Tourists to South Africa willing to pay protection fee to safeguard lions from trophy hunters
New research from World Animal Protection has revealed that a ‘lion protection fee’ could help safeguard the nation’s lions from being killed by hunters for sport.
An increasing number of travellers want to see an end to trophy hunting in South Africa and have shown willingness to contribute financially to prevent it from happening.
In a collaborative effort involving researchers from South Africa and the UK, the study included a survey on public attitudes towards the practice. 1,000 individuals from countries that frequently visit South Africa, both from the African continent and overseas, were involved in the survey.
The results clearly indicate a strong opposition to the hunting of lions for sport and a keen interest in funding the protection of these animals through the implementation of a protection fee when travelling to the country for leisure.
Key findings from the research show that a significant 84.2% of respondents regarded the proposition of an inbound tourist 'lion protection fee' as a 'good' or 'great' idea. The strongest support came from overseas visitors (European countries, including the UK, and the USA) at 92.3%, as well as respondents from Mozambique at 88.9%.
Daily fees could be set at around $3 USD for southern African tourists and $7 USD for overseas tourists without deterring a significant proportion from travelling. Alternatively, the fee structure could involve one-off departure taxes of $6 for all foreign visitors leaving by land or sea and $33 USD for air passengers.
Both fee scenarios would generate funds at least equalling, but potentially exceeding, those currently generated by trophy hunting of all species ($176.1 million US per annum) in South Africa.
The survey results demonstrate a significant shift in the efforts to protect South Africa’s lions and that a wildlife-friendly alternative is a possibility that tourists are prepared to contribute to financially.
The study adds weight to a previous survey conducted in 2022, which highlighted that 84% of international tourists agree that the South African government should favour wildlife-friendly activities, reinforcing that popular public opinion is in favour of banning trophy hunting.
This comes at a time when South Africa and countries like the UK are engaged in ongoing debates about the legal status and future role of this cruel practice.
The study has important relevance to the ongoing public consultation on a “Draft Policy Position” relating to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Elephant, Lion, Leopard, and Rhinoceros, which was recently shared by The Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) in South Africa.
These new research findings have been shared with the South African government, emphasising the urgent need for prioritising and promoting wildlife-friendly activities as part of the vision for a more sustainable and ethical future for South Africa's wildlife and its people.
World Animal Protection is calling on the UK government to announce a government bill to ban the import of cruel hunting trophies in the King’s Speech on 7th November. Despite overwhelming public approval and the support of all parties in the UK, attempts to legislate via a private member’s bill have failed due to a small minority of Lords deliberately obstructing the bill’s passage.
They argued that the proceeds from trophy hunting are necessary to fund conservation. This new research explores just one of many possible alternative routes yet to be explored. The government must fulfil its manifesto pledge to ban the import of cruel hunting trophies into the UK to the British people before the next general election.
Contributing researcher, Dr Neil D’Cruze, Head of wildlife research from World Animal Protection said:
“Trophy hunting has long been a controversial issue, especially when it comes to majestic creatures like lions. Given growing public opposition to trophy hunting on animal welfare grounds, we wanted to see how willing inbound visitors to South Africa would be to pay a ‘lion protection fee’, designed to offset any potential revenue losses in the event of a trophy hunting ban.
“We asked 1,000 of the people who are most likely to visit South Africa and found that 84% of them thought it was a ‘great’ or a ‘good’ idea. In fact, our calculations showed that their enthusiasm for this wildlife friendly approach was so strong that it could generate enough funds to equal, if not exceed, those currently generated by trophy hunting of all the iconic species in South Africa a year. In summary, international travellers both in and outside of Africa say they are willing to pay out of their own pockets as a wildlife friendly way to protect wildlife and livelihoods.”
Peter Kemple Hardy, World Animal Protection, UK Director of Campaigns added:
“The UK government must bring back a trophy hunting import bill on government time. The British public has made it clear that it wants no part of the brutal, senseless killing of wild animals for the entertainment of a cruel and wealthy few. Despite this, a small minority of members of the House of Lords have managed to stall legislation and have implied that conservation efforts will fail without trophy hunting. As long as we accept the idea that the only way to protect wildlife is to allow the rich to visit other countries and pay to torment and kill its native wildlife, alternative solutions such as the one suggested by this research will continue to be overlooked.
“While this study is focussed on South Africa and offers just one possible solution, it has the potential for wider application and one thing is clear. The trophy hunting industry will not change until it is forced to. By taking a stand and refusing to support this cruel industry, the UK has the opportunity to be part of a catalyst for change. To create an environment where similar wildlife friendly solutions which have been starved of oxygen by a pro-hunting narrative, fixated on trophy hunting as the only answer, are invested in and explored.”
Henry Smith MP who sponsored the bill said:
"World Animal Protection’s work to highlight other ways to generate wildlife friendly sources of income comes at an extremely important time. Their authoritative research clearly supports the notion that the UK and other nations can help pave the way for change by banning the importation of grotesque hunting trophies. Tourists are willing to pay out of their own pockets to generate proceeds for local communities and wildlife conservation that does not involve the killing of some of the world's most majestic animals for sport. This would benefit communities in Africa and help ensure a sustainable future for all.”
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