Hunting: pure killing or conservation?

The international tourism shows intensive development in our era of easy boundaries. The international hunting tourism is no exception. Hunters travel all over the world in pursuit of rare hunting species. The wild ungulates, which mainly have restricted habitat areas, are among the most desired trophies for the international hunters. As a rule, wild sheep and ibex inhabit remote mountainous regions. Those are difficult to access, which challenges the hunter even more and increases the desire to obtain the trophy and experience the unique hunting conditions.

The price of the hunt depends mainly on the number of licenses issued each year. Consequently, the less licenses issued for the species, the higher is the price. For example, let’s consider Marco Polo Argali hunt in Kyrgyzstan. The annual quota totals 50-60 animals for the whole country. The price of the trophy is around 25-30 thousand dollars. At the same time, the quota for the Ibex that inhabits the same areas totals up to 400 animals per year. Thereafter, the price is quite lower – around 4-7 thousand dollars. Argali hunting in Mongolia, with the annual quota of 3-5 trophy animals, is sold at the prices starting from 120 thousand dollars.

It is no doubt that the wild ungulates belong to the upmarket of the hunting resource. In spite of the high bids, the interest for the expensive trophies never runs low. The demand for sheep and ibex trophies among hunting completists exceeds the offer of the hunting grounds.

Many of the hunting species are on the endangered species list with different status. However, the strict governmental and international control of trophy harvesting and selling allow minimizing international poaching.

Given proper organization of the whole hunting process, controlled hunting for the endangered species does provide a lot more advantages, than the total closing. The main positive aspects are:

1) Sufficient and consistent source of funds for the conservation itself (wardens and guides wages, material and technical resources, fuel etc.)

2) Attention and control of the regional and international conservation communities and organizations. Consequently, we constantly receive up to date information about the particular population and about the species in whole.

3) Budgetary recharge at many levels – from regional and up to the state one.

4) Increase in employment (drivers, hotel staff, cooks, interpreters, taxidermists, shipping services etc).

Torghar Conservation Program in Pakistan is a perfect example of controlled populations recruitment process of the almost totally extinct species. It actually features a strictly limited markhour hunt. In 1984, the number of the markhours went down to 200 animals – the critical range of species extinction. Now, the population totals around 4000 animals. Such a result became possible by virtue of limited trophy hunting for the old males, with low reproductive ability. 12 licenses are issued annually for the three markhour species. The possibility to receive a profit from legal hunting turned out to be very attractive for the local communities. Poaching mindset has changed for a conservational one. The profit received from one hunting trophy (an old billy) is many times higher than the price of the meat harvested by poaching. Besides that, let’s not forget that the local guides still keeps the meat – because the hunter is interested only on the trophy itself – horns and hide.

The wild ungulates are a unique natural renewable resource. Competent exploitation allows to increase and preserve the number of animals in the particular population and also to conserve the common habitat and biodiversity of various regions on Earth.

Evgeny Kharitonov