Born free goes Beyond Trophy Hunting

16 December 2022


On December 15, Born Free hosted a public discussion to explore innovative and humane alternatives to trophy hunting, at London’s iconic Royal Geographical Society.

Will Travers standing at a lectern with four panellists at the RGS in London, with 'Beyond Trophy Hunting' and a photo of a lion on the screen behind him

Hundreds of supporters, members of the public, industry professionals and press joined Born Free, both in person and online, at our Beyond Trophy Hunting event on 15th December, 2022. The significant evening took place at the Ondaatje Lecture Theatre at the Royal Geographical Society, located in the heart of South Kensington and one of London’s leading venues for over a century.  

The audience was welcomed by the evening’s host, Born Free Executive President Will Travers OBE. “I want to start by plagiarising and misquoting President John F Kennedy,” Will began. “He said ‘We choose to search for alternatives to trophy hunting, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. That challenge is one we are willing to accept; one we are unwilling to postpone.’

“Tonight is not about walking the well-worn and entrenched path that means that those in favour of trophy hunting simply argue their corner, and those against do the same. In my view, this has become a redundant process. It is futile; it is not progressive. Tonight is about envisioning what a post-trophy hunting landscape might look like, tonight is about trophy hunting and what might replace it.

“To be sure, it is unlikely that there is one strategy that will deliver the outcomes we seek. I for one am in listening mode. But, perhaps, if we are brave, and courageous, and committed we can be so much better than where we are now; delivering for people, delivering for conservation, delivering for nature, biodiversity and ecosystems.”

Trophy hunting is one of the most contentious forms of wild animal exploitation. Proponents argue it generates important revenue and employment, as well as supporting conservation, but our unique evening was an opportunity to explore viable alternatives. Kindly sponsored by the FinTech group Nukkleus Inc, a panel of experts led the important discussion about the challenges that exist and how best to support conservation and community development, secure meaningful jobs, enhance economic benefits, and help people and wild animals peacefully co-exist.

The audience was engaged by the expertise and case studies presented by the panel assembled by Born Free. Speaking first was Timothy Kamuzu Phiri, an environmental educator and activist, and Executive Director of Mizu Eco-Care in Zambia. Timothy talked about ethical conservation tools, including agroecology, incentives for farmers increasing biodiversity, and community-owned, non-consumptive tourism enterprises. He said: “Ethical conservation tools are not just about Africa, and they’re not just for Africa. They are tools that I feel we should all get behind. Because they help us take care of wildlife, they help us regenerate ecosystems.”

Next, Tom Lalampaa, CEO of Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and expert in community-run conservation spoke about the successes NRT has had in Kenya, using a model that balances the needs of the environment, wildlife and the livelihoods of local communities, and puts peace and economic development at the forefront of development for the country. Their successes include generating $273,507 from bead crafts made by local women and sold in Europe and te US; $378,000 in revenue from tourism in the first half of 2022 alone, and $14.6m generated from the sale of carbon credits – all of which is managed by the communities.

Tom was followed by Praveen Moman, Founder of Volcanoes Safaris, which is at the forefront of reviving ecotourism in post-conflict Uganda and Rwanda, empowering local communities and promoting conservation of great apes. He spoke about the success of this pioneering project, which is based on the value not only of gorillas, but of other animals: what are wildlife and wilderness areas worth in terms of tourism income, and how might they be worth even more in terms of carbon and benefit to the planet.

Praveen said: “If wildlife and wilderness has no economic value, there is no incentive for governments to keep these areas. Conservation has to be part of the economic mainstream of a country, it has to pay. Unless we change the paradigm of these protected parks, and unless they support the communities… I don’t think these parks will survive.”

This sentiment was echoed by the final speaker, financial economist Dr Ralph Chami, Assistant Director of the International Monetary Fund and Co-Founder of Blue Green Future and Rebalance Earth. His presentation on ‘the value of living wildlife to our health and wellbeing’ focused on elephants and the role they play in fighting climate change, with the carbon value of a single forest elephant being valued at $1.75m across its lifetime.

Ralph was keen to stress that when working with governments, it really comes down to speaking their language: “We have chosen as a market system a language of dollars and cents; in this market you are invisible until you can convert whatever it is into dollars and cents. You need to figure out, how am I going to translate whatever I’m interested in into their language?”

After each speaker had given their presentation, Will took to the floor to present specific questions to the panel about what effective, ethical and humane opportunities there are to move beyond trophy hunting, and what obstacles need to be overcome. This was followed by questions from the live audience, who were keen to drill down further into what a post-trophy hunting world would look like, including how private landowners can be convinced there are alternatives, how communities can see immediate benefits rather than having to trust a long-term promise, and what role conservation organisations like Born Free have to play.

To conclude the event, Will summarised: “This evening we have heard the most extraordinary presentations and thoughts from people who have a wealth of experience, and we have been privileged to listen to those voices; I’ve learned so much this evening.

“The tide of history is moving in a particular direction; whether it’s through the Hunting Trophies (Imports Prohibition) Bill, whether it’s, Germany deciding to withdraw from the CIC (a pro-trophy hunting organisation), or Finland deciding that they would also introduce a trophy hunting import prohibition on species listed in Annex A and Annex B of the European Regulation.

“What we mustn’t do is allow it to move in a direction and fall into a void, so there’s nothing there. It doesn’t mean we have to have the full answer, it doesn’t mean we have to have it fully funded, but to go into literally a dead space is not going to be good for wildlife, nature, communities or conservation. We must move this forward together.”


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