    Total crap of a writeup. Clearly they are anti-hunting and don’t have their facts at all correct.

  • Parten Wakefield

    Rubish is what I think, Mr. Joubert completely ignores the fact that without creating economic benifit from the wildlife for the people, that they will be poached into extinction. By creating a reason to protect them by hunting fees, tourism, etc. the African people have a reason to protect the wildlife. Without it, well the animals at the very least become a source of protien, and worst case it the black market in things like Rhino horns and Ivory.

  • Japie van Wyk

    If hunting has not been a attributer to the management, protection and well being of wildlife populations where it is practiced, with Tanzania being the most recent success story since hunting has been reintroduced, why is Kenya’s wildlife in such a sad state, especially outside the reserves? I would also like to know why the elephant population explosion and the devastation they are causing in Botswana is not mentioned? River forest in the north being wiped out and they are now following suit in the south in the Limpopo Valley. Point is most species and especially the species that declined so much in Botswana are dependant on regular visits to water and i believe having to travel 25km+ to and 25km+ back to the river each day to feed definitely took its toll. The emotions around managing elephant populations will be the final blow to many species now also in the Limpopo Valley and the impact in the Kruger in SA is also very visible. Just visit one of the new incorporated private reserves to see the impact. I think that ministers and governments eagerly accept hunting concession, license etc money, but nothing gets ploughed back by government into the areas where the money is received from. The bush meat trade, ivory and rhino horn poaching will flood back into these areas and couples like the Joubert’s will only make money from new documentaries of poaching and suffering wildlife, which in turn will fuel emotions and open the money taps to sponsor there projects and very lucrative lifestyle they lead due to these emotionally filled documentaries. Their documentary on poaching in Botswana was also very effective, just a shame that it was a small effort of government with Mr. Khama (now president) featured as well. If a effort of that nature was full time, poaching in Botswana wouldn’t be an option to anyone sane. Hunting in hunting concessions are done through a managed process with only a certain amount of licenses per specie being issued annually, so how can something this well managed contribute in any way to the decline in species? Ostriches down by 90% – definitely not due to hunting, but rather no food (due to elephants) and poaching. I love Africa, the wildlife and hunting and believe i contribute more than expected from an individual, to manage and preserve the biodiversity of our wildlife. Racing from elephant herd to elephant herd with a group of tourists contributes less than a hunter and what is noticeable, especially in Botswana is the ignorance and blind eye guides turn to the total destruction by elephants when taking these tourists on their trips, whether by boat or vehicle, it is evident all over. “South Africa’s Conservation Success Story” the pas few decades is in large due to hunting and its contribution!!! Another interesting fact (and i love elephants to) is that organizations like Elephants Without Borders – a nice dream – has the cutest little elephant calf playing in the water on their Home Page – why not also show how these little critters suffer and get prayed on by lion and hyena – not a normal food source – but due to the long distances to be traveled to grazing each day they weaken and fall prey or die from hunger and thirst!!!!

  • Alana Balogh

    For all those who understand the words of wisdom gained from the experience and work of the Jouberts here is something you can do besides just agreeing with them. Sign this petition to ban trophy hunting.

  • Dante

    What a TOTAL LIE of Joubert to say that conservation by controlled hunting has not worked.

    From 1977 to today Zimbabwe TRIPLED its elephant population at the same time that Kenya lost 80% of their elephant.

    There are hundreds of examples demonstrating BY WILDLIFE NUMBERS (scientific census) that what he is saying is a total lie.

    What Uganda had was UNCONTROLLED POACHING, and they tried to set up controlled hunting at the same time.

    Hunting had a chance to curb the poaching, but this requires years of dedication and effort (like in Botswana that he helped to destroy).

    Hunting has always worked, from Africa to Canada, to the US, to Europe.

    I cannot believe that he also lies that he is not opposed to ethical hunting. He accuses all hunting to be unethical, and that Jouberts is what is unethical.

  • Andrea Meggiorin

    An answer to Dante. I speak only about what I know. And I will speak about Italy. Maybe it’s a too small example. I speak about the Italian Wolf. An important sub specie of Wolf. In the late seventies only 100 Wolves roamed in Italy. Our Govern launched a Protection Program called ” S. Francis Operation ” . Hunting totally forbidden. Only this. Actually we have about 1200 Wolves in Italy without any problem for anyone. And Wolves are controlling a too big population of Deers and Wild Boars. Hunting has nothing to do with Conservation in my Country.

  • Mary-lou

    Well done Mr Joubert. You have the welfare of animals at heart. You can see from the comments who the gun toting, hunting, money making at the expense of the animals , are. Why we should need to “manage” elephant populations as one person expressed is beyond me. Elephants and the other animals managed themselves quite well before human populations became so large and greedy. I believe the answer lies in controlling the human numbers and behaviours, not the animals

  • kevin

    its about time people stopped justifying whever trophy hunting is right or wrong.Its got to stop action is needed and fast to stop these beautiful animals being extinct.We need to send groups of man hunters out to kill the poachers ant trothy hunter

  • kiiza ivan

    naturally the population of these wild animals has its own factors that control it in the different ecological zones. such factors may include food availability,predator population,diseases,to mention but a few. sometimes these factors by far victimize the population of wildlife leading to low recovery rates. take an example of reduced food availability which will cause many animals loosing their lives,then humans persistently go on to encroach on these animals which will be negatively impacting the wildlife population(unsustainable utilization of wildlife resources)–for that case some animal species will end up being endangered or else becoming rare species. today,we should aim at sustainability of the natural resources; if we exploit this wildlife at a faster rate than it can recover then we are pushing our own wildlife populations towards extinction. nobody feels good to hear about the animals that got extinct hundreds of years ago;similarly,our children will not like it to find only stories about some animals.
    above that,animal welfare should be put under consideration.

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