Assessing Trophy Hunting in South Africa by Comparing Hunting and Exporting Databases

Trophy hunting constitutes a major part of the global wildlife tourism industry and is connected through the export of kills to international wildlife trade. Inconsistencies between kills and exports can contribute to identifying illegal trophy hunting that constitutes a major threat to biodiversity conservation. This paper quantitatively analyses to what extent the data of trophy hunting kills and of trophy exports are consistent using the example of South Africa. Data was extracted from two different sources for the year 2018. These sources were trade data reported under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and its Trade Database on the export of trophy items from South Africa, which is compared with the South African Professional Hunting statistics (SAPHs) containing trophy kills information for each species and the country of origin of the hunter. The data of trophy hunting kills and data of trophy hunting export was found to differ to varying degrees across the countries contributing to trophy hunting and CITES-listed trophy-hunted species. We found that both databases report hunting of the same 28 threatened taxa. On the other hand, the same data reports that hunters of 64 nationalities participated in a total of 4,726 trophy kills, while only 3,131 hunting trophy items were exported from South Africa, to 37 countries as final destinations. Among the possible reasons for the discrepancies found, we suggest that the time required to taxidermize trophy specimens may delay the items being addressed to their final destination, in addition to the dual citizenship of some hunters that should also have some influence on our results, as well as the important commercial destination of Brussels Airport. The USA show the highest absolute number of trophy hunters, followed by Spain, but Denmark is the highest driver per capita. Therefore, greater participation of these countries in conservation policies for endangered species is necessary. Additionally, a more detailed differentiation of the term “trophy” to more specific terms such as claws, skins, skulls, etc. may improve reporting systems to easier identify illegal activities related to hunting.

Publish DateAugust 11, 2023
Last UpdatedAugust 11, 2023