Monday, 5 June 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Tourists Against Trophy Hunting Want Ban On Trophy Hunting Outside Kruger National Park

Tourists Against Trophy Hunting, a recently formed coalition of tourists opposed to hunting has written to the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) appealing to them for an outright ban on hunting in the area.

The membership of just over 200 includes conservationists, ecologists, writers, photographers, advocates, activists, tourists and travel agents and travel bloggers from countries including Germany, UK, Canada, the US, Brazil and South Africa.

The open letter is reproduced, verbatim, below.

Appeal to APNR from Tourists: Please BAN trophy hunting outside Kruger National Park

In a keynote address to the World Travel and Tourist Summit, John Scanlon recently said the assets that underpin wildlife-based tourism are under severe threat. These threats include habitat loss, pollution, infrastructure, climate change, over exploitation and illegal trade.

We must tackle these threats if wildlife is to survive, if wildlife-based tourism is to survive, if your own business is to survive.

Kruger National Park is one of the largest protected parks in the world, and one of the most visited in South Africa. But many who visit are unaware that private game reserves with open fences to the boundaries of the protected park regularly request and receive permits to trophy hunt.

Or that hunters refer to the Kruger as "the factory." The Timbavati Game Reserve has called this ongoing controversy an "emotive" issue. Others have called it a loophole that must be closed.

We the undersigned are an international coalition of tourists who view wildlife as sentient beings rather than resources to be utilized.

We call upon the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) of Timbavati, Klaerie, Balule and Umbabat to support a total ban on trophy hunting within the area.

SANParks is entrusted with the protection of wildlife, most recently by the Protected Areas Act of 2004. But since 1993, when park officials agreed to remove the boundary fences, animals have moved freely between the areas.

This would be a good thing if hunters were not waiting on the other side. Tourists are told hunting is prohibited in Kruger. But as wildlife status changes from publicly "owned" to res nullius, instantly they become fair game.

Shockingly, park employees also sit on management committees of these reserves, and help to decide the hunting quotas. Are the abundant APNR waterholes where tourists view animals drawing animals over? Is this any different than luring a lion with bait out of a "protected" park?

The recent Timbavati Reserve hunting quota application received much worldwide media attention due to the inclusion of a "trophy" bull. But it also included 33 other elephants, and more than 5 000 animals including endangered species in the four APNR reserves.

Throughout this latest controversy, SANParks and all government officials have been evasive about what was approved. As of a week ago, four elephants had been killed, along with one rhino. We can presume many more from the list have by now been "harvested".

Any call for a tourist boycott at this time would be counterproductive. But more travel agents are choosing not to book in the area unless it is to Sabi Sands, where a hunt ban is in place. It is unacceptable for tourists to share space with trophy hunters, knowing an animal admired, enjoyed, and photographed one day can be shot the next, to become a wall mount or a floor rug.

Trophy hunting is undergoing widespread public scrutiny. People are aware through international headlines that many species are critically declining in numbers. Polls show a majority of tourists are deterred by knowledge of trophy hunting in areas they visit.

If in any doubt of that, look on Trip Advisor at the responses last month to the Timbavati permit request. We include just three of many:

"Should we start a petition on Avaaz? Many international residents would avoid Timbavati if they knew the reserve allowed some hunting areas where endangered animals are hunted."

"I honestly think that people in the wider community, particularly outside of South Africa, haven't a clue that this is happening. I suspect it would not be viewed favourably, I suspect that people....who book with non-hunting lodges in these neighbouring reserves would be appalled that hunting is taking place on the same reserve."

"That is shocking! I will not encourage people to visit it {Timbavati} anymore."

It is time to recognise the hunting industry claims of support for conservation and local communities are not evidence-based. Wildlife watching tourism, as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) reports, has a return of 80% of the total tourism revenue in Africa.

Trophy hunting not only fails to provide a significant benefit for the overall revenue of range states, but threatens ecotourism revenues. It is an unnecessary additive to other pressures, further depleting populations as the "best and the biggest" are killed.

Ethics-based approaches to wildlife conservation are available. The public majority are not hunters, who do not "use," but rather respect and appreciate wildlife, and who have deep concerns about continued survival of iconic species. They are now demanding responses proportionate to their majority status.

As a local SA travel agent has said, her clients will happily pay a conservation fee to support survival of the animals they come to visit.

We therefore ask you, the owners of the APNR lodges and stewards of the lands, to join our effort to protect the wildlife of Kruger National Park wherever they roam. Please support our call for trophy free tourism.

Sincerely,

Tourists Against Trophy Hunting