The African elephant is a natural resource that
lends itself to assignable ownership and that ownership, couples with
benefits produced from hunting, provides an incentive for conservation.
There are other uses of the African elephant, both legal and illegal, but
the purpose of this article is conservation and elephant hunting.
Regulation has often been utilized as the final solution to conservation
problems. In fact, conservation rarely directly results from unqualified
regulation, because regulation restricts or removes ownership. Appropriate
regulation limits use, but sets the boundaries for the implementation of
management practices at the appropriate levels. That is why the victory for
the elephant at the 1997 CITES Meeting in Harare was so significant; it did
not preclude applied management; it made it a requirement.
Hunting of the African
elephant by foreign tourists has a long-standing tradition and is one of
the uses of choice by many African nations today. Africans were hunting
elephants before Eastern peoples or Europeans arrived in Africa. Elephant
hunting by foreigners generates both finances for management and with the
emphasis on local people in management, it has increasingly begun to
provide incentives to the people living with the wildlife.
We conserve only what we have
incentives to conserve. Wildlife has three economic values. Legal
value is the value assigned with regulated use. Illegal value would be the
use outside of laws or regulation (for instance, poaching). No value means
that the resource will effectively be ignored. Sadly, most evaluations of
use focus on the negative impact of the use (the faulty precautionary
principle), ignoring the impact of not using the resource. Any real
evaluation must include those costs to the resource of not using it.
Conservation practices require funding, and that funding must come from
somewhere, to turn from a use providing benefits must be factored into any
evaluation as a very real cost.
Elephant management requires
determining the appropriate level of sustainable off take, and that
management requires funding. With increased value of any resource, comes a
responsibility, and more likely an imperative need for increased level of
management. But conservation cannot (more appropriately put, will not) be
perpetually performed in a financial vacuum. In a world beset by many
demands for land, if a species is to survive, a use which can be sustained
both economically and ecologically, provides independence that will favor
survival in the most tumultuous of times.
Hunting of elephants by
tourists is cost effective, profitable and easily monitored. The
foreign hunter pays for all participation in the hunt, including government
fees, and for taking the natural resource. A government representative is
usually present. Animals are taken under a quota. The stakeholders in
such an arrangement include the hunter, the professional hunter (guide),
the regulatory agency (National Parks or Wildlife) and the people who live
with the elephants (the community).
Imaginative approaches are
being implemented in the different hunting countries such as Zimbabwe's
CAMPFIRE communities collecting data and setting their own harvest quotas.
In South Africa, many ranches have their own herds of elephants.
Other countries such as Cameroon, Botswana and Tanzania are implementing
programs where hunting benefits communities. Tying in the management to
those who benefit provides an appropriate monitoring loop in
In conservation, as in
governmental structure, centralization reduces effectiveness. Since
all ecological and economic systems are dynamic, good conservation is the
ability of the management to adapt to that change. Local monitoring with
the control to adapt to that change decreases response time. This results
in a more appropriate level of adaptive management.
The elephant is a natural
resource with assignable ownership. Foreign hunters are willing to convert
that from an asset to capital in exchange for a cultural experience
compatible with the history and use of the elephant. It is the
responsibility of the hunter to demand an ethical experience and the
professional hunter to provide such an experience. It is the responsibility
of those charged with management to maintain the resource. It is the
responsibility of the regulatory agencies, while maintaining appropriate
boundaries, to minimize their restriction of management options for any
International hunting of
elephants will continue to be a realistic option for sustainable
utilization. Under well managed conditions, it provides economic incentive
for continued proper management, and this insures the survival of the
elephant. And that by definition is conservation - the wise use of natural