Over the past couple of weeks, there has been expressions of outrage and condemnation in the media and social media over an American hunter’s killing of a well lion called Cecil in Zimbabwe. Reactions over the killing have ranged from revulsion toward the trophy hunting and the obvious need to protect human life. I have been asking myself, what is it about this story that has caused such a reaction?
As one Zimbabwean New York Times reader commented, “A stray lion in human settlements is an obvious danger. It deserves to be shot on sight,” Afro wrote from Zimbabwe. “But a lion in an animal sanctuary or a government owned game park is another story. For it to be baited and hunted down illegally is what the world is crying foul about.” So, it’s the circumstances surrounding the killing of the lion that has created such an uproar. Wouldn't you agree?
Whilst the world reacted, last week international airlines such as Delta, United, American Airline, Air Canada, Air France and Qantas announced that they will no longer allow the shipment of hunting trophies on their flights. While there has been general support for this decision, some African governments, namely South Africa and Namibia are saying that this action might be single-handedly responsible for eliminating any remaining conservation efforts for these animals.
From the AP:
The environment ministry for South Africa expressed its disappointed at the decision and said:
“The decision by Delta Air Lines to enforce a blanket ban fails to distinguish between the trade in and transportation of legally acquired wildlife specimens, and the illegal exploitation and trade in wildlife specimens,” the ministry said in a statement.”
Neighbouring Namibia also warned that:
This will be the end of conservation in Namibia,” the Namibia Press Agency quoted Pohamba Shifeta, the environment and tourism minister, as saying.
Many hunters of the “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo – believe that what they do is a legitimate sport, conserves wildlife by funnelling funds back into game reserves and can be the ultimate personal challenge in a natural setting.
So clearly, hunting in Africa is big business. Trophy hunting is permitted in over 20 African nations and in many places, permits are sold for the hunting of specific animals. The African countries depend on the fact that hunters are willing to pay extravagant tag fees to the government and spend many thousands of dollars in the local economy, to fund their conservation efforts that preserve and protect these beautiful animals from poachers and extinction. In South Africa, home to the biggest hunting industry on the continent, it is legal to hunt most big game animals inside private ranches, including the Big Five: lions, white rhinoceroses, elephants, leopards and buffaloes.
Although quotas are set to maintain the populations of certain species, problems and illegal hunting still exists. If I were able to have an audience with African government ministers, my question to them would be: “How do other nations manage to preserve their environment without resorting to hunting? Surely the environment could be funded from sources other than hunting, for example, revenue from tourism. After all, it is the responsibility of all of us to protect our environment.
It goes without saying that the African nations that are home to the “Big Five” animals have a tourism industry that is in demand. Both South Africa and Namibia are popular tourist destinations with some 14 million arrivals registered in South Africa in 2013. According to Wikipedia, tourism in Namibia contributes to N$7.2 billion of the country’s GDP. Therefore, one would have thought that these countries should be able to support their environment through sustainable tourism. For this to happen, marketing / branding strategies must be planned and implemented.
Our entire ecosystem is driven by brands and Africa is no different. “Brand Africa” is a complex amalgamation of the qualities of the continent, which includes with the beautiful flora and fauna and these are part and parcel of the brands for those countries.
Africa is a diverse continent with beautiful natural resources so, for the love of Africa, let us protect our environment and natural resources do some internal branding to promote a positive image of Africa.