South African comedian Trevor Noah suggested on his US late-night news satire television programme, The Daily Show last week that wildlife hunting should be banned in Southern Africa because it only brings as little as three percent benefits to the region’s hunting communities.
Most of the wildlife-rich Southern African countries, including poor rural communities from his home country South Africa whose livelihoods depend on hunting wildlife revenue reacted with disappointment.
They dismissed Noah’s claim that rural community hunting benefits were insufficient in the region as a pack of lies aimed at pleasing his Western paymasters who want to impose their anti-hunting values on Africa.
Known for helping the needy in his home country, Noah’s anti-hunting talk has now alienated him from South Africa’s wildlife economy dependent poor rural communities of Makuya Reserve in Limpopo Province, next to Kruger National Park.
In that area, they believe if Noah’s lies go uncorrected they could harm the hunting industry that brings them 100% benefits. Not three percent of the benefits that Noah claimed they receive.
Elsewhere, Botswana’s Minister Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Onkokame Mokaila, together with Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism and the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Botswana Wildlife Producers Association (BWPA), Zimbabwe Communal Areas Management Programme For Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) and SADC hunting rural communities dismissed Noah’s three percent earnings allegations as “false information ‘fed’ on him by his anti-hunting Western paymasters.”
“We refute your allegation [Mr Noah] that about only three percent from trophy hunting could be benefiting communities,” said Minister Mokaila. “I would like to invite Mr Trevor Noah to Botswana to see firsthand how our communities are receiving meaningful benefits from wildlife trophy hunting.
He will also personally talk to Batswana in rural communities that are benefitting from hunting, who can confirm that they are receiving life-changing socioeconomic benefits from wildlife.”
Minister Shifeta said that Noah’s assumptions have no basis and are devoid of any truth. Therefore, he denounced and condemned Noah’s misinformed views that that “trophy hunting in Africa is smokescreen for corrupt practices taking place at the expense of rural people.”
“Contrary to Mr Noah’s allegation that only three percent of hunting revenue is paid to Southern African rural communities, rural conservancies in Namibia are receiving 80% of the funds generated from trophy hunting. The other funds are paid into a game trust fund for general wildlife management including funding for human wildlife conflict interventions and mitigation.”
He said that trophy hunting “is one of our well regulated conservation tools” and also part of their sustainable use policy. Namibia’s legislation and policy framework provides for the establishment of conservancies in communal areas where trophy hunting takes place outside national parks as legal institution to manage and benefit from the wildlife.
In a statement issued by Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Minister Shifeta said that the introduction of the Conservancy Programme helped increase Namibia’s elephant population from 7,500 after 1990 to the current total population of 22, 000.
He said that trophy-hunting revenue is also used for rural infrastructural development, ranging from water and electricity supply, including building schools, clinics; bursaries for the community students; procurement of tractors.
“Because of the incentives and benefits the Namibian rural conservancies are getting from trophy hunting, they now tolerate co-existence with wild animals even though they destroy their infrastructures, cause losses to their crop fields and in some instances even kill their loved ones,” said Minister Shifeta.
A representative of the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisation (NACSO), Maxi Louis warned Noah against speaking about trophy hunting benefits to rural communities and “its contribution to our local economies” without having done homework [credible research and talking to the relevant people with correct information from Southern Africa. “We have facts to prove that trophy hunting contributes towards the conservation of our wildlife,” she said.
Meanwhile, Esther Netshivhongweni, sustainable tourism facilitator of South Africa’s Makuya Nature Reserve hunting community has invited Noah to go to her rural community together with Western animal rights NGOs that are ‘feeding’ him with misleading information to see for themselves; the truth about significant benefits from hunting that are alleviating rural poverty and promoting wildlife conservation.
“Our American agents and our professional hunters are attracted to hunting at Makuya Nature Reserve for two reasons; income earned is used for wildlife conservation and brings economic benefits that are helping to lift our community out of poverty,” she said.
“These factors constitute sustainable hunting and sustainable development.” Debbie Peake, spokesperson for the BWPA confirmed that “it’s a fact that trophy hunting is a valuable tool in wildlife management” endorsed by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) [as well as the UN Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Species (CITES) that sets and approves wildlife hunting quotas].
“Therefore, to ridicule hunting, as does Mr Noah, with zero facts, is unacceptable,” said Peake. “It begs the question of who pays him (Mr Noah) to make such accusations about hunters – has he sold himself to the Western animal rights groups similar to prostitution?”
Charles Jonga, Director Of Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE Programme dismissed Noah’s claim that Southern African hunting rural communities are only receiving three percent share of hunting revenue as “a total lie and distortion of facts.”
“It [Mr Noah’s three percent benefits claim] is based on the 2012 Humane Society International (US animal rights group) commissioned Economists at Large Report,” said Jonga. “The Report twisted Vernon Booth’s 2010 report which focused on safari operators’ 3.10% voluntary contributions to community development, which are in addition to the mandatory trophy fees, which anti-hunting groups conveniently ignore whenever they talk about the economic contribution of hunting.”
Jonga said that contrary to Noah’s three percent revenue earnings claim, the Zimbabwe CAMPFIRE hunting communities are receiving 55% from the hunting funds.
“Trophy hunting is important, it creates jobs for our people, infrastructure clinics, schools,” said Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority public relations manager, Tinashe Farawo. “Nearly a million people are benefiting from hunting countrywide.
We are disappointed that Noah failed to ask SADC Parks and wildlife management authorities and the Ministries of Environment, for the correct information on how hunting is significantly benefiting wildlife conservation and rural development in SADC countries.”
Demonstrating how harmful the wildlife hunting ban can be to wildlife economies in Southern Africa, Minister Mokaila cites the recent huge job and income losses that rural communities in Botswana suffered following the unfortunate 2014 blanket hunting ban imposed on Botswana by its Western animal rights groups influenced former president Ian Khama.
“The hunting ban was felt by communities involved in Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) in less than 12 months,” said Minister Mokaila, adding that it negatively impacted Batswana hunting communities who lost US$1.4 million and 305 jobs.
The loss of wildlife benefits triggered revenge wildlife killings including poisoning lions. These communities continued to suffer costs of living with wildlife, ranging from the killing of their loved ones, livestock and destruction of crops and property. To stop the negative hunting ban impacts President Masisi lifted the ban this year, after the affected communities appealed for the lifting of the ban.
Notably, Southern African countries have a use it or lose it wildlife management policy that says if communities sharing the land with wildlife don’t receive benefits from it, they will have no incentive to protect it. This is why Noah’s suggested hunting ban in Southern Africa has ignited fierce opposition from governments, rural communities and the wildlife industry in that region.
“This world is ruled by the cruelties of money and power and Mr Noah is part of the outcomes of that agenda,” said a Botswana rural communities representative and a member of the Ngamiland Council of NGOs, Gakemotho Satau.
“It is a devilish talk [Mr Noah’s The Daily Show lies] that is far from appreciating the reality on the ground and undermines the sovereignty of Southern African countries to benefit from their wildlife, in pursuit neocolonialist dogmas.
Mr Noah needs to apologise for the propaganda that he spread on The Daily Show.” *Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.