Saturday, June 15, 2024

Adam Cruise’s report findings have been scientifically disproven

Botswana is once again being criticised by researcher Adam Cruise, who says trophy hunting is a threat to Botswana’s wildlife, including its elephant population and impoverishing hunting communities. This is not the first time that that Cruise, who specialises in Environmental and Animal Ethics from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, has made such claims which have been scientifically rejected.

In his newly released report titled “Trophy Hunting in Botswana – A Tale of Declining Wildlife, Corruption, Exploitation, And Impoverishment,” Cruise states that “If trophy hunting can be proven to benefit the conservation of wildlife and human livelihoods, then perhaps it may be a case to consider. However, the problem in the majority of trophy hunting cases, and in most countries where trophy hunting takes place, the activity not only is wholly unable to benefit wildlife and human communities, but precipitates the opposite. Botswana, one of the major destinations for trophy hunters, is a particular case in point.”

In another part of the report, he says “The evidence also proves that trophy hunting does not aid in the preservation of wildlife but opens the door to overly high hunting quotas, the over-use of quotas as well as greed and corruption where financial gain always trumps precautionary and sound conservation practices.”

However whether on purpose or accidentally, Cruise’s report, disregards conservation expertise – even that provided by the United Kingdom scientific advisory body. A recent review of data from the Red List of the IUCN (the world’s leading conservation authority) further highlighted this. It demonstrated that while trophy hunting offered actual or potential benefits to many more species, it was only a conceivable or likely hazard to some populations of nine (0.1%) of the >6200 species to be covered by the Trophy hunting bill.

In addition, over 150 renowned conservationists wrote and signed a letter to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak two weeks ago on August 25. Part of the letter reads: “Trophy hunting is not a black and white ethical issue, but the weight of evidence demonstrates overall conservation benefit. Many of us dislike the activity, but as conservation professionals, our job is to be driven by the evidence, rather than any personal feelings”.

The letter also adds that: “Crucially, habitat loss, poaching and conflict with local people are all far greater threats to wildlife than trophy hunting, and so by mitigating these greater threats, trophy hunting can secure net benefits for conservation.”

Cruise goes on to say in his report that Botswana “has been flagged for non-compliance under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) due to its failure to submit annual reports, which provide crucial information for validating offtake of elephants for trophies for the international trophy trade. This indicates that the wildlife conservation in Botswana is not adequately managed.”

The most recent survey results of the first-ever coordinated aerial elephant survey in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) further emphasised Botswana’s prudent wildlife record. According to the report, Botswana is home to the largest elephant herd in the world, numbering 131 909, and the country has the highest elephant densities in the region. “Across the KAZA TFCA, 58% of the elephants were found to be in Botswana, 29% in Zimbabwe, 9% in Namibia, and the remaining 4% were found in Zambia and Angola combined,” states the report.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states have emphasised multiple times that they should be allowed to trade in a species if they can demonstrate scientifically that the population is strong and therefore deemed safe. However, Cruise ignores such evidence, just like CITES does.

It is quite clear that Cruise’s report failed to recognise that to be effective, conservation policies must be evidence-based and only adopted after proper consultation and scrutiny. Previously, Cruise published another report which SADC hunting communities dismissed as “harmful to both elephants and hunting communities.”

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