How range countries regulate hunting trophy exports

Sometimes western society assumes developing countries do nothing to protect its own wildlife. While that might be true in some cases, there also are cases of good wildlife management in African countries. Here, I will explore some examples of hunting regulation in countries with big animals.

Namibia, Zambia, Mongolia and Pakistan illustrate how hunting can contribute to conservation. Instruments like a good system of export quotas and community management can be useful for wildlife conservation and beneficial for local communities.

Markhor, Pakistan’s National Animal


Hunting trophies trade under the CITES convention

Most range countries have ratified the CITES Convention; therefore they can authorize wildlife export trade, under certain circumstances. For example, trade of species that are threatened with extinction (Appendix I) must have an export permit that can be issued if and only if the trade is not detrimental to the survival of that species.

However, the Convention refers to hunting trophies only indirectly under the personal and households’ effects section. That legal vacuum led to political discussions on trophy trade among countries, animal NGOs and hunters. As a consequence of the debates, CITES Conference of Parties (COP) approved a series of resolutions to extend the definition and consequences of sport hunting.

COP-9 (US, November 1994) clarified that hunting trophies from Appendix I species require import and export permits; this is a complementary control, since the import country can issue an independent scientific examination on the status of a species and can determine if sport hunting is detrimental or not to the species survival. COP-13 (Thailand, October 2004) clarified that hunting trophy trade can be subject to a variable system of quotas for both export and import countries.

COP-16 (Thailand, March 2013) raised particular concerns about rhino horns and elephant ivory trade and its relations with sport hunting. Kenya raised concerns on hunting rules’ lack of enforcement, monitoring, and reporting in South Africa and Swaziland; therefore Kenya proposed a zero export quota on hunting trophies from these two countries. Moreover, the European Union proposed introducing requirements on export permits for all hunting trophies. Kenya withdrew its proposal and the EU recommendation was not approved, because an amendment was introduced stating that hunting trophy permits for rhino horns and elephant ivory must be systematically required.

The debates in the COPs point out the different perspective countries have on hunting as a conservation mechanism: Kenya’s position is due to fact that Kenya prohibited game hunting in 1977, while South Africa is well known for its strong sport hunting activity.

Quotas, bans and community management

Countries with big animals decide to organize their hunting activities in different ways. Most countries opt for a mix of policies that combine quotas over certain species, ban over others, a centralize management or a regionalize one, and different structures for distributing revenues.

In Africa, the African elephant, the cheetah, the black rhino and the lion are the animals in the wild most protected with trophy quotas, as the following table summarizes.

Voluntary export quotas CITES 2014

Species Country   (quota)
African elephant Botswana (0 ivory- 400 animals)Cameroon (160)Ethiopia (0)Mozambique (200)Namibia (90)South Africa (150)

Tanzania (100)

Zimbabwe (500)

Cheetah Botswana (0)Namibia (150)Zimbabwe (50)
Hippopotamus Cameroon (10)Ethiopia (10)Tanzania (1200)
Lion Ethiopia (10)Mozambique (53)
Crocodile Ethiopia (5)Tanzania (1600)
Black rhino Namibia (5)South Africa (5)

Countries like South Africa and Tanzania have big national parks and protected areas, where sport hunting is allowed, that play an important role in conserving endangered and threatened species. However, some experts mentioned that the poor management of hunting activities, the lack of resources, and the conflicts with the rural population make national parks insufficient to achieve the conservation goals because in developing countries, biodiversity is spread and wildlife cannot be restricted only to national parks.

When national parks and protected areas exploit local communities, restrict local economic activities, and/or the revenues generating from those parks or hunting activities are not distributed across the society, then socio-economic problems arise limiting the benefits of sport hunting. As Lindsey explains:

Despite some   successes, rural communities living   in or near wildlife areas rarely benefit adequately from trophy hunting activities. Inequitable distribution of hunting revenues represents the most serious threat to the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Moreover, local communities might not have any incentive to protect wildlife outside the protected areas. Historically, local communities have interacted with wildlife in rural areas, and that equilibrium also played an important role in biodiversity conservation. But communities might hunt wildlife for food, they might face human-wildlife conflicts, or they might suffer the consequences of organized crime related with poaching.

Today, more than 1.4 billion people live in extremely poverty in African rural areas, meaning that communities facing the challenge of protection their wildlife lack means for economic development. Therefore, to solve this socio-economic problem, hunting must be address not only as an instrument for species conservation but also for poverty alleviation in those regions. Community based natural resource management (CBNRM) has been develop as a good strategy for reaching social and environmental justice.

African communities learn that their natural resources and their big animals can create economic wealth. CBNRM allows local communities to organize and distribute the revenues from hunting or ecotourism in a more equitable way. Unfortunately, such self-organized efforts are sometimes threatened by poaching or harvesting carried by organized groups from outside the community.

Examples of regulatory frameworks by countries

Namibia has been considered as a good example of a well-run monitoring and administration system, including conservative quota setting, registration and supervision of hunting trophies and maintenance of an accurate dataset on trophies hunted. The success lies in the fact that stakeholders (hunters, hunting operators and local community) cooperate significantly. Trophy hunting has played an important role in creating revenues to conservancy activities. For example, the zebra population has increased from levels lowers than 1000 specimens in 1980 to more than 27,000 in mid-1990s.

Zambia protected all habitats of the Black Lechwe area in 1950 due to a decline in wildlife populations. Zambia has created national parks and game management areas that have a community management program. The country distributes revenues from trophy hunting activities allocating 40% to the management of wildlife resources (hunting operators), 35% to the local community and 25% to the government. The black lechwe (Appendix II CITES) is the most hunted animal and it is subject to annual quotas.Hunting a black lechwe costs between US$ 2,000 and US$ 2,6000 in 2009. In 2013, Zambia put in place a complete ban of trophy hunting of big cats, a partial ban on all other trophy hunting, and a partial ban of resident hunting.

Further inland from the Skeleton Coast, there is plenty of wildlife in Namibia

Zimbabwe  is not a good example of well managed hunting activities. In July, Fish and Wildlife Service ban imports to the U.S. of African elephants hunting trophies taken in Zimbabwe during 2014. FWS considers that there is not sufficient evidence that sport hunting can enhance the survival of elephants in the wild because Zimbabwe lacks an adequate management plan and its elephant population has been decreasing in recent years. In 2012, while only 304 elephants were counted by aerial or ground count, the government said that there were 100,000 elephants. Moreover, data from CITES COP 16 in 2013 indicates that 24% of Zimbabwe elephant population has been illegally killed.

Tanzania faces difficulties in protecting its elephant population. The increasing human population and human-elephant conflicts; the loss of wildlife habitat areas, and the difficulty of stopping poaching all create challenges for wildlife conservation that Tanzania has not been able to overcome. Tanzania’s elephant population decline by 66% in 5 years. FWS has questioned the management of the elephant hunting program and implemented a ban on elephant hunting trophies from Tanzania during 2014, because FWS considered that elephant hunting in Tanzania will not enhance the survival of the species.

Beyond Africa, Mongolia and Pakistan have good practices on trophy hunting.

Mongolia has an important population of Ovis smmon Argali (some subspecies are listed in Appendix I). Mongolia banned general hunting in 1953, but today it has a system of hunting quotas for some species like the Argali, a wild sheep that roams the highlands of Central Asia. Local governments have to conduct inventories of hunting species every year. In 2002 Mongolia doubled the quota from 40 to 80 for Argali. Trophy hunters pay fees to the national government that are distributed 70% to the federal government general funds, 20% to local province and 10% to the hunting organization. In 2002 those fees were between US$9,000 and US$18,000 depending on the subspecies. However, due to poor or non-existent law enforcement, poaching is considered the major threat to Argali in Mongolia.

Pakistan has allowed hunting within community-controlled areas since 1991. In 1986 the Torghar Conservation Project was recognized as one of the longest running community-based trophy hunting programs.


Range countries are sometimes successful in implementing hunting regulation that protects wildlife. Namibia, Zambia, Mongolia and Pakistan are good examples. Moreover, concepts like community management can be good instruments to introduce sport hunting and alleviate poverty at the same time. Other countries like Zimbabwe or Tanzania are facing more difficulties.

Wildlife, as part of the biodiversity and the environment, is a common good. The international efforts like CITES to protect wildlife can have a positive impact on conservation. However we have seen that the success lies in the involvement of local communities and the redistribution of revenues. Sport hunting can be a conservation tool if and only if it is associated with poverty alleviation and local communities receive part of the benefit. Social and environmental justice seems to be highly correlated.


Delfina Rossi studied economics in Barcelona and in Florence. She is formerly co-spokesperson of the Federation of Young European Greens (2010-2011) and she has been working as policy adviser in the European Parliament for Green MEP Raül Romeva (2011-2014). She is first year student of Master in Public Affairs at the LBJ School in the University of Texas at Austin.

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