Matt Boguslawski, Staff Attorney
USAID recently conducted a case study of on-the-ground examples of the various methods to combat illegal trafficking of wildlife. Conservation Force seized the opportunity to spearhead a response on behalf of the hunting community. After all, regulated tourist safari hunting puts "boots on the ground" to control the poaching that is the source of the illegal wildlife trade. The information was readily available from our recent research in Tanzania that quantifies the poaching control contributions provided by hunting operators in Tanzania. We were also able to assist several operators in providing first-hand examples and data. Tanzania boasts some of Africa's densest wildlife populations and secures 360,000km² in wildlife habitat, largely through hunting.
The purpose of the case study compilation launched by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was to solicit information of "on the ground" examples from organizations on the different methods they employ in combating illegal wildlife trafficking. Hunting operators actively combat wildlife trafficking by stopping illegal take at its source.
USAID was specifically seeking information surrounding six main topics: characteristics of effective law enforcement capacity building; institutional arrangements and specially dedicated units and programs; examples of judicial systems that have had an impact in combating wildlife trafficking; necessary factors in establishing effective cooperation between national, sub-national, and local authorities; examples of successful partnerships used in competency building; and the best competency building methods for maintaining skills and retaining staff. The case study secondarily asked parties to provide information about the particular problems leading to the need for intervention, the way in which the particular program addresses these issues, and results from these efforts.
Hunting companies in Africa are the backbone of poaching control efforts. Apart from providing the bulk of the operating revenue for wildlife authorities' anti-poaching operations, hunting companies deploy their own trained teams. These efforts are critical in securing habitat and protecting wildlife. Readers may recall Conservation Force's sample audit of 27 Tanzanian hunting operators that documented the protection of 121,423km² of habitat (an area just larger than the state of Pennsylvania), which from 2013-2015 arrested 1,409 poachers and seized 6,223 snares and gin traps, 171 firearms, 1,557 rounds of ammunition, 34 vehicles and motorcycles, and other poaching contraband seizures. The sampled Tanzanian operators expended $6,717,160.65 on anti-poaching in the three-year period. Though the audit only sampled the unmeasured benefits of the hunting industry in Tanzania, it documented the fact that operators fund the three tiers of anti-poaching: they provide the largest share of wildlife departments' law enforcement revenue
, the operators have their own anti-poaching forces
, and they are the source of community game scouts
These tremendous capital, equipment, man-power, and government support contributions are irreplaceable in the context of securing wildlife. Without protection, wildlife has no ability to survive much less to flourish. Southern and Eastern African countries hold the largest populations of wildlife largely because hunting is a form of land use. The benefits from regulated hunting, such as anti-poaching, secure vast expanses of land in these countries. Hunting areas provide far more habitat protection than national parks. Tanzania's hunting area is five times more than its national parks; Zimbabwe's is approximately 4 times larger; Zambia's is 2.8 times larger, and Mozambique's is 1.5 times). Those hunting areas are protected by the self-funded hunting operators themselves, by game guards paid from hunting funds and by the wildlife departments funded through hunting fees, and hunter-funded safari game scout escorts. Without regulated hunting, there would be far too little habitat much less wildlife to protect.
Of course, positive management of wildlife offsets losses arising from poaching. As Aldo Leopold said, "We have learned to positively produce as well as negatively protect wildlife to conserve it."
We felt it essential that the hunting community be made a part of the USAID study and expect it to be recognized for the force that it is. We look forward to hearing back from USAID regarding these submissions.