From: Ed Stoddard, Reuters
Published October 7, 2004 12:00 AM

Hunters Defend Their Turf at CITES Meeting

BANGKOK — The fur can really fly at big conservation meetings, where hunters rub shoulders with animal welfare activists who dismiss blood sports as cruel.

But hunters are defending their turf at a meeting in Thailand on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), arguing that much of the cash spent by their fraternity goes to conservation.

"In the United States, licencing fees and special excise tax on hunting equipment provides 70 to 80 percent of the conservation revenue for state agencies," said John Jackson, the chairman of Conservation Force, a coalition of hunting groups.

"Hunting licence fees in the U.S. alone amount to $2.4 billion a year," he said on the sidelines of the two-week meeting in Bangkok on Wednesday.

CITES regulates the global trade in wild animals and plants. Some of the animals in question, such as leopards and black rhinos, will meet their end from a hunter's bullet.

Big-game hunters with deep pockets are celebrating a CITES decision on Monday to lift a ban on hunting the rare black rhino in Namibia and South Africa, a move some say is too early as the lumbering beast's numbers are still recovering. Both countries say funds raised will be used for conservation projects.

Many conservationists are opposed to hunting on grounds of cruelty and say that wildlife watching and other forms of eco-tourism can generate more revenue.

Japanese efforts to lift a moratorium on whaling and to ease controls on trade in the animal's products are often countered by assertions from the green lobby that whale watching generates up to $1 billion annually.

Hunters insist they also use natural resources "sustainably" — a buzzword at such meetings — and that without them many species would be in graver danger.

"In reality, if you don't use it, you lose it," said Jackson. "We give wildlife a value," he said, referring to the monetary incentive to conserve rare species.

Others at the conference agreed there were benefits from the legal hunting industry — as opposed to the illegal one, which seen is as a major threat to many endangered species, including tigers and monkeys.

"Hunting is an important source of conservation revenue both from licence fees and associated economic benefits for rural communities," said David Brackett, the head of Canada's delegation to the meeting.

"We see economic benefits in many rural communities," he said.

Source: Reuters

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