Relationship with Safari Club International
On 30 May, The Sunday Times published an article about Save the Rhino's relationship with Safari Club International. We were very disappointed with the poorly researched and expressed views of the journalist concerned, which sensationalised an important issue and misled readers.
Response to the article in The Sunday Times, 30 May 2010, from Save the Rhino
We wish to make clear our disappointment with the poorly researched and expressed views of the journalist concerned, which has sensationalised an important issue and misled readers.
Safari Club International (SCI) first contacted us in 2006, to say it was setting up a London Chapter and wished to support a conservation charity. Our Trustees considered at length whether to put Save the Rhino forward as a potential beneficiary. We agree that trophy hunting is controversial. We discussed the implications both for fundraising and, more widely, of forming such a partnership. We have always believed that sustainable management of wildlife – including culling, cropping and trophy hunting – is a necessary conservation tool. It is also a valid and lawful form of income generation, bringing direct benefits to the conservation of endangered species and habitats and to the communities sharing those natural resources. We therefore have no qualms about working with SCI or any other responsible hunting organisation.
Having reached this provisional conclusion, we consulted rhino conservation programmes we support in African countries that allow trophy hunting. We asked them whether they were willing to be put forward as the potential beneficiary of SCI-generated funds. One organisation ruled itself out; others said they were not only willing to accept funds from a hunting organisation, but confirmed that in countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia hunting plays an essential role in conservation. Essential both in terms of private landowners giving over land to wildlife rather than livestock, and in terms of the revenues derived from hunting that are ploughed back into conservation initiatives.
From the list of programmes we then put forward, SCI’s London Chapter eventually selected Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) in South Africa as the programme it wanted to help fund. They made this decision partly because HiP has substantial black and white rhino populations needing support and because HiP can be said to be the home of white rhino conservation. In addition, the quasi-governmental organisation in charge of HiP, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, itself employs hunting and the sale of live animals at game auctions as a way of generating income to meet the considerable costs of running its parks and reserves and protecting their wildlife.
Since 2006 SCI’s London Chapter and the SCI Foundation have provided financial support to Save the Rhino International and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, giving a total to date of £29,755. An SCI London Chapter member visited HiP at his own expense and met rhino conservation field staff to discuss the grants and the achievements their support has made possible. In 2009 we were invited to apply to the SCI Small Grants Committee for an unrelated grant and received £3,876 towards the work of the Lowveld Rhino Trust in Zimbabwe, a local NGO that monitors important black and white rhino populations in private reserves in that country. Every penny of this income has gone to HiP and the Lowveld Rhino Trust respectively; none of the funding has been retained by Save the Rhino International.
We have always openly credited SCI’s support since the beginning of our partnership --in our twice-yearly magazine, in our Annual Report and on our website. The Sunday Times’ article is not reporting anything new or surprising or facts that were not already fully disclosed and in the public domain.
We are well aware that many individuals find the notion of shooting an animal for sport or pleasure unacceptable, and we fully respect those views. Animal welfare (as opposed to conservation) often provokes personal reactions as strong as those about politics or religion. In general, animal welfare charities (again, as distinct from conservation organisations) generate much higher incomes than those dealing with the conservation of endangered species. The Charity Commission website highlights the huge disparities: in the most recent financial year available Donkey Sanctuary received £22,554,000, Dogs’ Trust £60,702,000 and Cats’ Protection £36,478,000. In stark contrast Save the Rhino received just £868,716, Galapagos Conservation Trust £628,958 and Gorilla Organization £1,268,834. The comparisons are depressing and worthy of far more intelligent journalism.)
Sadly, in this case the journalist has failed completely to consider the opinions of those working in rhino conservation in the field, people who dedicate their lives to attempting to prevent the species’ extinction. Most of them recognise and support the sustainable use of wildlife as a vital management tool. We know this because we talk to them. We would also point out that black rhino hunting quotas have to be considered and approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is crucial that CITES keeps a close eye on how these quotas are policed, and makes sure any infringements are dealt with by criminal courts in the countries concerned. We are aware that some trophy hunting operations have been implicated in the illegal trade in rhino horn and we fully support the relevant authorities’ efforts to bring such criminals and poachers to justice. We deplore bad practice - such as canned hunting - and hope SCI will continue its efforts to close down such operations. And we have never accepted bribes so that someone can shoot a rhino.
Save the Rhino respects the laws and values of countries that have rhino populations to manage. We do not seek to impose Western sentiment on their difficult and often dangerous work. We do not lobby – at CITES or anywhere else – or attempt to influence decision-makers in rhino-range countries. They are the managers of their wildlife populations and we must do what we can to support them with much-needed funding.
To conserve viable populations of endangered species in the 21st century we need to face up to reality. Human population pressures and the competition for land and natural resources mean wildlife comes a poor second to the needs of people. Without economic incentives for communities or landowners to give over land, staff and finance to wildlife conservation, we would face many more mass extinctions. It is a great pity that the journalist concerned has sensationalised the issue and misled readers; it merits far deeper consideration and research. We welcome discussion of the issues around trophy hunting and hope that other conservation charities, as distinct from animal welfare groups, will also voice their opinions on this immensely important matter.
- Save the Rhino’s position on trophy hunting has been clearly documented for years. There is nothing new or surprising in this article that we have not already made public
- The needs of conservation organisations to consider all avenues of legitimate, valid funding can be easily demonstrated
- There are many stark contrasts between animal welfare organisations and animal conservation groups. Our stance on sustainable use or well-managed trophy hunting as a means of culling, cropping and generating income is just one such example
- We speak to experts who dedicate their lives to wildlife conservation on a daily basis. We know that most people in the field support sustainable use
- We work within frameworks established by organisations such as CITES
- We welcome intelligent debate on this issue, and deplore sensationalist journalism
Cathy Dean Director Save the Rhino International