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10 Things to Understand about Trophy Hunting

Trophy hunting has always been a subject of debate colored by concerns for conservations and controversies over the hunting practice itself in many different countries around the world. You have to understand that there are two kinds of trophy hunting: the properly regulated kind and the poorly regulated/practiced one.

Many people seem to focus merely on the latter practice with Cecil the Lion continues to become the most publicized example of the issue. However, properly managed, regulated, and controlled trophy hunting can in fact help conservation efforts to a large extent. There are more benefits rather than the drawback as long as both parties (hunters and the governing agencies) understand how to make trophy hunting accountable activity.

The media must also see this in neutral objective manner and cover each story with profound background investigation. If you are trophy-hunting enthusiasts or just curious about its true advantages for conservation efforts, here are 10 things to know about it.


1. Why do people seem to disprove it greatly?

There are many bad examples of poorly managed trophy hunting. For better or worse, these bad examples appear to be the only ones intensely covered by the many different publications. As a result, trophy hunting has become largely associated with popular confusions such as:

  • trophy hunting is illegal
  • trophy hunting is exactly the same as “canned” hunting
  • trophy hunting is resulting in the decline of endangered species including large African mammals such as lions, elephants, and rhinoceros

None of those three is correct. The concerns and scrutiny towards trophy hunting are often the results of those incorrect statements.


2. What actually is trophy hunting?

A properly managed trophy hunting involves payment or a fee by the hunter (whether local or foreign) for the animals or certain species with specific characteristics for examples the size, the age, the antlers, etc. The trophy is typically retained by the hunter and taken home; this is where the term “trophy” came from. The meat of the hunted animals is often used for food by local communities. There is an overlap between trophy hunting and meat hunting. For example, deer hunters probably hunt for food but they also keep certain parts of the hunted animals as trophy.


3. Is trophy hunting similar to “canned hunting”?

In contrast to popular belief, trophy hunting is DIFFERENT from canned hunting. There is somehow a tendency by the media to confuse those two distinct terms. In canned hunting activity, the hunted animals are placed in confined enclosure to prevent them from escaping at all. Such activity represents very small proportion of the entire hunting practice. Canned hunting is illegal and condemned by most (if not all) conservation agencies all around the world.


4. Is trophy hunting legal?

Trophy hunting is not poaching. When you hear the term poaching, the correct association is with illegal hunting practices to gain financial benefit by selling body parts of the hunted animals. Poaching is illegal and driving the decline of iconic species such as Black Rhinoceros and African Elephants to name a few.

On the other hand, trophy hunting is legal activity and regulated by the governing bodies of conservation areas in which the practice takes place. Governing bodies may include the wildlife conservation agencies, managers of the protected areas (such as national parks), local communities, indigenous people, conservation development organizations, private landowners, and even the ministry of wildlife/conservation of the country. In many cases, the revenues from trophy hunting are used for funding wildlife conservation efforts and providing community benefits. Some of the revenues are used by law enforcement to prevent illegal poaching.


5. Who decides if trophy hunting in certain areas is legal?

Properly managed trophy hunting takes many factors into account for examples the species, the areas, the specific characteristics of the hunted animals (age, size, and other physical features), the number of animals living in the area, etc. Landowners (often the government) and wildlife conservation agencies along with local communities or wildlife organizations are involved in the decision-making process. Only when all of them agree that trophy hunting for a particular animal provides benefits to conservation efforts, the activity is deemed legal. The whole process from application to permits and from discussion to issuing license can take quite a long time.

Despite all the strict regulations and procedures, there can be regulatory weaknesses in certain countries. In some cases, the weaknesses create major problems for examples trophy hunting in the wrong areas, improper animal identifications, hunting non-permitted species, hunting in excess quotas, and the sale of hunting trophies in black market. With proper management and strong awareness of conservation efforts in the hunters’ part, however, such problems can be avoided.


6. Who gets the money?

Now the big question is whether the fees paid by trophy hunters go to the right people for the right purpose. The payment for trophy hunting can reach hundreds to hundreds of thousands of US dollars, depending on many factors including but not limited the species and guides. The payment generally covers three things:

  • hunting operators: these can be people or organizations who manage and guide the entire hunting activities
  • local entities: these include private/public land owner/manager with which hunting operator has the contract
  • officials: governmental bodies and conservation organizations that develop or run the hunting areas

The price is often negotiable, especially in developing countries where hunting operators play major roles in determining who gets the hunting right, where the hunting takes place, concession with land management, and all the terms involved in the activity. In most of North America and Europe, governmental wildlife authorities also get a share of the payment used for wildlife conservation purpose.


7. What are the practical benefits of trophy hunting for conservation?

Proper management of trophy hunting program can:

  1. Generate incentives for landowners or land management organizations to repopulate their lands with more wildlife. The sheer amount of money potentially earned from trophy hunting actually motivates land managers/land owners to carry out better, accountable, sustainable wildlife conservation.

  2. Reduce illegal killing because legal trophy hunting also means illegal poaching. When conservation organizations agree to set regulations for trophy hunting, they must (at the same time) ban poaching.

  3. Reduce conflicts between human and wildlife. Sometimes trophy hunters are only allowed to hunt for the animal that poses serious threats to nearby community’s livestock or crops.


The most practical benefit is that trophy hunting helps generate revenues for wildlife conservation and its management in the hunting areas. The money can be used by the governmental authorities to reinforce anti-poaching patrol. Wildlife management can also use the money to restore damaged/destroyed habitats, invest in better monitoring program, and support educational program for local communities.


8. Will trophy hunting decline the number of large African mammals?

One of the biggest concerns and misconceptions about trophy hunting is that people seem to see the activity as a major factor in the declining number of large African mammals or endangered species in general. Once again, trophy hunting is not just about taking your gun out and shooting animals as you like, but it requires lengthy process to issue permits and involves large sum of fees to acquire the right to hunt. Wildlife organizations decide which animal or species to hunt, and they can only choose particular animal considered a loss already. For examples, a buffalo that has reached its age of immaturity or one that is too old to play any important role to its herd, an injured wildebeest with zero chance of survival in the wild, anything of non-endangered species, and basically only the animals that meet the criteria or physical characteristics determined by wildlife conservation agencies and governmental authorities. Because of that, trophy hunting does not target just about any animals in sight; as a result, it has nearly zero effect to the decline of large African mammals.


9. Trophy hunting example that benefit conservation

During the 1990s, Namibia’s wildlife was at the lowest number in many areas of the country. Government-initiated programs such as community-based conservation and proper management of trophy hunting have helped restore wildlife concentration to the point where the country now has the largest free-roaming black rhinoceros in Africa. The positive effect has reached other species too such as African Elephants, giraffes, and cheetahs. Local communities, thanks to both programs, have benefitted greatly to improve quality of life, too.


10. Trophy hunting examples that do not benefit conservation

In Pakistan, WWF has stated that Himalayan black bears and leopards should not be hunted for any reason under any circumstances. The lack of accurate monitoring of both animals has made it almost impossible to conduct proper conservation program, let alone trophy hunting.



Trophy hunting has undeservedly become a controversial topic in wildlife conservation realm. Those who don’t understand it will condemn the practice based on misinformation, confusion, and misconception; on the other hand, wildlife conservation agencies and governmental authorities with proper management have taken great financial benefits from trophy hunting and used the fund to promote better conservation, restore destroyed habitats, enforce anti-poaching activities, and helped local communities improve their quality of life.

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