Around the World in 80 Ideas   

77: Saved by shooting
How private game parks protect wildlife

The problem: who wants wildlife?

Rare animals are under threat around the world as habitats are destroyed. Local farmers burn down rainforest to create low-grade fields or graze cattle on savannah habitats. Farmers find that it is better to shoot wild animals than to try to live with them. Especially elephants - which can trample down and eat 150 kg of their crops each day. And large numbers of people are still killed, and injured, by wild animals, making these species no friends among the local human population.

Some species, such as tigers and rhinoceros, are threatened by large-scale poaching to supply Middle Eastern and Oriental markets with the ingredients for traditional medicines. Trade bans imposed by CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) have failed to curb killing of endangered species. Rather, they encourage poaching by driving up the black-market value of animal products. Thus a ban on rhino horn in the mid-1970s led to a soaring of the price of this product in markets such as Yemen, Korea and Taiwan: and consequently, poaching became more profitable.

Inevitably, this black market has attracted organized crime and there are numerous instances of corruption within National Parks services, the police, the military, government departments as well as the diplomatic service of several countries.

The idea: make rare species a business

Rare species are best protected by giving the local communities a direct stake in them surviving and flourishing - the opposite of how many farmers view them today. So several countries now allow people to set up privately owned game parks where local communities are given a real incentive to protect and husband endangered species. And these countries now find that they can attract a regular stream of wealthy nature lovers to pay for the opportunity to watch, photograph and even shoot a strictly controlled quota of game.

Examples: Africa's hunting lodges

There are extensive hunting opportunities in South Africa, and good-quality facilities. Game is on private ranches. Visitors come to hunt - or just to watch and photograph - nyala, white rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, Cape Buffalo, kudu, sable, waterbuck and other species. There are 16 species of plains game in the Malope Game Ranch in South Africa's Northern Province. The ranch is supported by tourism and strictly controlled game hunts. And Malope is just one of many similar private game reserves throughout South Africa.

In Southern Africa, quotas for shooting are set in relation to the species' reproduction and maturity rates. Thus, a quota of 2 per cent of the total population is set for buffalos and large antelopes; only 1 per cent of elephant herds are shot, since it takes fifty years for a male to reach trophy size; zebras are hunted for their skins and the offtake rate is set at 6 per cent, while the ceiling set for lions and leopards is 5 per cent. Detailed records are kept by safari operators and quotas are set every year, based on estimates of total populations, to ensure the maintenance of stable numbers.

Namibia allows hunting on ranches in the south and on the central escarpment, and on concessions in the north. It boasts the largest elephant in Africa, kudu, red hartebeest, springbuck, gemsbok, lion, leopard, cheetah, Cape Buffalo, roan, nyala, and waterbuck. Much of Botswana too is given over to hunting concessions, especially in the Kalahari and Okavango Delta, where tourists can hunt kudu and sitatunga, elephant, leopard, Cape Buffalo, and sable.

Elephants have been farmed very effectively in Zimbabwe, with licences being sold to enable tourists to shoot a quota of animals each year as trophies. Hunting is on concessions and private ranches, and the species available to hunters include elephant, lion, leopard, Cape Buffalo, kudu, sable, and waterbuck.

Upland Safaris, for example, charge $21,500 for a thirteen-day elephant hunt including the trophy fee of $11,000 ,while a buffalo and leopard hunt costs $15,500.

Another ranch advertises hunts in the Zimbabwe Valley and in two areas of south-eastern Zimbabwe lowveld, near Chiredzi and on the Bubi River. Hunters can take a seven-day trip to search out plains game, such as zebra, impala, giraffe, warthog, kudu, bushpig, duiker, grysbok. genet cat, jackal, and baboon for $2,100. A fifteen-day big game hunt is $13,500. There are different rates for non-hunting observers ($130 per day), and additional fees if you want to take home a trophy: prices include $8,000 for a bull elephant trophy, $650 for a giraffe, $2,500 for a leopard, 1,500 for a crocodile, The ubiquitous impala seems a bargain at just $100.

But it is precisely because the rarer animals do have a high value that the ranchers - and the governments which sell them the concessions and issue the hunters' licences - take great care to ensure they are conserved. As a result of such policies, which have reduced poaching and led to a revival in many species (including elephant, which were once seriously threatened), Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe have been allowed to resume controlled exports of ivory by CITES.

In Zimbabwe more than 500 of around 4,000 ranches derive all or part of their income from wildlife. Through CAMPFIRE (the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources), established in 1989, the industry has expanded rapidly. In 1989 only two rural districts applied to implement the programme, but now more than 25 are involved. The proportion of revenue going to local villagers has also steadily increased, giving them a real incentive to conserve wildlife. By 1993 four-fifths of wildlife revenues produced by CAMPFIRE was going to local communities.

Ninety per cent of the income earned by the CAMPFIRE programme in Zimbabwe comes from trophy shooters. In contrast to popular myth, trophy hunters are keen conservationists who want to bag an impressive specimen, not to shoot as many as possible. As Bill Bedford of Ingwe Safaris has pointed out: "They come to us because they know we can provide the goods, but also because their money is going into supporting conservation.'

Results: spreading like wildfire

A World-Wide Fund for Nature report estimates that CAMPFIRE has increased household income in rural Zimbabwe by 15 to 25 per cent. Wildlife conservation and husbanding is now the principal source of cash for rural communities such as Tsholotsho on the southern boundary of Hwange National Park. No indigenous species has become extinct in Zimbabwe: indeed, populations are stable or growing.

As a result of the CAMPFIRE initiative, Zimbabwean villagers have dug water-holes and arranged food deliveries for elephants in times of drought (a truly remarkable turn-around from the days when elephants were regarded as a dangerous nuisance). They have also reduced tree cutting and annual burning of grazing lands to assist in wildlife management; and instead of just shooting or trapping wild animals to protect themselves, they have erected solar-powered electric fences to protect agricultural land and villages. Locals are trained as game wardens, scouts and tourist guides and assist in local wildlife management.

Money from tourism and trophy hunting is used to pay compensation to local people whose livestock or crops are damaged by wildlife. Earnings are also directed towards building basic village infrastructure such as irrigation systems, mills, schools and hospitals.

Far more land is now devoted to game parks in Zimbabwe since landowners were given the privileges and responsibilities of ownership. In 1975 17,000 sq km of private land was given over to wildlife; by 1990 this figure had risen to 30,000 sq km. As a result there has been a marked increase in the populations of elephant, rhino, crocodile, ostrich, leopard and cheetah.

Assessment: make wildlife worthwhile

So long as wild animals are regarded as an open access resource, where there are no private property rights over them to regulate their use, people have an incentive to exploit them, or remove them, as quickly as possible. Ownership at the community or private level, rather than ownership by the state or 'common ownership', will ensure that the benefits - and not just the costs - of conservation will fall on the local population.

Large game animals such as elephants will only survive if the value they create for those with the power to protect them exceeds the costs they impose. Since Kenya banned hunting in 1976, it has lost 85 per cent of its elephants. Property rights over wildlife should be vested with those who have the greatest incentive to protect the resource.

Advances in technology enable scientists to identify from which a herd a piece of elephant ivory is from. New systems of trading ivory from a central exchange can therefore ensure that ivory has not been poached, but has come from a properly-managed population.

Effective privatization of big game such as rhinos and elephants is likely to lead to a proliferation of both consumptive and non-consumptive uses. However, a case study from South Africa demonstrates that private owners should not be given perverse incentives. Michael T'Sas Rolfes has shown that when National Parks adopt auction mechanisms to charge a realistic market price for rhino, private owners husband them responsibly. When they are sold at a subsidized price, as happened in the 1980s in Natal, some ranchers merely pocketed a very hefty profit by selling rhinos as trophies.

For further information:
  • Find CAMPFIRE at
  • Upland Safaris is at
  • The Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment at University College London undertakes wide research on game conservation and environmental resource location: contact
  • People, wildlife and natural resources - the CAMPFIRE approach to rural development in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Trust, 1990.
  • Sugg, Ike and Kreuter, Urs (1994) Elephants and Ivory: Lessons form the Trade Ban: Institute of Economic Affairs (London).
  • T'Sas-Rolfes, Michael (1995) Rhinos: Conservation, Economics and Trade-Offs: IEA Studies on the Environment no 4 (see for details).
  • Bromley, D.W. (1991) Environment and Economy: Property Rights and Public Policy: Basil Blackwell.
  • Alchian, A.A. and Demesetz, H. (1973)`The Property Rights Paradigm', Journal of Economic History, vol 33, pp 16-27.
  • Perace, David and Moran, Dominic (1994) The Economic Value of Biodiversity: Earthscan.
  • Taylor, Robert (1992) The Market in Environment: Adam Smith Institute (London)
  • Lewis, Russell (1992) Rethinking the Environment: Adam Smith Institute (London)

Copyright 2002: Adam Smith Institute        Created and Maintained by: Cyberpoint Limited