Big game hunting in West Africa: how does it contribute to conservation?

pic1Today, big game hunting covers very large areas in Sub-Saharan Africa (about 1.4 million sq. km), and this represents more than the surface of all national parks of this region. Therefore, it is an important component of the rural landscapes organization in many countries of Sub-saharian Africa. This study aims at clarifying the role of big game hunting in Africa, and more specifically in West Africa. Analysis of the data collected during the study enabled us to understand the relevance of big game hunting according to the criteria of sustainable development: conservation, socio-economic development and good governance.

As far as conservation is concerned, the results of big game hunting are irregular: there are hunting areas which are geographically stable and where wildlife populations are important, but this is not the case everywhere. There is a great disparity in terms of quality between areas. With an equal level of management, the conservation results in hunting areas are less important than those obtained in the neighboring parks or reserves. Hunting areas are less able than parks to resist pressures coming from the periphery, and therefore play a less important role in conservation strategies. An undeniable positive point of the results obtained is that the conservation in hunting areas has been almost totally financed by hunters, without donors’ support, and often without the government’s commitment.

Hunting has played and is still playing a role of conservation in Africa. It is not sure that in the future, it will still play the same role under the same conditions. But on the other hand, it does not play a significant economic or social role and does not contribute to good governance.

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