FRANKFURT, Germany, April 9, 2002 (ENS) - Increasing numbers of European hunters are pursuing their sport in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, spending millions of EUROS on supplies and travel. Yet only a third of those funds end up in the countries whose wildlife attracts the hunters, generating little income for the struggling nations, concludes a new report by TRAFFIC Europe.
Since the collapse of state regulated hunting markets in the early 1990s, trophy hunters from Europe have flocked to the border region between Eastern Europe and Central Asia, spending some EUR 120 - 180 million on hunting related costs each year.
The TRAFFIC Europe report presents, for the first time, data on the overall economic impact of the region's hunting tourism. It shows that the impact of trophy hunting on a country's income, frequently cited by hunting supporters, is often minimal.
"Foreigners hunting highly prized and rare species such as wild sheep and goats present a potential source of foreign exchange income to remote and poor regions in Eurasia," said Doris Hofer, author of the report, "The Lion's Share of the Hunt - Trophy Hunting and Conservation: A review of the legal Eurasian tourist hunting market and trophy trade under CITES."
However, "even in Hungary, which supplies the tourist hunting demand with a big chunk of 10,000 - 20,000 hunts per year, the economic impact of this is limited to 0.0005 percent of the gross national product," Hofer noted.
Many of the species sought by these hunters are growing increasingly rare, and trade in these animals is regulated under CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The main task of CITES is ensuring that wildlife trade is kept at sustainable levels and does not threaten species' populations in the wild.
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Conservation Union, works in cooperation with the CITES Secretariat. The WWF and the European Commission helped support TRAFFIC's research into the economic impacts of hunting CITES listed species along the European-Asian border.
Among the Eurasian CITES listed species that are most pursued by foreign hunters are brown bear, wolf and Argali sheep. Foreign hunting on Eurasian CITES listed mammal species is on the rise, but CITES listed mammal species form less than five percent of the overall trophy imports into European countries.
Hofer said her research found that obtaining a reliable overview of the actual money flow generated by foreign sport hunters is difficult for both the hunters and for wildlife management authorities.
"Insufficient documentation reduces trophy hunting's potential benefits for conservation and to regional sustainable development," explained Hofer. "Without a clear understanding, motivation for law enforcement staff and incentives for enhancement of wildlife management systems remains limited."
The study shows that about 20 to 30 percent of the European hunters travel abroad at least occasionally for hunting. German and Italian hunters travel to a wide range of European destinations, Spanish tourist hunters prefer North America, and Benelux hunters are much more oriented towards Africa.
In general, the majority of tourist hunters visit destinations that are relatively close to home. The average direct cost for any foreign hunt is about EUR 2,000 and slightly less for Eastern European destinations.
Germany and Spain together account for 68 percent of the European Union CITES listed mammal trophy imports. The game species preferred by German and Spanish hunters hunting abroad are ungulates, mainly red deer, roe deer and wild boar, and to a lesser extent antelope and gazelle, and wild sheep and goats.
Forty-five percent of German tourist hunters have hunted for small game and waterfowl, at some point in the past. About 18.5 percent of German hunters have already hunted for big game carnivores. Italian tourist hunters prefer bird hunting abroad.
While the study focused on an overview of the legal Eurasian tourist hunting market, illegal practices were also revealed in some cases. Ten percent of the surveyed German hunters indicated that they were affected directly or indirectly by illegal activities in the field.
In Italy, TRAFFIC has assisted enforcement authorities in two large cases of illegal trophy hunting in Asia, involving protected and rare species listed under CITES such as tigers, wild Argali sheep and urial, or wild goats.
The TRAFFIC report urges that tourist hunting be integrated into conservation programs where possible, and calls for increased dialogue between the hunting and tourism industries. European Union member states and other nations supporting tourist hunters should coordinate their wildlife and hunting monitoring efforts for the benefit of rare species, the report suggests.
"Amidst an often highly emotional discussion about the benefits of trophy hunting for conservation, more facts are needed in order to improve dialogue between hunters and conservationists," said Roland Melisch of TRAFFIC Europe. "In the EU, such a dialogue unfortunately still remains largely unsupported by the public. This, despite the fact that often both groups share the common aim of the conservation of wildlife for future generations."
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