Kenyan Official Says Lifting Ban on Sport Hunting Possible
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa An icon for animal welfare groups because of its ban on sport hunting since 1977, Kenya may lift the prohibition as part of a broader revamp of wildlife policies, a senior official said Friday.
Such a move could see foreign hunters target Kenyan lion, buffalo, and antelope species but would provoke resistance from animal welfare groups.
"We started a policy review in September last year on our entire wildlife policy, looking at a range of issues. The ban on hunting is one of those up for review and discussion," said Julius Kipng'etich, the director of Kenya Wildlife Service.
"Hunting is one way of utilizing wildlife but there are others," he told Reuters by phone from the sidelines of a lion conservation conference in Johannesburg.
Other ways include game viewing and bird watching in protected reserves, the main route that Kenya has been taking. The East African country has long been an icon of animal welfare groups because of its ban on the sport hunting of animals, imposed in 1977.
But that has made it the odd man out among game-rich African nations including neighboring Tanzania, which have cashed in on the lucrative big game hunting industry.
Estimates suggest that foreign hunters bring about $165 million a year into South Africa's economy.
"Hunting is the most lucrative way of utilizing wildlife and it has the least impact," said Laurence Frank, a researcher with the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society.
This is because foreign sport hunters tend to favor "trophies" which are usually older and nonbreeding animals.
Local hunters often shoot for food. And with hunting, there are fewer people, vehicles and noise involved than when tourists visit game reserves so it can be less intrusive.
"Our job is to present facts on the table ... hunting is one of the issues we are looking at," said Kipng'etich, who would not be drawn on his own views on the subject.
"Much of our wildlife is outside of protected areas and local communities must get benefits from wildlife," he said.
IN HEMINGWAY'S STEPS
Foreign hunters with deep pockets would flock to the green hills of Kenya if the ban was lifted in the land where Ernest Hemingway made some of his famed shooting safaris.
But it would almost certainly provoke howls of protest from animal welfare groups which view hunting as cruel and have long held Kenya up as a model of ethical wildlife conservation.
Kipng'etich said Kenya remained staunchly opposed to attempts to loosen a ban on the global trade in ivory products, which it says is necessary to protect its 28,000 elephants from heavily armed poachers.
"Our elephant populations are still endangered largely because of our porous border with Somalia, where a lot of the poachers come from," he said.
"Other African countries don't have the same risks we face," he said in a reference to southern African countries which have long pushed to have regulated ivory sales.