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Corruption and Trophy Hunting - Hand in Glove in Tanzania?

A recent report published by Nigel Leader-Williams (at the time with the University of Kent, now at Cambridge) and co-authors has much to say about the conduct of trophy hunters and their pals in the government of Tanzania. The title of their report says it all: “The Influence of Corruption on the Conduct of Recreational Hunting”. You can read the full report here.

 Readers of my blogs will not really gain anything from this report that has not been said before, but let’s explore a new avenue – the NGO’s are partially responsible. Yes indeed, those nice folks that you support with donations and taxes… But read below what Leader-Williams et al have to say, and then we will discuss a little further:

• In terms of conservation, corruption is neither restricted to recreational hunting, nor to Tanzania. While further research is needed, the negative consequences of endemic and systemic corruption are well enough understood to initiate some actions. However, reform of alleged corruption in recreational hunting will prove easier to articulate than to implement, as in Tanzania. Indeed, senior officials and elected politicians will resist changes to the status quo because of the wealth they accrue from current practices in recreational hunting. Given their power, reform of corrupt practices is unlikely to come from public officials and elected politicians within countries with poor governance. Therefore, what avenues are open to reform the governance of recreational hunting?

• First, many expect the international donor and NGO community to follow a policy of no-tolerance and encourage appropriate and stepwise reforms in conservation, as has occurred in other sectors. Currently, many donors and NGOs bemoan institutionalised and systemic corruption, but continue to provide unconditional budgetary support. However, persuading donors and NGOs not to fund projects in stable countries with diversifying and growing economies, may be naïve. If donors stand off from funding projects in favoured countries such as Tanzania and Mozambique, then whom should they support?

• Second, hunters could deflect opposition to recreational hunting and adopt a consumer-based policy of no-tolerance. While hunting bans are widely advocated, they may remove incentives to retain land under wildlife management, whether in formally protected areas or in areas occupied by people outside more strictly protected areas. Recreational hunting can be a powerful tool to finance conservation and to generate income for rural communities through nature-friendly ecotourism, even when sub-optimally managed in countries like Tanzania. Therefore, the hunting industry itself should develop principles and guidelines for improving the sustainability of recreational hunting, and increase pressure on countries, wildlife administrations and hunting industries that perform against such principles.

• Finally, local communities in many countries like Tanzania feel betrayed that benefits promised from recreational hunting have failed to materialise. Ironically, Tanzania’s recent policies have articulated devolving responsibility for wildlife management to local communities. In practice, the opposite has occurred, and its benefits have instead been centralized into the hands of elites. Consequently, local people and civil society should be encouraged to press their democratically elected representatives for appropriate reforms. For recreational hunting, the critical link lies between land rights and wildlife management, which local community-based organisations are particularly well suited to articulate.


• All these suggested avenues to reform the governance of recreational hunting will prove difficult, and none should be considered in isolation. Successful reform of endemic and systemic corruption, though likely to be slow, will lie in judiciously combining approaches in a stepwise and probably situation specific fashion.  Without such reforms, proponents of recreational hunting will continue to be challenged when extolling its benefits by increasingly well organized opposition.

So there you have the well-considered conclusions in the report. As I said above, nothing new really. We all know by now that hunting operators work very well in countries where corruption and bribery are the norms. They benefit, their friends in government benefit, and the local communities had better put up with it.

However, the report does identify an area of potential weakness for this profitable and friendly relationship that now exists among some parties – the NGOs operating in the country that actually fund much of the supposed push towards enabling communities. To name some of the big ones in Tanzania, these are the African Wildlife Foundation (HQ in Washington D.C.), the Zoological Society of London, the Wildlife Conservation Society (HQ in New York – the Bronx Zoo), USAID, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (the German development agency), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and many others. The AWF has already been named in many reports as turning a blind eye to corruption and government excesses, but they are an independently funded organization. Germany, the USA, and Norway are using public funds to support ongoing specious activities. The report asks – if these organizations stop such funding, where else would they spend their money? I can think of a better question – if these organizations demand better governance (which they are obliged to do by laws in their own countries), would the recipients act more accountably?


All of this funding is doing little except to maintain the status quo. Who among the NGOs will turn around and say – we have given you millions, now can you please account for them and show us progress like true community involvement? But sadly, that is not how NGOs currently work.


Conservation functions on many different levels we are told. But supporting corrupt governments and operators should not be one of them. And you reading this can actually do something about how the NGOs spend their money. Be involved and be active, ask questions and get informed!


Image: http://www.google.co.za/imgres?imgurl=http://wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/stacks-of-money.jpg

Posted by Pieter Kat at 23:46

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