Earlier blog posts cited the benefits and drawbacks to sport hunting programs. Below, I will offer a solution that can keep both conservationists and avid hunters happy: allow heavily monitored and managed sport hunting to occur only when species are proven to not be harmed. Since studies show hunters are more willing to pay to hunt in areas where conservation is seen as a priority, this could actually make a difference!
In order for sport hunting to be recognized as an effective conservation tool, strict management practices must be implemented. Sport hunting can assist conservation efforts when properly managed, as is the case of the southern white rhino, which actually saw population increases after a well-managed quota system was implemented. Hunting managers need to be aware of the specific needs of each animal, as well as some commonly observed issues that can arise with sport hunting. Population estimates need to be as precise as possible, so wildlife monitoring must be a priority. If populations are well managed, a quota hunting system that allows hunters to take no more than 5% (or a sustainable percentage) of a population can maintain stable populations.
Some researchers recommend a certification program to ensure that certain countries that want to promote sport hunting have a sustainable program. A certification program would prove to hunters that the practices in place are sustainable and will not negatively impact conservation efforts of the species. A certification could provide a seal that proves that hunting processes are sustainable. This certification program could be based on six tenets, most of which are suggested by respected wildlife researcher Peter Lindsey:
- Management must prove their commitment to animal and environmental welfare by having sound scientific management and monitoring practices, as well as a conservation plan or goal in place.
- Management should have a careful management of quotas. This relates to monitoring populations and understanding the impacts of hunting on populations.
- Management should prove that they have wide ranging conservation objectives. Rather than be exclusively focused on raising the population of a certain species by ten animals, management should attempt to conserve the environment the animal lives in, as well as others species that could be impacted by sport hunting.
- Sport hunting should provide for the development of local communities. The funds raised from sport hunting, though not a large percentage of a nation’s GDP, can help local communities stay healthy, as well as incentivize the protection of wildlife by local communities.
- Additionally, widely recognized unsustainable or unethical hunting practices should be banned, including “canned hunting.” Canned hunting was banned in 2007 in South Africa, but was reinstated in 2011, and is the practice where animals are shot before release, drugged before release, or released in a very small area in order to make hunting easier.
- Finally, heavily endangered populations should not be hunted, as their numbers are already not sustainable. Management needs to be well-funded to be able to achieve all the goals necessary to successfully conserve wildlife through sport hunting, if sport hunting is to be effective.
The certification could be managed by several different entities, including Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or individual hunting associations. By allowing certification through CITES, the international community could be more involved and therefore more willing to work with the idea of sport hunting as a conservation tool; if FWS issues the certification, the costs would be higher, but the U.S. could ensure that they would have direct control over sustainable hunting; allowing hunting associations to self-certify would cut down on costs but could compromise the validity of the certification. Certification of sport hunting could be far reaching, and assist conservation efforts by proving the hunting practices are sustainable. Since studies have shown that hunters are concerned with the sustainability of sport hunting, so this could work to further bolster conservation efforts.
A certification program could be an effective way to signal to hunters and conservationists that sport hunting will be well regulated in the future and species will be well managed. This program could prove that species conservation is a priority, and the certification process would insure only a sustainable take of a population. However, this certification could also be seen as an effort that is too little too late, and that it still supports sport hunting, which is an issue of concern to conservationists.