Most of the claims about trophy hunting put out by animal rights activists are wrong, MPs have been warned ahead of a key vote today.
Conservationists say that in the last Commons debate nearly three-quarters of statements in favour of a blanket ban were questionable.
They are battling to correct the ‘simplistic’ narrative championed by celebrities.
MPs are due to vote today on a controversial Bill that, in its current form, would see hunters barred from bringing any trophies to the UK.
Experts in wildlife protection fear this will actually have a disastrous impact on endangered animals.
Conservationists say that in the last Commons debate nearly three-quarters of statements in favour of a blanket ban were questionable
They, along with African leaders and grassroots groups, have called on Britain to allow certain trophies to be imported if it is proven the animals were hunted ethically.
They argue that total bans are unsuccessful because they destroy the incentive for farmers to keep big game on their land and earn money from hunters.
Claims versus counter-claims British trophy hunters are among the world’s most active killers of endangered species.
The UK does not even rank in the top 20 for countries importing such trophies.
– Trophy hunting is linked to ‘declining lion numbers’.
International Union for Conservation of Nature figures show lion populations rising, including in trophy hunting areas.
– Hunting had the ‘single most significant effect’ on lion populations.
Trophy hunting is one of the lowest-ranking threats to lions overall.
– Botswana banned the trophy hunting of elephants years ago, and now has a third of Africa’s elephants.
Botswana had only a five-year ban from 2014, and had the largest population of elephants before the ban started.
– Under the regime of Seretse Khama in Botswana, poaching was effectively eliminated during the ban.
There was significant poaching, including of elephants, throughout the regime.
– Kenya, which banned trophy hunting in 1977, is today an African conservation success story.
Wildlife numbers have declined by around two-thirds since the ban.
– While black rhino numbers have fallen by 35 per cent elsewhere, they have gone up a fifth in Kenya.
Nearly all countries with black rhinos have seen increasing numbers, including those where there is trophy hunting.
– A blind eye is effectively turned to poaching in pro-hunting countries.
There is extensive, well-documented anti-poaching activity across many countries that permit trophy hunting.
– The UK is a world leader in nature conservation.
The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
– 98% of Britons support a ban.
Fewer than half want a ban if it negatively impacts people or wildlife.
Revenues from selective hunting keep locals in jobs and also help pay for patrols against poachers, the real enemy of conservation.
It is feared that animal rights lobbying groups have fed MPs distorted information which could see the Bill fly though without proper scrutiny.
Professor Adam Hart of Gloucestershire University analysed 200 statements made during the Bill’s second reading with fellow conservationists Dr Dilys Roe and Professor Amy Dickman.
They claim that nearly three-quarters of those made in favour of a total ban were inaccurate.
Tory MP Henry Smith – who introduced the Bill – said Kenya, which banned trophy hunting in the 1970s, is now ‘an African conservation success story’.
In fact wildlife numbers there have dropped by around two-thirds, while nearby countries without such bans have not suffered.
Similar inaccuracies about the correlation between hunting bans and wildlife numbers in other countries – particularly Botswana – have also been highlighted.
Professor Hart fears politicians are being ‘fed’ misinformation. ‘It’s worrying because you realise how easy it is for lobby groups to potentially push legislation through without proper scrutiny,’ he said.
‘All of us are desperately trying to get MPs to not make a terrible mistake in thinking that they’re going to help conservation by voting for this Bill.
‘What they’re going to be doing is harming conservation, but also impoverishing communities and potentially damaging habitat and all the other things that go with it.’
The intervention comes after dozens of celebrities – including Gary Lineker, Dame Joanna Lumley, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Michael Parkinson – were criticised for signing a letter to The Times demanding MPs show up to back the Bill.
Namibian conservationist Maxi Louis wrote to the newspaper yesterday, asking: ‘What on earth do they know about Africa’s animals, and what right do they have to interfere in our democracies?
‘Here we see the impact of hunting. It pays for the anti-poaching patrols, which stop animals being slaughtered in the most hideous fashion.
‘Poachers poison pregnant big cats and maim thousands of animals of all ages with snares: hunters focus on a few elderly males.’
Conservationist Joseph Mbaiwa, of the University of Botswana, said: ‘The ban should not be on all species, it should be selective.
‘Otherwise it will kill conservation.’
It is feared that animal rights lobbying groups have fed MPs distorted information which could see the Bill fly though without proper scrutiny
Professor Dickman warned: ‘Many thousands of wild animals will die in appalling and indiscriminate ways – far more than are killed in trophy hunting.
‘True, we will no longer see the grinning faces of rich white hunters celebrating their kills.
‘Instead, we will see the grinning faces of rich white celebrities celebrating a “win” that drives more killing.’