I have recently read many publications and watched presentations about the Trophy Hunting vs Eco Tourism debate, including the statistics of landscape footprint and revenue per capita surrounding both activities. Depending on who was writing the article or presenting the information, references to case studies, statistics and views were utilised to drive home the point of the author/presenter.

For instance, in 2016 the analysis of the Timbavati Reserve’s financial model revealed that the conservation levies paid by the ± 24 000 photographic tourists who visited the reserve during that year was less than a third of the income earned from the 46 hunters who visited over the same period. The photographic tourists brought in a mere 17% of the total revenue, with the hunters contributing 61%.  This indicated that hunting yielded a much lighter landscape footprint with higher revenue. Realising that this was not in line with their commitment to minimising ecological footprint and maximising conservation goals, the management of the reserve in 2019 made the call to increase the conservation fee levied on photographic tourists to R328 per person per night. This resulted in increased revenue from photographic tourism without the need to increase bednight numbers, and along with that, human footprint. At the end of that year the picture looked different, with 21 000 photographic tourists bringing in 51% of the revenue and 21 hunters contributing 31%.  It still unfortunately required a much higher number of photographic tourists than hunters to move through the area.

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve states the following on their website: “The Timbavati has always stayed true to the principle that human footprint in the form of infrastructure development and visitor numbers is in conflict with sustainable management of wilderness areas. To support the low-density principles that Timbavati promotes, natural resources can and must be used sustainably. Sustainable utilisation includes all our activities that use nature as a resource, including photographic safari tourism and hunting, our annual impala culling that is done to ease grazing pressure on the ecosystem, water resource use, and the harvesting of wood and sand from the natural landscape.

Both photographic tourism and hunting are compatible funding practices and we call on all our Greater Kruger partners to work together to govern these activities with integrity and careful oversight.” 

I am not 100% sure where they stand today, but I was pleased to read that the management of Timbavati was clearly looking at the bigger picture of sustainable utilisation of our natural resources and was not just being relentlessly bias towards one specific form of tourist attraction.

Being part of the Hunting/Outfitting industry, I am unashamedly pro hunting, if it is done in a respectful, sustainable, and lawful manner. Hunting is a natural human practice. Surrounding an animal with ten vehicles filled with people taking photographs of said animal, seems a lot less natural to me than hunting. I am not proclaiming that photographic safaris are wrong, but when I see scenes of numerous vehicles filled with tourists rushing to an animal sighting from all directions, all of them armed with cameras or video recorders, it reminds me of Hollywood actors being hounded by the paparazzi. There is nothing natural, sustainable, or enjoyable for the subjects at hand in that situation. We often see footage of animals charging safari vehicles and even tossing them over when they get agitated. Vehicles try and get as close as possible to the animals to provide the best opportunity of videos and photographs for their clients, while regularly seriously engrossing on that animal’s space.  When out hunting with clients, we are typically two to four people walking silently through the bush. We observe many animals with the naked eye and through binoculars, and only attempt to get closer to an animal when it is the one that is identified to be harvested. Great care is taken to not disturb or aggravate animals, and to enjoy the beauty of nature by leaving as small a footprint as possible.

Mother Nature is there to be take pleasure in, but we are also the custodians who should be carefully considering what we do for enjoyment from all angles, so that we may keep only what is good and balanced.

Copyright 2024 | All Rights Reserved | Powered by WILD & JAG / GAME & HUNT