Hunters who travel to Africa to shoot big game had been keeping a low profile in the aftermath of global outrage provoked by the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe last year. Now they’re fighting back.
The conservation arm of Safari Club International, which suspended the membership of U.S. dentist Walter Palmer for shooting Cecil, has published research that says trophy hunting contributes $426 million dollars to eight, mostly poor sub-Saharan African countries and employs 53,000 people.
United Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. banned transporting animal trophies, and tighter hunting rules were introduced after Palmer shot the 13-year-old male lion, who was part of an Oxford University conservation project, after he wandered out of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in July. Such restrictions threaten a vital source of income for one of the world’s poorest regions, according to SCI, home to the world’s largest collection of hunting records.
“There’s certainly some negative impacts that have been realized in the aftermath of that incident,” said Matthew Eckert, director of conservation at the Safari Club Foundation, SCI’s conservation arm, which funded the report. “It’s drawing more attention from the public to one side of the perspective, that’s the animal activist, the animal-rights movement. They’re being blinded and not seeing the importance of hunting to conservation and the people.”
Each year between 2012 and 2014 almost 19,000 international hunters, mostly from the U.S., visited the eight African countries studied in the report, spending on average two weeks and $26,000. Most of that spending is in remote rural areas where people have limited economic opportunities, it said.
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