Impacts of trophy hunting – lessons from the hunting ban in Botswana

Trophy hunting has played a role in conservation in Africa for decades but calls to ban it are growing. What this would mean for wildlife, ecosystems and local communities is unclear. To ensure such decisions do not have unintended consequences, we need better understanding of what the impacts might be.

April 2018 - ongoing
Dilys Roe

Principal researcher and team leader (biodiversity), Natural Resources

Conservation, communities and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to understand and implement equitable conservation and enhance community voice in conservation policymaking
A group of men and women gathered under some trees

Community discussion on village life and the impacts of trophy hunting ban in Botswana (Photo: copyright Helen Muller)

Trophy hunting is a key component of sustainable-use approaches to wildlife conservation in Africa. It has underpinned many of the varied community-based natural resource management programmes that work towards more equitable, fair and inclusive biodiversity conservation, especially in southern Africa.

But trophy hunting is a controversial practice and many are against the idea that it can lead to the conservation of wildlife and habitats. Due to the variety of circumstances under which it takes place, both those for and against it use real-world examples to defend their views.

Over the last decade international social media has brought a wider audience to the debate, and calls to ban the practice across the African continent have grown. Voices often missing from the debate, however, are those from the local communities who would be most affected by any decisions that are made.

Trophy hunting bans imposed internally by national governments, international bans on trophy imports, and even decisions by individual airlines to ban transport of trophies, may all affect the efficacy of sustainable-use approaches and impact socio-economic conditions.

Systematically gathered evidence on these impacts is needed to inform the debate and to ensure that decisions do not end up doing more harm than good.

What is IIED doing?

Through partnership in a CASE PhD studentship, IIED is working with University College London, the Institute for Zoology and the University of Botswana to collect evidence from Botswana, where a nationally imposed trophy hunting ban was in place between January 2014 and May 2019.

Results of research in villages in northern Botswana are helping us to understand the impact of the trophy hunting ban on local communities’ lives and wellbeing. We are collecting the views of local communities on trophy hunting as a practice, on the hunting ban and on living alongside wildlife.

We are also examining the diverse factors that restrict or enable communities to convert from trophy hunting to photographic tourism enterprises through the country’s community-based natural resource management programme.

We are using our findings to provide evidence to policymakers on how such bans can impact local communities and to provide a platform for community voices to be heard by decision makers.

IIED is providing technical support and advice along with guidance for reaching a policymaking audience. Helen Muller, a PhD student on the London NERC doctoral training partnership based at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London and the Department or Anthropology at University College London, is leading the research and fieldwork in collaboration with the University of Botswana.