Hunting Economics, Sir Richard Branson and Anti-Poaching Drones

Following on from the article “The Economics of Poaching, Trophy and Canned Hunting(1),” it’s interesting to reflect on Sir Richard Branson’s (Founder of Virgin Group) thoughts of 7 August 2015(2) that indeed pre-empted, but echoed the referenced article.

Rightly outraged, Sir Richard shared his view that it was a “senseless and brutal killing of the Zimbabwean lion affectionately known a Cecil, by a US hunter two weeks ago [on 24 July 2015]”.

kenya_car_richard_safariSir Richard (pictured left, photo courtesy of Virgin.com)  goes on to analyse the hunting business and agrees that ‘reliable’ figures are hard to capture, but estimates that annual revenue for hunting in South Africa alone is $200m. His research also suggests that as little as 3% of the ‘fees’ paid by the foreign hunters reaches the local community.

Sir Richard encapsulates the suspected beneficiaries of hunting revenues rather well “A good portion of that money is pocketed by the professional firms and individuals that are organising the hunts, as well as by the government agencies responsible for issuing licenses. Add poor governance and corruption to the mix, and you get the familiar scenario of profits being shared by few to the detriment of community and wildlife.”

Tourism has a much larger turnover in South Africa (General Tourism in South Africa was estimated to have a $9.5bn in turnover 2012(1)) and indeed this is the same across other Trophy Hunting facilitating countries(1).

So, Sir Richard encourages the promotion of general tourism much more, the fundamental economics are clearly at play “We know that elephants and rhinos (and surely lions, too) – if left alive – have a lifetime economic value that can go into the millions. Live animals, particularly the Big Five, attract a steady stream of tourists seeking to experience these amazing species up close and personal. Their money, spent on accommodation, food and safaris, creates countless skilled jobs, which provide consistent income and opportunity to local communities.”

Since Sir Richard’s article(2) on Virgin.com, a number of other airlines have also banned the transportation of hunter’s trophies – “A large number of international airlines – including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Australia and our partner, Delta – have pledged to no longer carry hunting trophies on flights. This has been a policy of Virgin Atlantic for many years and it’s wonderful to see other airlines join the fight.”

“Now we have to stop the killing, too – Sir Richard Branson, 7 August 2015.” Well said Sir Richard, we agree the killing must stop and very, very soon.  

DroneAs an aside, In September 2014, Branson announced(4) his investment in drone company 3D Robotics(3) stating, “It’s amazing to see what a little flying object with a GoPro attached can do. Before they came along the alternative was an expensive helicopter and crew. I’m really excited about the potential 3D Robotics sees in drones. They can do a lot of good in the world……

Perhaps there is some scope for 3D Robotics, under Sir Richard’s guidance to help develop a generation of anti-poaching Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, or drones) to support ranger units in the field. Similar technology and development is being pioneered by John Petersen’s ‘Air Shepherd (The Lindberg Foundation)(5)‘ and the ‘International Anti-Poaching Foundation’s(6)‘ own UAV initiative, under the guidance of Ian Mackenzie-Ross.

Go on Sir Richard, please help get some 3D Robotics’ anti-poaching drones up in the skies!

References

(1) The Economics of Poaching, Trophy and Canned Hunting, dated 20 August 2015 – Cecil’s Pride

(2) “Big game is worth more alive than dead” – Sir Richard Branson, 7 August 2015 – Virgin.com

(3) 3D Robotics – 3D Robotics

(4) The Business Insider, 15 September 2014 – The Business Insider

(5) Air Shepherd (The Lindberg Foundation) – Air Shepherd

(6) International Anti-Poaching Foundation – UAV Development – IAPF

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