Course:CONS200/2020/Trophy Hunting in Southeast Asia

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Trophy hunting is the hunting of wild animals for human entertainment. We would deeply interpret those issues through ethical and environmental aspects. Trophy hunting is controversially claimed to be beneficial to overall wildlife due to the decreased population of threatened species. It also provides economic benefits to humans. Hunters are supposed to pay for the entrance fee to participate in trophy activities. Then the collected capital could be allocated to local animal protection institutions, which can use this money to protect endangered wildlife. In this way, the aim of protecting the population by sacrificing individuals is achieved. Nevertheless, there are various problems related to trophy hunting that hinder its conservation role, like destruction of ecological diversity, corruption of profit and disrespect animal life. Potential solutions will be given as well.


Concept of Trophy Hunting

Exhibition of Hunting Trophies

Trophy hunting is broadly defined as the recreational killing of animals for recreation with the purpose of collecting their ‘trophies’ such as horns, tusks, teeth, skulls or skins, for display[1] Trophies represent the success of the hunt. The game sought is typically a large or impressively ornamented male, such as one having large horns or antlers. Generally, only parts of the animal are kept as a trophies (usually the head, skin, horns or antlers) and the carcass itself is used for food.[2] Many people may think this kind of recreation is cruel, but it is a booming industry and is legal. Although there are restrictions on the species that can be hunted, where and when the hunting can take place, and the weapons that can be used[3], it can be legal to kill endangered species. Some countries do allow a small number of endangered species to be killed in the wild by sports hunters and, with approval from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it is still possible to take the trophies home.[3] It becomes a controversial topic due to this, some critics concerned the mixed messages shows local people can't hunt endangered species but rich Westerners can, however, others believe that trophy hunting can be a good thing. For example, trophy hunting has played a role in the recovery of the southern white rhino population[3].

Trophy Hunting

Scale of Trophy Hunting

Scope of International Trophy Hunting

International trophy hunting is a multinational, multimillion-dollar industry practiced throughout the world[4], with 107 countries exporting trophies and 104 countries importing them.[1] Especially,Trophy hunting occurs throughout the world in areas where wild and managed populations of hunted animals exist. It can target large, charismatic mammals, such as white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum) and elephants (Loxodonta africana), as well as smaller, lesser-known species, such as markhor (Capra falconeri) and argali (Ovis ammon)[4].

Role of Asia in International Trophy Hunting

Asia absolutely isn't a main trophy hunting destination. In Asia, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia export the most hunting trophies. They exported fewer trophies than most others in Europe, Africa, South America, and North America. In addition, there are only 25 percent of the most commonly imported species of trophies came from Eurasia[1].

Legal Restrictions

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement that creates a series of incrementally more stringent restrictions on imports and exports of wildlife, depending on the sustainability of such trade[4].

Ethical Perspective

Trophy Hunting Supporters

Naturalness and Ethic

Those who support trophy hunting have expressed strong emotions. They view it as the highest achievement order. It is the ultimate test of humanity and endurance in the struggle with nature, and it is a natural behavior and part of the evolution cycle. Trophy hunters mainly argue about the "naturalness" of human hunting, which seems to be fixed in time and place, and seems to be limited by some evolution[5]. What they think of as "naturalness" is that the nature of humans is a carnivore, and hunting is just a way for humans to enter nature. This is an activity that humans perform in nature, so they think hunting is correct.

Financial Benefits and Ethic

At the same time, trophy hunting also has a positive impact, and the profits it receives will infiltrate the local economic support and protection work[5]. From an ethical point of view, trophy hunting has been converted into an economic benefit in the eyes of those who support it, and again into environmental protection, leaving out the intermediate economic benefit. This is an ethical and practical activity.

Southeast Asia is a region of conservation concern due to heavy losses of its native habitats. Almost the entire Southeast Asia is considered a biodiversity hotspot because it harbors an exceptionally high number of endemic species that are threatened by the loss of >70% of original habitats [6]. Southeast Asia contains the highest mean proportion of country-endemic bird (9%) and mammal species (11%). This region also has the highest proportion of threatened vascular plant, reptile, bird, and mammal species. Furthermore, not only is Southeast Asia’s annual deforestation rate the highest in the tropics, but it has also increased between the periods 1990–2000 and 2000–2005. This could result in projected losses of 13–85% of biodiversity in the region by 2100[7]. What's more, wildlife protection is an activity that is basically carried out in remote areas. It is difficult to implement, and there are fewer and fewer participants. Moreover, many regions in Southeast Asia are more focused on agricultural and industrial development. Therefore, wildlife conservation is a project that needs financial support.Therefore, in addition to government funds, the supporters of trophy hunting believe that the profits brought by trophy hunting are of great significance to local wildlife protection.

Trophy Hunting Objectors

The practice of tackling wildlife conservation issues has brought more and various challenges to researchers and practitioners in Asia, especially in the past 25 years. As the population grows, the land available for wildlife is steadily decreasing, and habitat is degrading. Across the globe, vertebrate extinction risks are highest in South-east Asia. The region has little tradition of effectively managed protected areas. Myanmar, for example, has been largely isolated from the outside world for the last few decades. But we heard from more than 20 Myanmar conservationists diligently working on a range of issues that include measuring forest loss; securing captive turtle populations; managing human-elephant conflict; and documenting the last populations of vultures and crocodiles[8].Consequently, many South-east Asian species will become extinct in the near future if current trends continue [9]. Therefore, there has been a great deal of highly charged emotional debate and indeed moral outrage about trophy hunting.

Ethical Use of Nature

First of all, let ’s not discuss the real purpose of the funds earned by trophy hunting. The act of converting animal hunting into money alone violates ethics to some extent. Second, measuring money in different parts of different species is also unethical. Generally, only parts of the animal are kept as a trophies (usually the head, skin, horns or antlers) and the carcass itself is used for food[10]. John Muir had a biocentric perspective of conservation, and he also advocated the spiritual and psychological use of nature[11]. He believes that everything in nature is given by God and has intrinsic value. Miur ’s point of view refutes trophy hunting very well in terms of ethics.

Animal Rights

A land ethic is a philosophy or theoretical framework about how, ethically, humans should regard the land, and this term was coined by Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) in A Sand County Almanac (1949). Then he argues that there is a critical need for a "new ethic," an "ethic dealing with human's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it". And the general principles of Leopold’s Land Ethic is that all community members have the ‘biotic right’ to continued existence, regardless of economic advantage to humans[12]. Therefore, many opponents believe that trophy hunting only meets the needs of hunters, and completely ignores the survival rights of wild animals. This activity not only violated Leopold's core views, but also violated certain ethical cognition.

Conservation Perspective

Critical Roles of Trophy Hunting

Scientists have debated the role of trophy hunting in wildlife conservation for decades[13]. Trophy hunting takes place in a great variety of governance, management, and ecological contexts, so its impacts on conservation vary enormously, from negative to neutral to positive[14]. In many contexts, good evidence is lacking or scanty, so it is currently impossible to evaluate precisely how widespread each outcome is. Therefore, trophy hunting may be useful to wildlife conservation, but it is thus not a guarantee[15].

As Positive Divers: Benefit Sharing

We can't deny that as long as we make good use of the trophy hunting, its impact on increasing wildlife protection is huge. And trophy hunting has achieved great success in specific animals in some regions, which proves the trophy hunting can truly make sense and be promising in the Anthropocene. It is an activity that could generate billions of dollars in revenue at the expense of a few captured individuals of the target species[16], which could be used to help with solving the problem of environmental destruction. For example, in Pakistan, a hunter-based conservation program has helped prevent the extinction of two endangered Himalayan sheep and goats, which is a good example of how a well-managed trophy hunting benefits the wildlife[17].

As IUCN clarified that hunting can be a positive driver for conservation because it increases the value of wildlife and the habitats it depends on, providing critical benefit flows that can motivate and enable sustainable management approaches:

  1. Generate incentives for landowners (government, private individuals or communities) to conserve or restore wildlife[14].
  2. Generate revenue for wildlife management and conservation, including anti-poaching activities[14].
  3. Increase tolerance for living with wildlife, reducing the effects of human-wildlife conflicts and reducing illegal killing[14].

Positive effects

  1. Financial incentives
  2. Effects on habitat loss
  3. Effects on biodiversity
  4. Effects on animal population

As Negative Divers: Environmental degradation

Exploitation to incentivise protection has many proponents, but the trade-off at a population level for the protection of animal lives has considerable challenges[18]. Negative conservation impacts of poorly managed trophy hunting can involve overharvesting, artificial selection for rare or exaggerated features, genetic or phenotypic influences, predator removal and so on[14].

Hunting aims at male animals

What’s more, trophies are mostly aimed at male animals, and the removal of males will degrade the ability of these species to survive and provide offspring[19]. Further, trophy hunting can also drive population-level changes that may cause population collapse[18]. For example, in the muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) and gaur (Bos gaurus) area, Thailand, sambar (Cervus unicolor) remained consistently low natural increase rate despite freedom from hunting[20]. The main cause is that prime males had been selectively targeted for trophies, disrupting the species mating system[20].

Poor management and poaching

The resilience of wildlife populations to trophy hunting may be species-specific, with less resilient species usually showing lower reproductive rates, more complex social organizations or whose body parts are illegally traded in international criminal markets [15]. And the sustainability of trophy hunting may depend upon the type of management[15]. In some well-managed areas, trophy hunting can indeed bring many benefits to nature, but there are many areas in the world that lack proper management, where hunting may only increase the deterioration of the natural environment and animal communities. In addition, the high fees generated by trophy hunting lead to difficulties to control corruption in countries with high levels of poverty, and that trophy hunting is less economically profitable than photographic tourism in some areas[21].

In Southeast Asia, take the large ungulate (species > 5 kg) as an example, its populations have been decimated in recent decades due to commercial poaching to supply local and regional markets with meat, horns, and other body parts[22]. And the commercial poaching caused irreparable serious consequences, widespread declines occurred in the large ungulate population abundance, and caused many site-level extirpations within the intact forest, such that intact ungulate communities are now absent in the region[22]. What’s more, once the large ungulate populations in Southeast Asia have been decimated by commercial poaching, little is known about the patterns of population recovery after poaching is controlled[20].

Potential Solutions

Governmental Level

Trophy products import bans might provide benefits. It could help to improve trophy hunting practice in certain extent. Those bans are unlikely to improve conservation outcomes unless there is an explicit expectation that improved criterion could lead to the ban being cancelled, and the country has both the capacity and the political will to address the problem. Consequently, It is critical to the influence of targeted moratoria that they are accompanied by funding and technical support for on-the-ground management improvements. Plus, the status of the initial issue is re-checked after a specified stage.

Hunting stakeholders play an important roles in improving standards, which contain importing countries, donors, national regulators and managers, community organizations, researchers, conservation organizations, and the hunting industry and hunter associations in reaching these standards.[14]Broad-scale restrictions are not the only method to address poor trophy hunting practice. Import restrictions are often attractive interventions due to they are easy to implement, and are carried out at low cost to decision-making bodies. Nevertheless, conservation success is rarely achieved by single decisions in distant capitals, but typically requires long term, sustained multi-stakeholder engagement in country and on the ground.

As there are some problems raised in governance and management of trophy hunting, it will be most effective to actively encourage relevant countries to engage in the improvement of management quality, which includes:

  • increasing funding flows transparency, community benefits,
  • optimizing quota setting, concession allocation,
  • strengthening of rights and responsibilities of native people and local communities,
  • and improving population monitoring[14].


The International Union for Conservation of Nature is responsible for assessing the need of protecting species globally and provides useful guidance for sustainable development and conservation. Liaise with organizations and programs that reduce consumer demand, educate the wider public, study species conservation status and other essential thematic undertakings. Through both publications and media outreach, including new social media, raise the profile, among conservation organizations, all sectors of governments, international bodies and the general public of the extinction crisis in South-east Asia and its effects on humanity[9].

Practical alternative approaches to trophy hunting need to provide tangible and effective conservation incentives. In essence, they need to make wildlife valuable to people over the long term and should preferably empower local communities to exercise rights and responsibilities over wildlife conservation and management. All these options are challenging, with a critical challenge ensuring that revenue flows will be sustainable over the long term and not contingent on highly changeable donor priorities.


Photographic tourism could be a valuable option for individuals, it has generated considerable benefits for conservation. However, it is feasible in the limited percentage of the wildlife area recently managed for trophy hunting: it also needs political stability, proximity to good transport-links, minimal risks of disease , high density wildlife populations to ensure viewing, scenic landscapes, high capital investment, infrastructure (hotels, food and water supply, waste management), and local skills and capacity. Tourism and hunting are frequently highly complementary land uses when separated by time or space[14].


Trophy hunting is a controversial topic because of positive and negative impacts on ethics and conservation. Some regarded it as the highest achievement of humanity and endurance and they thought it can provide the profits it receives to the local economic support and protection work. Others thought trophy hunting caused population-level changes that may cause population collapse even extinctions. In term of this issue, governments as the most powerful engagement, they should improve the quality of management and governance, ensure sustainable funding flow. For non-profit organizations, they can empower the local communities to exercise their rights and responsibilities on wildlife conservation. As individuals, should apply photographic tourism which can replace trophy hunting as an alternative to fund flow into conservation.


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