Trophy Hunting in Africa

This post is by Jeff Carter from Points and Figures

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Trophy hunting in Africa and other countries is very controversial.  The other day on Twitter, I got into a conversation about it with someone.  A person posted a photo of their hunt.  They got the typical blowback from people.  I don’t think it’s that simple.

I think that the perception is going hunting in Africa is like going to the zoo.  You drive out in a car and just pick one out and drop it.  It’s not like that.   I have never hunted in Africa and really don’t have a desire to do so but people I know have.

I am not anti-hunting.  I used to hunt quite a bit in the fall.  I’d go bird hunting and deer hunting on a family farm.  I haven’t done it in quite a few years.  I just haven’t had the opportunity and the effort to get out of the city and is too heavy of a lift for me right now.  I go fishing every summer and have a fly fishing trip planned for the first part of March.  My wife’s family grew up hunting and fishing.  They still hunt quite a bit and they eat everything they hunt.  Moose, deer, ducks, pheasant, quail, and bear.

I had a friend that recently did a hunt in Africa.  It took him days to track down the animal and he finally got it. He battled the elements and he also had to worry about his own safety.  A lot of people in Africa are killed by wild animals each year but we don’t hear about that much in western media. He paid a lot of money for licenses and for the hunt itself.

For me, there were a lot of ancillary things that I really enjoyed about hunting.  I really liked watching my dog work.  It was fun to watch him work.  It was what he was bred for. I liked being outside in nature.  It was fun being with people in a group hunt.  Sometimes I went by myself.

Hunting can get you in touch with the human condition.  Imagine having to hunt to survive.  As a species, we had to do that for most of human history.  If you weren’t a good shot, you weren’t going to settle America because you wouldn’t have enough to eat.

Fighting the elements is a part of hunting.  Masking your scent, since an animals nose is pretty darn good. Deer can smell you from around 400 yards away.  A shotgun is only accurate to 100 yards, and a rifle is only accurate for around 200 yards depending on the ammunition.

Tourism in Africa is a $40B per year business.  Without animals there, it goes away.

How do you solve for this?  Economics.  I listened to this podcast by Russ Roberts and and Econ Talk.  It touches all the issues.  I also posted some companion pieces.  There are costs and opportunity costs involved.  Of course, for some people hunting an animal is so distasteful that there seems to be no cost they’d be willing to pay to allow hunting.  One interesting sidelight is a lot of those people don’t have a problem with things like abortion but I digress.

Russ Roberts and Catherine Semcer talk about hunting in Africa, poaching, preserves and African Wildlife at this link.  It’s worth a listen and it will challenge what a lot of people think about hunting, environment, property rights, government activities and free enterprise.

Because hunting is entwined with other economic parts of Africa, here is a podcast Russ did about wildlife, property and poverty in Africa.   Property rights are an important part for conserving wildlife.  In the US, a lot of our wild areas are owned by governments and that is causing adverse effects on the land.  Here is a companion podcast about environment and property rights.

Many of the issues around hunting and environment can be summed up in what economists call, “The Tragedy of the Commons”.  Here is a podcast about that.

For startups, sometimes looking at core microeconomics principles can help you solve problems.  The solution might be counterintuitive to what the norms are.  Applying economics correctly can sometimes help you see a clear solution to a problem that most people would not be able to see without using economics.  It can help you overcome confirmation bias and get you out of a box.  But, you might feel very uncomfortable.  If you do, it might be because the solution goes against everything you thought you knew.

That’s the beauty of economics.