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Saving lions by killing them - Part 2

Monday 25th March 2013

Saving lions by killing them - Part 2

                                                                        Am I now saved?

In a previous blog, I stated that Alexander Songorwa’s Opinion Piece in the New York Times to attempt to convince the USFWS to NOT place lions on the US Endangered Species Act was flawed on many counts. Not least because of Songorwa’s attempts to convince that there are 16,800 lions in Tanzania and that hunting is highly regulated. Songorwa is the latest Director of Wildlife in Tanzania.

I also mentioned that the hopeless state of Tanzania’s wildlife estimates, and the high level of corruption in the Wildlife Department and among the hunting associations, should urge great caution in accepting Songorwa’s statements.

Marc Bellemare, an Assistant Professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, published independently an article in the USA Star Tribune newspaper pointing out that corruption keeps Tanzania from being a good steward of its wildlife.

Marc said “Songorwa argues that American lion hunters generate 60 percent of Tanzania’s millions of dollars in revenues from trophy hunting, and that lion hunting is well-regulated in Tanzania. I am sceptical — especially in light of the fact that Tanzania is more corrupt than the median of 176 countries surveyed by Transparency International for its 2012 Corruption Perception Index, which says Tanzania’s levels of corruption are comparable to those of Argentina and Gabon”.

He added “Not only is Tanzania a relatively corrupt country, but researchers also note extensive corruption in the hunting sector. It is for that reason that Tanzania’s minister for Natural Resources and Tourism issued a stern warning to the Tanzania Safari Outfitters Association at a meeting in Dar-es-Salaam last fall, noting that corruption usually began with wealthy hunters bribing officials so that they would turn a blind eye to illegal behaviour”.

Marc concluded “Instead of lobbying against placing the African lion on the endangered species list, Tanzania should seek to reform its institutions. Not only would this help protect the country’s big-game reserves, it is also a crucial step toward the sustainable development of the Tanzanian economy. A persistent finding in development economics is that dysfunctional institutions, of which corruption is a symptom, are an important cause of underdevelopment”.

In a subsequent communication to me Marc said “It just seemed somewhat obvious to me that Tanzania should fix its institutions (a concept which has been known to development economists for a while, but which is now very much in the Zeitgeist since the publication of Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail last year) before asking for an exemption to the Endangered Species Act”.

A review of that book summarizes the question as follows:

“Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?
The answer is that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or the lack of it). Korea is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest.
South Korea forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people”.

Tanzania is not alone in this failure. But meanwhile Alexander Songorwa, as Marc Bellemare says, should clean up his own institution. Until such time he cannot be taken seriously in promoting continued trophy hunting with failed and corrupt formulas and mythical wildlife numbers.  

Picture credit: http://bit.ly/102tgo9

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Posted by Pieter Kat at 16:48

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