In August, my colleague Amy Dickman led an important piece in Science on the role that trophy hunting has to play in conservation of imperiled biodiversity (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6456/874?_ga=2.5965936.2109965310.1572238018-1862346559.1572238018). This is a contentious space and admire Amy’s thought leadership on this piece. The Science article summarizes key evidence around the role that Trophy Hunting plays in supporting conservation and also calls for the support of African countries to have self-determination in establishing policies for wildlife management. The last two sentences of this piece strongly articulate this point:
“Crucially, as African countries call for a “New Deal” for rural communities that allows them to achieve the self-determination 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.”
It is on this basis that I am a signatory of this article.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, given the contenious nature of this debate, the article has received a great deal of negative press (different to the healthy debate of peer reviewed replies that have been published by Science). This negative press includes incorrect and defamatory statements against Amy Dickman and the other lead authors. I take this opportunity to share the statement of signatories below in response to this press.
We are aware that there are some false and highly misleading statements in the press, regarding our recent letter to Science about trophy hunting. These imply that the lead authors of the letter were hiding financial links with the trophy hunting industry. These allegations are completely false. The authors have always been completely open and transparent about their interests and affiliations, including with Science. Their financial links with trophy hunting organisations are tiny to non-existent, and are certainly no stronger than their equivalent links with, say, photo-tourism organisations.
Furthermore, any suggestion that the conclusions of our letter are invalid because of perceived conflicts of interests is fundamentally incorrect. Researchers work with – and often receive grants from – a wide diversity of funders with very different beliefs on a range of topic. However, this should not even come into the debate, as we do not accept funding with strings attached and our conclusions are always based on evidence.
These false allegations are intended to discredit reputable scientists. This is not how conservation debates should happen – we should be able to discuss different views respectfully, and should not tolerate or perpetuate any attacks on scientists for stating their views. This media campaign could well be interpreted as an attempt to silence the voices of many well-respected conservationists and community representatives, who highlight the valid point that banning trophy hunting without better alternatives in place is likely to make things worse for conservation, animal welfare and local livelihoods.