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The Masoka Community in Zimbabwe speak out.

The Masoka community, on behalf of communities in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, add their voices to the current global media debate on trophy hunting and sustainable use.

This is a letter that adds the voices of rural communities to the current global debate on trophy hunting. This letter is informed by those who live with wildlife and who are concerned that their livelihoods are protected and their rights upheld. These voices are rarely heard but they are vital to any healthy debate about conservation.

 21st January, 2020

A recent letter in Science by Dickman et al about trophy hunting unleashed passionate debate in the Western media.  These discussions have involved over 400 conservationists, academics and animal rights advocates from the US, Europe and Australia, voicing strong, if divergent, opinions on effective conservation strategies.

Much of the discussion focuses on Africa, but with the notable exception of Dickman et al’s letter, key voices missing from the debate are those of rural people and governments who live with and manage African wildlife, and who will ultimately determine its future. As legitimate representatives of many thousands of people from key wildlife range states (Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia), we would like to correct this and have our perspective and voices heard.

Sustainably managing megafauna is complex, and successful conservation must start with we who live directly with wildlife. Whilst many in the West view elephants, lions and other wildlife through a romantic, idealized lens, our daily reality of living with these magnificent and valued, yet often dangerous, animals requires more pragmatism.

We, who live surrounded by this wildlife, worry daily that our children may be killed on their way to school, or that our livelihoods will be destroyed. In Botswana, 36 people were killed by elephants in 2018. In Zimbabwe, at least 30 people were trampled by elephants in 2019.  Every death is a tragedy, and often involves family breadwinners. Recently, two Zimbabwean siblings disappeared from their home. Only the dismembered head of the two year old was recovered from the suspected hyena attack, and the four year old has never been found. The harsh reality is that if wildlife is just a threat to us, and our incentives to conserve it are removed, its future will be as bleak as that of the wolves, bears and other carnivores of Europe and the US.

For centuries our people have lived with wildlife, and its value is deeply ingrained in our cultures. During colonial times our rights to manage and benefit from these resources were removed. This led to dramatic loss of wildlife and its habitat – a disaster for conservation, our traditions and our livelihoods. Following independence, our governments restored our rights and integrated wildlife into rural economies.  This enabled the development of socio-economic incentives to live with and sustainably manage our wildlife. Whilst it varies nationally, up to 90% of these economic incentives are provided through sustainable, regulated hunting. This has led, in Southern African countries such as ours, to increasing wildlife populations and habitat, often even beyond formally protected areas, in stark contrast to most Western countries.

We acknowledge that banning wildlife trophy imports into foreign countries is within the right of those governments. We further recognize that regulated hunting may appear a counter-intuitive conservation strategy to many. Yet if your objective is conservation -  not solely the recognition of individual animal rights – import bans are misguided and have important implications for our human rights. We are concerned that hundreds of millions of dollars have been gobbled up in misleading animal rights campaigns without any benefit for the custodians of African wildlife – African people. Banning trophy imports risks significantly reducing the value of our wildlife, reducing incentives to tolerate and manage wildlife as an integral component of our livelihoods. Imposing such disastrous policies on us negates our sound conservation record. Once again, wildlife numbers will plummet and our rights to sustainably manage our natural resources will again be undermined.

We recognize and respect the rights of Western conservation scientists and animal rights advocates to discuss how best to manage African wildlife. However, we request that your discussions are informed by our voices as custodians of this wildlife. Discussions should acknowledge both our conservation successes and our communities’ right to earn a livelihood through the culturally appropriate, sustainable management of our resources for the benefit of our people. Any less is to deny our human rights. 

 Yours sincerely,


Ishmael Chaukura

CAMPFIRE Inter-ward Chairperson

Mbire District, Zimbabwe



Gakemotho Satau - The Trust for Okavango Cultural and Development Initiatives (TOCaDI

Kutlwano Russel - Mababe Zokotsama Community Development Trust

Tumeleng Mogodu - Mababe Zokotsama Community Development Trust

S.K. Moepedi - Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust

Kerapetse Bantu Peter - Tcheku Community Trust

Amos Ben Mabuku - Chobe Enclave Community Trust – Former Chairperson



Hilda N. Nathinge - Vice Chairperson of the North Central Conservancy (Representing 9 conservancies)

Max Mayemburuko - Chaiperson of the Kavango East and West Conservancy Community Forest Associations (Representing 6 conservancies)

Theo Naruseb - Chairperson of the Erongo Conservancy Association (Representing 4 conservancies)

Brisetha Hendricks - Chairperson of the Southern Conservancy Association         

Stein Katupa - Kunene Conservancy Regional Association, Secretary to the Conservancy Association (Representing 40 Conservancies)

Zaack Dirkse - (Representing 6 Southern Conservancies)

Geoffrey Tukuhuphwele - Zambezi Conservancy Chairperson (Representing 15 Conservancies, and one CBO)



Bulilima District

Never Ncube - CAMPFIRE Inter-ward Chairperson

Delani Mabhena  - Councillor, Malanswazi Ward 

Phillip Mpofu - CAMPFIRE Chairperson, Khame Ward 

Zoolakes Nyathi - Council Chairperson 

Morning Manguba - Headman

Isaac Msebele, CAMPFIRE Chairperson, Ndolwane Ward

Land Ndebele - Finance Committee Chairperson

Innocent Mavunela - Conservation Committee Chairperson

Chipinge District

Patson Simango - CAMPFIRE Chairperson, Mahenye Ward

Kumbula Jimmy - CAMPFIRE Chairperson, Mtandahwe Ward

Naison Ndhlovu - Mahenye Ward Councillor

K. Njanjeni - Mtandahwe Ward Councillor 

Hwange District

Nyalani Mgaduwi - CAMPFIRE Chairperson, Sidinda Ward

Chief Shana - Hwange

Sinikiwe Nyathi - Sidinda Ward Councilor

Jabulani Ndubiwa - CAMPFIRE Elder, Jambezi Ward

Mbire District

Promotion Dzomba - Village Head, Masoka Ward

Sarudzai Goredema - CAMPFIRE Chairperson, Masoka Ward

Osca Marowa, Committee Member, Masoka Ward

Pulic Museruka, Committee member, Angwa Ward

Ishmael Jack - CAMPFIRE Vice Chairperson, Angwa Ward

Julius Chokubooka - CAMPFIRE Treasurer, Angwa Ward

Justin Mawachi - CAMPFIRE Secretary, Angwa Ward

Cossam Chikondoma - CAMPFIRE Vice Secretary, Angwa Ward

Tsholotsho District

Godfrey Ndlovu - CAMPFIRE Inter-ward Chairperson

Chief Tategulu - Tsholotsho

Chief Matupula - Tsholotsho

Chief Siphoso - Tsholotsho



Dr Rodgers Lubilo - Chairman, Zambia National CBNRM Forum

The letter was submitted to JUST CONSERVATION by CHARLES JONGA on behalf of ISHMAEL CHAUKURA and was written as a ground based amplification of the letter below published in Science, the journal of the AAAS on 30th August 2019, Vol 365, Issue 6456, page 874. This letter was also submitted to Science where it was posted as an e-letter. See (

 Banning Trophy Hunting will Imperil Biodiversity 

Trophy hunting is under pressure: There are high-profile campaigns to ban it, and several governments have legislated against it (1). In the United States, the CECIL Act (2) would prohibit lion and elephant trophy imports from Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and restrict imports of species listed as threatened or endangered on the Endangered Species Act. In addition to the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, and France have restricted trophy imports (1), and the United Kingdom is under pressure to follow. Calls for hunting bans usually cite conservation concerns. However, there is compelling evidence that banning trophy hunting would negatively affect conservation. 

In African trophy hunting countries, more land has been conserved under trophy hunting than under National Parks (3) and ending trophy hunting risks land conversion and biodiversity loss (4). Poorly managed trophy hunting can cause local population declines (5), but unless better land-use alternatives exist, hunting reforms— which have proved effective (6)—should be prioritized over bans (7). Positive population impacts of well-regulated hunting have been demonstrated for many species, including rhinos, markhor, argali, bighorn sheep, and many African ungulates (7). 

Trophy hunting can also provide income for marginalized and impoverished rural communities (7). Viable alternatives are often lacking; opponents of hunting promote the substitution of photo-tourism, but many hunting areas are too re-mote or unappealing to attract sufficient visitors (8). Species such as lions fare worst in areas with-out photo-tourism or trophy hunting (9), where unregulated killing can be far more prevalent than in hunting zones, with serious repercussions for conservation and animal welfare (10). Focusing on trophy hunting also distracts attention from the major threats to wildlife. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global conservation authority, clearly concludes that “well managed trophy hunting can—and does—positively contribute to conservation and local livelihoods” (7). Although there is considerable room for improvement, including in governance, management, and transparency of funding flows and community benefits (11), the IUCN calls for multiple steps to be taken before decisions are made that restrict or end trophy hunting programs (7). Crucially, as African countries call for a New Deal for Rural Communities (12) that allows them to achieve the self-de-termination to sustainably manage wildlife and reduce poverty, it is incumbent on the international community not to undermine that. Some people find trophy hunting repugnant (including many of us), but conservation policy that is not based on science threatens habitat and biodiversity and risks disempowering and impoverishing rural communities.

Authors: Amy Dickman1,2, Rosie Cooney2,3, Paul J. Johnson1*, Maxi Pia Louis4, Dilys Roe2,5,plus an additional 128 signatories listed online 


1Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Tubney, Oxfordshire, OX13 5QL, U.K

IUCN SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, c/ Rue Mauverney 28, 1196, Gland, Switzerland 

3Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, 0200 ACT, Australia 

4Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations, 19 Lossen Street, PO Box 98353, Windhoek, Namibia 

5Natural Resources Group, International Institute for Environment and Development, 80-86 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8NH, UK. 

*Correspondence to: Paul J. Johnson, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Tubney, Oxfordshire, OX13 5QL, U.K, email

References and  Notes

  1. E. Ares, “Trophy hunting,” House of Commons Library Brief-ing Paper Number 7903 (2019);
  2. U.S.Congress, H.R.2245—CECIL Act (2019);
  3. P. A. Lindsey, P. A. Roulet, S. S. Romanach, Biol. Conserv.134, 455 (2007).
  4. E. Di Minin et al., Conserv. Biol. 27, 808 (2013).
  5. C. Packer et al., Conserv. Biol. 25, 142 (2011).
  6. C. M. Begg, J. R. B. Miller, K. S. Begg, J. Appl. Ecol. 55, 139(2018).
  7. IUCN, "Informing decisions on trophy hunting" (IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, 2016).
  8. 8.C. W. Winterbach, C. Whitesell, M. J. Somers, PLOS One 10, e0135595 (2015).
  9.  P. A. Lindsey et al., Biol. Conserv. 209, 137 (2017).
  10. A. J. Dickman, in Conflicts in Conservation: Navigating Towards Solutions, S. M. Redpath, R. J. Gutierrez, K. A.Wood, J. C. Young, Eds. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2015), pp. 30–32.
  11. IUCN SSC, "Guiding principles on trophy hunting as a tool for conservation incentives v 1.0 " (IUCN SSC, Gland, Switzerland, 2012).
  12. South Africa Trust, “Declaration—Voices of the communities: A new deal for rural communities and wildlife and natural resources” (2019);