African community leaders have accused Britain’s international environment minister, Zach Goldsmith, and anti-Copper celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, of neo-colonialism, who have warned they are ignoring the voices of people living alongside elephants, lions and other wildlife.
The UK government is expected to impose a ban on the import of hunting trophies during this Parliament, arguing that the new law will boost the conservation of endangered species.
With widespread support from the British public, and a trophy hunting campaign backed by celebrities including Gervais, Brian May, Ed Sheeran and Joanna Lumley, bans will be common, and similar legislation is expected in other European countries.
In 2015, the killing of Cecil the lion by a souvenir hunter in Zimbabwe sparked global outrage and disgust with the industry, with poachers paying tens of thousands of pounds to shoot and pose for pictures with carcasses of wildlife such as giraffes, elephants and leopards.
But a growing number of scientists, environmentalists and African community leaders have warned that the new law could accelerate the loss of wildlife, citing the contributions of organized spoils hunting to the restoration of black and white rhino populations in Namibia and South Africa, and the snow leopard. in Tajikistan.
During a visit to London last week, Maxi Bia Lewis, a Namibian representative of communities in nine countries in South Africa, met with Goldsmith and other British politicians to voice her opposition to the ban in its current form, insisting it would remove financial incentives to protecting wildlife without offering an alternative.
Africans are not consulted, especially in southern Africa where we have the majority of wildlife. If there is no incentive to conserve wildlife, we will see a lot of land lost to agriculture. “You can imagine what will happen to lions and elephants that need large ranges,” said Pia Lewis, who is also meeting with the European Parliament and other governments on her visit with her colleagues.
“I am not a hunter. I do not like guns. I have seen people get killed with guns under apartheid in Namibia, but that does not give me a reason to take people’s livelihoods away.”
Since independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibia’s community-based conservation approach, which allows for organized trophy hunting, has had notable success in restoring populations of elephants, lions, leopards, leopards and giraffes, which were decimated by poaching in the 1970s and 1980s. .
Pia Lewis said she was surprised by Goldsmith’s suggestion during their conversation that Namibia could learn from the example of Costa Rica, which has won international acclaim for halting and reversing tropical deforestation but whose climate is very different from the hot, dry conditions. From the country in southwest Africa.
She said Africans had no say in the UK’s deer hunting industry, and local communities should be free to decide how to live alongside potentially dangerous wildlife.
“[The ban] It is a form of neo-colonialism. “We are open to discussions as long as there is mutual respect,” she said. “Who is Ricky Gervais? We don’t even know him. Celebrities have the money, influence and access to social media, not our communities. He should stand up for the weak.”
He invited Louis Gervais, Goldsmith, and other celebrity activists to Namibia to watch the reserves in action.
Gervais was an outspoken supporter of a total ban on cup-hunting imports, Cheering on his 14 million Twitter followers To write to the UK government to support a change in the law. He also said that bounty hunting is not protection, reject it As “a lie to enable rich psychopaths to shoot things and corrupt officials to make some money”.
In January, some experts warned that the British ban threatened to undermine the conservation of rhinos, elephants and other endangered species, and suggested a smart import ban instead. Guardian writer George Monbiot is among those who have changed their minds about trophy hunting, Warning that ban Without financial alternatives it will accelerate the mass killing of wildlife.
A spokesperson for the UK government said it remained committed to imposing “one of the world’s toughest bans” on trophies from thousands of species, adding that this would help protect endangered animals and promote and support their long-term conservation. Ricky Gervais declined to comment.
Earlier this year, conservation experts met with leading scientists at Defra to explain the science behind trophy-based conservation models. While there are devastating examples of trophy hunting, the practice does not lead to the extinction of species, said Delice Rowe, chair of the Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“From a scientific perspective, the main threats to species extinction are habitat loss as the absolute main threat, poaching and human-wildlife conflict. Trophy hunting can address some of these. Evidence for bounty hunting is positive rather than negative,” she said.
“We really believe that decisions are made based on politics and emotions rather than science.”