Currently trophy hunting is illegal in Malawi. Lilongwe Wildlife Trust is opposed to its introduction based on (i) legal grounds (ii) that it would undermine achievements made in combating illegal wildlife trade – one of the greatest threats to the survival of wildlife – by sending out conflicting messages on hunting as well as providing a potential cover for illegal activity. We have also selected some resources below for those interested in further reading on the subject beyond Malawi. If you have any further resources to share with us please email them to – we are always interested in hearing more from either side of the fence.


A report by IUCN entitled “ Big Game Hunting in West Africa. What is its contribution to conservation?” (2009)[1] concludes:

  • “The socioeconomic contribution and the contribution to development of big game hunting is virtually nil. … Such low benefits do not motivate local communities. Therefore it is in their “interest” not to respect the hunting area boundaries and to poach.”
  • On average, big game hunting redistributes $US0.10 per ha of potential village land classified as a hunting area. Again, on average, each inhabitant can therefore hope to gain $US0.30 per year (in other words 150 CFA F/year). These very low figures are comparable with those of the Campfire Programme in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it should be highlighted that this money does not always reach the beneficiaries (mediocre governance) and that it is most often used for community actions.
  • On  average,  big  game  hunting  generates  a  turnover  of  $US1.1/ha  in  the  10  big  game  hunting  countries (excluding South Africa), which is very low compared to agricultural use (300 to 600 times more), in a context where the peripheral zones of protected areas are already occupied. This figure does not reach the minimum ratio for the cost of developing a protected area (at least $US2/ha), and can be seen as the sole explanation for the gradual degradation  of  hunting  areas. The  local  community’s  share  is  around  $US0.10/ha  (or  50 FCFA/ha), explaining their lack of interest in preserving hunting areas and their continued encroachment and poaching.
  • The annual turnover for big game hunting in Africa is estimated at $US200 million, in other words around 100 billion CFA F, half of which is generated in South Africa and the rest in the other countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. The contribution to the countries’ GDP is 0.06% for the 11 main big game hunting countries. The contribution to national budgets is also low: one percent of the land classified as big game hunting territory contributes 0.006% to the government budget. The contribution of hunting to the national budget is highest in Tanzania, where it is still only 0.3% and uses 26% of the national land area.
  • The situation can be summarised by saying that the jobs proposed are precarious, few in number and are not competitive with the resources obtained from other usages of the land, including agriculture. In this, big game hunting does not effectively contribute to development despite taking up vast areas of land.

The IUCN briefing document targeted at the EU, entitled “Informing decisions on trophy hunting” (2016)[2] states: “It is clear that there have been, and continue to be, cases of poorly conducted and poorly regulated hunting both beyond and within the European Union. While ‘Cecil the Lion’ is perhaps the most highly publicised controversial case, there are examples of weak governance, corruption, lack of transparency, excessive quotas, illegal hunting, poor monitoring and other problems in a number of countries. This poor practice requires urgent action and reform.“

  • There is no evidence to support the assertion that trophy hunting provides significant food for indigenous people, nor that international trophy hunters ship the meat from their victims home for consumption.
  • Human-wildlife conflict is a considerable threat to many species of wild animal, particularly large species such as elephants and top predators such as big cats when they are perceived to pose a threat to crops or livestock. The presence of trophy hunting concessions does not mitigate this threat; indeed in some instances local villagers may falsely identify a ‘problem animal’ in order to benefit from the trophy fees that might be generated. There are numerous projects, many run by NGOs, which aim to address the complex issue of human-wildlife conflict.

According to the report: Dead or alive? Valuing an Elephant[3] one live elephant is worth 23.000 USD annually through income from photo tourism, that is 1,6 million USD over its entire lifespan. Trophy hunters pay about 40.000 USD for shooting a bull elephant; income from non-consumtive use (safari tourism) over an elephants lifetime is about 76 times the income from trophy hunting

  • The photographic sector operates year-round versus predominantly during the hunting season, can host a larger number of guests, employs more people, generates higher average revenues, and offers higher staff wages than trophy hunting outfitters[4].

Murray et al (2017) conclude in “The Lion’s share”[5] that trophy hunting operators overstate the economic and social benefits of their activities and that „The tourism sector overall is between 2.8% and 5.1% of GDP in the study countries, meaning that the current total economic contribution of trophy hunters from their hunting-related, and non-hunting related, tourism is at most about 0.03% of GDP. Foreign trophy hunters make up less than 0.1% of tourists on average.“

The report “The USD 200 million question”[6] states:

  • „Research published by the pro-­‐hunting International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, supported by other authors, finds that hunting companies contribute only 3% of their revenue to communities living in hunting areas.  The vast majority of their expenditure does not accrue to local people and businesses, but to firms, government agencies and individuals located internationally or in national capitals.“
  • „Nature based tourism does play a significant role in national development, but trophy hunting is insignificant.  Across the investigated countries, trophy hunting revenue was only 1.8% of tourism revenues.“
  • The report identifies Zimbabwe as the African country (among those studied) where tourism revenue represents the largest proportion (6.4%) of GDP, but estimates that only 3.2% of total tourism revenue is derived from trophy hunting. The authors of this report estimated that as little as 3% of hunting revenues are directed back into local communities.


Packer et al. state in “Sport Hunting, Predator Control and Conservation of Large Carnivores” (2009)[7] : „Trophy hunting appears to have been the primary driver of a decline in lion abundance in the country’s trophy hunting areas and is likely affecting lion abundance in Katavi National Park and possibly Tarangire National Park. ….We lacked independent estimates for leopard population trends, but trophy hunting may have similarly driven a decline in leopard abundance in several areas outside Selous.“

Loveridge et al. state in “The impact of sport-hunting on the population dyamics of an African lion population in a protected area” (2007)[8]: „Sport hunters in the safari areas surrounding the park killed 72% of tagged adult males from the study area. … Hunting off-take of male lions doubled during 2001-2003 compared to levels in the three preceding years, which caused a decline in numbers of adult males in the population (from an adult sex ratio of 1:3 to 1:6 in favour of adult females). Home ranges made vacant by removal of adult males were filled by  immigration of males from the park core. Infanticide was observed when new males entered prides.“

Selier et al. state in the “Sustainability of elephant hunting across international borders in southern Africa: A case study of the greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area” [9]: “Hunting of bulls had a direct effect in reducing bull numbers but also an indirect effect due to disturbance that resulted in movement of elephants out of the areas in which hunting occurred. The return interval was short for bulls but longer for females. Only a small number of bulls (<10/year) could be hunted sustainably. At current rates of hunting, under average ecological conditions, trophy bulls will disappear from the population in less than 10 years.”

Palazy et al (2012)[10] conclude: ”Our results suggest that although a protective IUCN status lowers the exploitation of the moderately threatened species, hunting pressure on the most threatened one increases instead. The findings support the possibility of an anthropogenic Allee effect (AAE), i.e. a disproportionate exploitation of the rarest species. Implications: The highly profitable exploitation of rare species could have harmful consequences, unless appropriate management actions and protection rules are enforced.

 Palazy et al. (2011) state: “Because humans value rarity, targeted species that are threatened are likely to be disproportionately hunted, thereby becoming even more vulnerable, which could eventually push them to extinction.”[11]

There is a great deal of evidence to show that trophy hunters do not target ‘very old’ animals, but rather target animals in prime condition since they make the best ‘trophies’. Creel et al (2016)[12] note that „‘Trophy hunting has had negative effects on lion populations throughout Africa’, and that ‘Hunting resulted in population declines over a 25-year period for all continuous harvest strategies, with large declines for quotas greater than 1 lion/concession (~0.5 lion/1000 km2) and hunting of males younger than 7 years’. The authors concluded that ‘Age-restricted harvesting… is probably not sufficient to yield sustainability.’ The widely-used minimum age for lion trophies is 6 years.

A report by the US Democratic staff of the House Committee  on Natural Resources entitled ‘Missing the Mark’ (2016)[13] states: “Our analysis shows that trophy hunting cannot be assumed to have a conservation benefit on the strength  of  a  guarantee  that  hunters’  fees  will  flow  to  communities  or  wildlife  agencies. Additional oversight is necessary to ensure that importing trophies of ESA listed species is in fact helping those species survive in the wild.”

Trophy hunting is not about preserving wildlife. Trophy hunters covet the spectacular and rare, and the Safari Club International’s World Hunting Awards specifically reward hunters who have killed animals belonging to species or groups of species that are threatened, and some of which are critically endangered. In January 2014 wealthy American trophy hunter Cory Knowlton bid US$350,000 to shoot a critically endangered black rhinoceros in Namibia.

Claims are often made that populations of some species in some countries that are specifically managed for trophy hunting have remained stable, or in some cases increased, bucking the wider trend (lions in some southern African countries, for example), and that this ‘proves the case’ that trophy hunting benefits conservation. However, the value of such populations, which are often intensively managed in fenced reserves,  to species conservation is highly questionable: in its 2015 Red List assessment of lions, the IUCN stated that ‘[these population increases have occurred in] fenced areas subject to intensive management practices include translocations, stocking, contraception and euthanasia, that such management is atypical, and that the Red List Guidelines are ambiguous as to the inclusion or exclusion of fenced areas’. The management of wildlife areas for certain species that have a high value as trophy animals can also result in damaging impacts to the ecological balance in such areas.

Trophy hunting results in parts and products from animals being made available for international trade, which may stimulate demand and have negative consequences for individuals and populations. The increasing international trade in lion bones, identified as an emerging threat to lions in the Communique  that emerged from the CMS/CITES lion range State meeting in Uganda in May 2016, is to a significant extent being fuelled by the supply of skeletal products from lions that have been killed in trophy hunts.

Other studies for reference:

Previous USWFS negative enhancement findings (under EFSA) for import of elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe and for lions 

Rosenblatt, E. Becker, M.S., Creel, S., Droge, I., Mweetwa, T., Schuette, P.A., Watson,,F., Merkle, J. and Mwape, H. 2014. Detecting declines of apex carnivores and evaluating their causes: An example with Zambian lions. Biological Conservation 180: 176-186.

Holden et al. (2017): High prices for rare species can drive large populations extinct: the anthropogenic Allee effect revisited

Knell et al. (2017): Selective harvest focused on sexual signal traits can lead to extinction under directional environmental change



In January 2018 the new Environment minister of Tanzania accused hunting operators to be involved in poaching and illegal exports of ivory[14]:

“Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla released the first list of operators, owners of hunting blocks and officials in the ministry accused of supporting the poaching syndicate. …. The minister charged that he had received vital information from the United States of America agency implicating some of the hunting block operators for supporting the poaching syndicate…..While hunting operators may have permits to kill two wild animals a year, Dr Kigwangalla said, some killed over 20 and used the same permit to smuggle the illegally hunted animals. “Some extended their hunting blocks while some are also accused of transferring hunting blocks without observing the procedures,” he revealed.

Zimbabwe’s Community-based conservation programme ‘CAMPFIRE’ is reported to have been in serious decline for more than a decade (see for example the assessment from 2006 by Balint and Mashinya  ), and the ongoing benefits it brings to local communities is under question.

Trophy hunting has also been utilised as a mechanism for obtaining wildlife products from threatened species for the purpose of illegal trade. ‘Pseudo-hunting’ of rhinoceros in order to obtain horn for illegal trade purposes has been well documented in South Africa. There is concern that this continues to be a problem with Poland recently highlighting concerns in an EU enforcement meeting about the disappearance of rhino and elephant trophies imported to Poland from South Africa, which are suspected of being smuggled out of the EU into illegal trade[15].

At the end of 2015, South Africa and Vietnam signed a memorandum to end illegal rhino transactions by sharing information and through other measures. South Africa has called on Vietnam to make it a rule to confirm whether hunters have kept rhino horns, but Vietnamese officials have been accused of turning a blind eye to the request[16].

The Influence of Corruption on the Conduct of Recreational Hunting




[4] Ian Michler, ‘To Snap or Snipe?’, Africa Geographic, Oct. 2, 2002.






[10] Lucille Palazy, Christophe Bonenfant, Jean-Michel Gaillard, and Franck Courchamp: On the use of the IUCN status for the management of trophy hunting Wildlife Research Dec 2012 : Vol. 39, Issue 8, pg(s) 711-720 doi: 10.1071/WR12121:

[11] Palazy L, Bonenfant C, Gaillard J-M, Courchamp F (2011) Cat Dilemma: Too Protected To Escape Trophy Hunting? PLoS ONE 6(7): e22424. doi:10.1371

[12] Creel et al (2016) Assessing the sustainability of African lion trophy hunting, with recommendations for policy. Ecological Applications. doi: 10.1002/eap.1377




[16] Milliken, T., & Shaw, J. (2012). The South Africa – Viet Nam Rhino Horn Trade Nexus (Rep.). Retrieved May 9, 2016, from http:// species_mammals.pdf



  • According to official figures submitted by Governments1, in the decade to 2015 close to 350,000 trophy items derived from more than 300 animal species listed on the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) were traded internationally.
  • These trophies originated from 123 different countries, with South Africa, Canada, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia accounting for more than three quarters of the total.
  • They were imported by 166 others with the United States accounting for almost two thirds and European Union Member States for a further 15%.
  • The most commonly exported trophies were derived from African elephants (Loxodonta africana: 76,000), American black bears (Ursus americanus: 59,000), Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus: 53,000), hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius: 28,000) and African lions (Panthera leo: 14,500).
  • US trophy hunters imported more than 1.26 million wildlife trophies into the USA in the decade to 2014, almost two thirds of which were derived from Canada and South Africa (HSUS & HSI 2016).


Studies and reports have increasingly questioned the economic, conservation and societal values of trophy hunting activities, and its sustainability (Economists at Large 2013; Grijalva 2016). With money to be made, animal populations are often manipulated and quotas set to maximise profits, recommended age-based and area-based limitations are frequently ignored, and hunting levels often exceed quotas (Creel et al. 2016; IUCN 2016b).

Far from removing surplus or undesirable animals, trophy hunters often covet the largest trophies with the most impressive traits. Also, because hunters value rarity, threatened species may be disproportionately targeted, potentially pushing them further towards extinction (Palazy et al. 2011). Examination of hunts advertised and awards conferred by major hunting organisations reveals a clear focus on the size and traits of trophies, with little evidence of any effort to encourage hunters to restrict themselves to identified problem animals.

In arguments that compare South African and Kenya’s hunting credentials, it is true that since Kenya banned trophy hunting in 1977 there have been declines in wild animal numbers. It is also true that in South Africa, where trophy hunting is promoted, the numbers of some species have increased. However these differences cannot be attributed to trophy hunting. There are many other factors that impact wildlife conservation, and successful conservation cannot be measured simply in numbers of animals. South Africa operates a system that encourages commercial trade in wild animals between the public and private sectors, and many wild animals are effectively ‘ranched’ in semi-captive conditions/small fenced reserves, which may not represent ecologically sustainable units.


Research suggests that hunting companies contribute on average only 3% of their revenue to communities living in hunting areas

As for where the money goes, the US Democratic staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources in its report ‘Missing the Mark’  stated: “Our analysis shows that trophy hunting cannot be assumed to have a conservation benefit on the strength  of  a  guarantee  that  hunters’  fees  will  flow  to  communities  or  wildlife  agencies. Additional oversight is necessary to ensure that importing trophies of ESA listed species is in fact helping those species survive in the wild.”

In a 2015 report commissioned by Safari Club International entitled ‘The Economic Contributions of Hunting‐Related Tourism in Eastern and Southern Africa’, it claims that trophy hunters contribute US$426 million annually to the GDP of 8 African countries creating 53,000 jobs, and that: “hunting provides Africa with significant economic benefits to the countries and communities who host these travellers in total and per hunter”. The report seems to equate what hunters spend with their contribution to the GDP of the African countries in the study. The amount claimed is more than double the US$200 million ‘total spend’ estimated for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa back in 2007 . In a 2017 report Ecolarge stated that “a more realistic estimate is less than $132 million per year”.

The SCI report goes on to suggest that: “the estimated contribution to conservation through fees paid to landowners (private, community, and government) alone is estimated to be within the range of $26.7 million to $40.2 million each year.”, albeit they themselves recognise that this is ‘imprecise’. However, this only represents 6.3-9.4% of their claimed spend by trophy hunters, and given that ‘fees paid’ to private, community and government landowners won’t necessarily all go into conservation, the actual claimed financial contribution to conservation is very small.

By contrast, in their 2015 report ‘Towards Measuring the Economic Value of Wildlife Watching Tourism in Africa’ the UN World Tourism organisation stated that total international tourism receipts for Africa in 2013 reached US$ 34.2 billion, the majority of which was wildlife watching oriented, and that international tourist arrivals in Africa are predicted to double in the next decade. The report also outlines many instances where non-consumptive wildlife tourism revenues benefit local communities, and where those communities have been encouraged to protect wildlife for non-consumptive purposes. Examples include the development of birding tourism in South Africa which has been promoted by community projects supported by NGOs from the tourism sector and has encouraged the development of many small service businesses along birding routes; mountain gorilla viewing tourism in the Bwindi Forest National Park in Uganda; the Kichwa Tembo Masai Mara Tented Camp in Kenya; and turtle watching tourism in many coastal areas.

Claims relating to job creation seem to assume that all of the people who provide services to hunters would not be employed without the income those hunters bring. This might be true for the relatively small number of people who directly service the hunters’ hunting activities 100% of the time, but in the majority of cases the service industries will supply services to a wide range of clients, and will not rely entirely on the income from hunters for those jobs. So the estimates of jobs supported is likely to be a gross exaggeration (Ecolarge 2017).

Parts of the trophy hunting industry have been associated with accusations of corruption (Leader-Williams et al. 2009, recent article by Don Pinnock, and with the trafficking of wildlife through so-called ‘pseudo-hunting’ where trophy hunting has been used as a front to facilitate the acquisition and export of valuable parts of protected animals for illegal commercial trade (Traffic 2012). Such associations further damage the credibility of the trophy hunting industry.


When considering the welfare implications of lethal animal interventions, the point of death of the target animal is often the primary consideration. In most circumstances in which the deliberate killing of animals takes place, convention demands that the methods used should minimise negative welfare impacts. For example, the Terrestrial Animal Health Code, published by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), recognises the need to ensure the welfare of food animals during pre-slaughter and slaughter processes; it also recommends that, when killing animals for disease control purposes, methods used should result in immediate death or immediate loss of consciousness lasting until death, and that anxiety, pain, distress or suffering in animals should be avoided (OIE 2016).

While these principles were developed to guide the international community in relation to domestic livestock, they can equally be considered in and applied to other circumstances in which animals are deliberately killed.

Most societies implement such principles by specifying permitted slaughter methodologies that usually include the need for pre-slaughter stunning to render animals insensible prior to killing, for operatives to undertake appropriate training, and for oversight inspections to ensure requirements are being adhered to. However, hunted animals enjoy no such protections.

Some hunting organisations acknowledge that trophy hunters have a responsibility to avoid inflicting undue suffering, and to aim to make quick and humane kills (Boone & Crockett Club 2014). However, several trophy hunting organisations offer awards for methods of killing a trophy animal which might include the use of bows and arrows, handguns, or ‘traditional’ weapons such as muzzle loaders (Safari Club International 2014), and clearly do not prioritise the welfare of the target animal.

Cecil the lion was a case in point, having initially been targeted with a bow. Studies show that the use of bows may result in a 50% wounding rate (animal shot but not recovered) in targeted white-tailed deer, suggesting this method of killing is far from guaranteed to result in a clean kill (Ditchkoff et al. 1998).

Since at least part of the motivation of the paying trophy hunter is to procure a good quality ‘trophy’, there is clearly an incentive to avoid damaging specific parts of the animal that will subsequently be displayed. If, as is often the case, the head of the animal forms an integral part of the trophy, then use of a method that will damage the head may be dis-incentivised, resulting in areas of the body being targeted for reasons other than minimising welfare harms. 

The circumstances in which trophy animals are targeted, the fact that many trophy hunters are not necessarily expert shots, and the promotion of methods of killing that are clearly not primarily aimed at achieving an instantaneous death, mean that trophy hunted animals do not enjoy the protection from harmful welfare impacts at the point of death that would be expected for other types of animals that are deliberately killed. This anomaly raises substantial animal welfare concerns. 


Trophy hunting also has wider implications for the welfare and conservation of non-target animals.

As noted above, separating a ‘trophy animal’ from a social group or population may cause considerable stress to the individual concerned. The removal of that animal can also have significant consequences for the remaining animals in the group.

Animal societies can be complex, with individuals having specific roles within or knowledge valuable to the group. Trophy hunters will usually seek animals with certain traits, and these are often the larger, older or more ‘impressive’ animals within a group or population. Depending on the species, mature male animals may be targeted, and hunting proponents often claim that the targeting of such animals limits the wider population impacts because they are past peak breeding age and no longer contribute to the genetic diversity of future populations. In some cases, for example black rhinos, hunting proponents claim that removing ‘surplus’ males helps stimulate wider population growth by reducing competition between animals confined to restricted areas (Leader-Williams et al. 2005).

However, research indicates that removing particular animals on the basis of specified individual traits may have a disproportionate impact on the remaining animals in the group. The targeting of ‘tusker’ bull elephants by trophy hunters has resulted in a serious decline in the number of such animals, with the consequent loss of vitally important accumulated social and ecological experience from which younger animals learn (Bale 2015). There is also research suggesting that older bull elephants ‘control’ younger males, who become more volatile when the older bulls are removed, with the potential for increased aggressive interactions and associated injuries (Slotow et al. 2000). In the case of lions, the removal of older males who control prides may result in the influx of younger male animals and a consequent rise in infanticide, which may have serious welfare impacts for cubs and the adult females who care for them, and may severely disrupt social cohesion and population stability (Loveridge et al. 2016).

Where female animals of breeding age are targeted, any dependent young might suffer starvation or predation, with serious consequences for their welfare. This issue has been identified as a significant risk during hare shoots in England that take place in the early part of the breeding season for brown hares (Butterworth et al. 2017).