Trophy Hunting: Past, Present and Future
by Gerhard R Damm
Key Note Presentation at the Trophy Workshop of the 54th CIC General Assembly in Belgrade
As a young boy of no more than five or six years I already knew that the fresh oak twig which occasionally adorned my father’s hat usually meant that another roebuck had fallen to his rifle. I would not have recognized the word trophy then, if somebody had mentioned it, but I understood that the buck’s headgear meant something extraordinary. Something to be elated about and something which was the topic of animated conversations. Something which lived on forever in the rows of oak-shield-mounted antlers. All of them had a story, penciled to the back of the shield, but recounted without looking. Many of these trophies got lost, but quite a few, amongst them my fa- ther’s first roebuck, still occupy places of honor in my house in South Africa.
I still had a few years to go before my tenth summer, when I was allowed to accompany my dad on stalks. I was with him when he took a shot at a buck, who’s bleached out yellowish coat betrayed advanced age. Its headgear was almost invisible – less than an inch of knurled horn on each side. The buck disappeared in the dense underbrush and we carefully followed the few red dots. I still remember how we walked up to him and how my dad reverently placed the last bite of oak leaves; his obvious pride in touching these insignificant button antlers. A pride, I now understand, born from having taken an old buck, which had eluded him for years and the pride of sharing this experience with me.
Some years later, when I had turned thirteen, I received permission to use my great-uncle’s old single shot rifle on my first buck. It happened on the eighth of August 1960 – about half past seven in the evening. If I take any objective trophy standards, the antlers were less than mediocre – but for me this it is a trophy which is central in my home till today. This is how I became a trophy hunter. Quite a few years have passed since; I hunted in North and South America, I hunted in Asia and in Africa. I am still a trophy hunter and I am proud of it.
But, during the past few years, I became increasingly worried about the appearance of negative comments in connection with trophy hunting. Frivolous comments of non-hunters did not bother me too much. However, my unease intensified, when I realized that this negative public view of “trophy hunting” was about to influence the future of my lifelong passion. I had long and animated discussions with hunters and non-hunters, around camp fires, at meetings and international conventions, and instead of finding solutions, my doubts and worries increased.
Setting the Stage
This article has not been written to bask in past achievements, or to paint a glowing picture of the future. It has been written because there is a need for critical analysis. Trophy hunting needs to find broad acceptance with non-hunters. Such acceptance will not be obtained easily. Let me state it like this: trophy hunting will face serious problems, if we fail to establish trophy hunting as conservation tool, if our actions are perceived as uncivilized and decadent, and if they are seen as morally or biologically wrong.
The process we are about to start will be painful, since we need to be critical of entrenched concepts and propose potentially radical changes. Some of the things I have to say in this presentation might not go down too well; some statements will possibly raise a storm of protest. Yet I feel that the time has come enter the fray and fight for solutions. I want to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s advice “In a moment of decision the best thing that you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing!”
Therefore I selected the following key statement to define the purpose of this article:
We want to establish the ground work towards the formulation of a CIC position statement on Hunting Trophies and Trophy Hunting. We want the CIC members, the hunters around the world, the conservationists and the public to acknowledge that trophy hunting, hunting trophies and record books are irreducible elements of conservation-hunting in the 21st century; that trophy hunting is one key component of global sustainable hunting tourism and of resident rec- reational hunting.
I am fully aware that we cannot assume to achieve this objective overnight. Therefore an international task force will continue the work for a comprehensive CIC position paper. They will use feedback and input from members and outside experts and will entertain a cooperative dialogue and exchange of ideas with other regional and global hunting organizations. Therefore, please consider this article and the potentially controversial points as catalyst for some animated discussions.
History of Trophy Hunting and Trophy Recording
Trophy hunting and hunting in foreign lands is not an invention of the 19th or 20th century. A couple of thousand years before Christ, Mesopotamian kings had hunting scenes cut into the stones of the ceremonial chambers of their palaces. In the forth century before our time, the Greek historian Xenophon described the first hunting trips to foreign lands in his book “Kynegeticos”. Long before them, our ice age ancestors in southwestern Europe created amazingly beautiful cave paintings of hunting scenes. We come across the ancient canine teeth of deer, appreciated since times immemorial, antlers and horns worked into adornments without utilitarian purpose. It is a fact: ancient and not so ancient cultures around the world conserved parts of the hunted game or created renditions of hunting scenes.
These are the earliest surviving hunting trophies – they make us realize that there was more to our ancestors' relationship with animals than simply hunting and eating them. Yes, in these days hunting was essential for survival, but it had recreational and cultural implications. It embodied already a concept which has been named only in the 20th century: Trophy Hunting!
The societies, where hunting was the basic right of every able bodied man, began to disappear in Europe with the demise of the Roman Empire. In other parts of the world, they survived longer, but most of them eventually succumbed to the expansionist Europe. In the long period to the end of the 18th century, royalty, nobility and military reserved the lion’s share of hunting to the exclusion of other social groups.
In the emerging national states of Europe, hunting rights were tied to land ownership. Game belonged to the landowner. Only some hunter-gatherer societies in Africa and in the Americas considered game animals a common good. Astonishingly, the emerging United States took the route of placing game under the custody of the State – who according to the American Constitution – holds it in trust for the citizens. The revolutionary American spirit also vested the right to hunt into each citizen – with initially disastrous results, as history has shown.
From the feudal times in Europe we inherited a precious legacy of artistic achievements related to hunting in music, theatre, art and crafted objects from that period, but also a legacy of excesses and debauchery. The 19th century brought the end of these aristocratic hunting privileges. The new bourgeois class discovered hunting as recreational past time. Game became “res nullius”. The results were just as disastrous as in the young United States.
The colonialist expansion spread the European concept of recreational hunting to every corner of the globe. They did not call it recreational hunting yet – but nevertheless it was done for recreation! Hunting trophies from around the globe became a focus of interest for those who had remained at home. At the same time the expanding agriculture of colonial settlers saw wild game as competition to livestock and “civilization”. The settlers focused on eradicating game – again with disastrous results.
Some pioneering individuals and organizations started to compile measurements of hunting trophies and recording the exact places where these trophies were taken. This recording went hand in glove with writing and publishing stories about the pursuit of wild game in far away lands. Mr. Rowland Ward in London was first one in 1892.
The idea of recording and exhibiting hunting trophies took hold in the first International Hunting Exhibition in Vienna in 1910. The foundation of the Conseil International de la Chasse CIC followed in 1930 and the subsequent establishment of the CIC trophy scoring fomulas. Interestingly, it seems that the intention of the early proponents of a system of measurements centered on creating a basis for comparative analysis. They wanted to highlight the achievements of the newly fashionable wildlife management philosophy. This seemed to be the red thread which connected all international hunting exhibitions from 1930 in Leipzig to the last one in Plovdiv in 1981.
In the United States Theodore Roosevelt had founded the Boone & Crockett Club in 1887 and pioneered the first “Fair Chase Statement”. His dedicated successors established the foundation of the Boone & Crockett Trophy Scoring System in 1930 – with Fair Chase as an integral and inseparable part of record keeping. These efforts evolved in the 1950s and subsequent years into what I consider today the gold standard of trophy recording. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, our American friends pursued an isolationist policy and limited them- selves to North American trophies only, although Roosevelt and many of his friends from the Club were assiduously hunting on other continents too.
Much later, in the mid 1970s the American internationalists arrived on the scene. I suspect that the members of the original group wanted to see their names, photos and hunting achievements in a book. Since Rowland Ward did not offer the service of photographic renditions of the hunters, they created their own record book. Their rapid growth was driven by the founder C J McElroy, the typical American ambition for growth, and by the increasing accessibility of hunting in the remotest corners of the world. Safari Club International, its proprietary SCI Record Book and an ever expanding SCI Awards Program grew in leaps and bounds in the years to follow.
In contrast to the expanding SCI awards program, the original “classics” of trophy recording of Rowland Ward, CIC and Boone & Crockett were what we nowadays call database and reference works to assess which regions had the potential to produce extraordinary trophies. During the course of the years their focus shifted towards tracking the success of conservation policies as a vitally important baseline to judge the success of wildlife management programs.
Boone & Crockett emphasized from the early beginnings in the second and third decade of the past century that a thorough and keen understanding of species biology and proper habitat management was necessary to ensure the future of all species. This philosophy was mirrored later in Europe with the first meeting of the International Union of Game and Wildlife Biologists during the International Hunting Exhibition 1954 in Düsseldorf exhibition.
The trophy recordings of the CIC were listings of above average trophies which were brought to the international exhibitions by their owners or in collections of the exhibiting nations. The scores and photos were published in the exhibition catalogs. These international exhibitions were the only occasions where CIC measuring commissions took painstakingly exact recordings of the trophies. The so-called “ad-hoc” trophy commissions were added much later, and as we have seen last year, they did not live up to the original high standards.
We have made a necessarily short and incomplete passage through the history of trophy recordings. Let us now come to the situation as it presents itself today. In the 21st century hunting in general and trophy hunting in particular are almost purely recreational. This particular aspect is nothing extraordinary when compared to other human activities. Personal well-feeling and recreation form an increasingly important part of human life. This recreational aspect was most likely a welcome trigger for the anti-hunting animal rights organizations to manipulate the emotions of the public. The media abetted these efforts and spread the notion that the recreational aspect of hunting is uncivilized and decadent. Morally wrong as “to take pleasure in killing”. Biologically wrong as “killing the strongest and the best”.
And totally and utterly wrong, if the objective of hunting is a trophy. A most simplistic baseline view, conveniently taken out of context. However, this simplistic reduction had and has serious consequences for hunting in general and trophy hunting in particular.
“Rich globetrotting hunters decimate endangered wildlife” is a headline which we see repeated ad nauseam. It never fails to raise a murky cloud of social envy. The sentiment is reinforced by claiming that those who kill these animals are doing it purely to satisfy their killer instinct.
Walls in the homes of hunters the world over are adorned with hunting trophies. Some of them are notable specimens, others are intriguingly abnormal, and most will have no merits in terms of size or points whatsoever. Why are they there? It is illogical when viewed from any other standpoint but the hunter’s wish to honor the game and the experience. The game animal is given an after-life by the hunter’s desire to remember an experience which is individually valuable and important is certainly legitimate. The hunter does just this by keeping what is commonly called a trophy, be it the preserved skin, horns, antlers or other tangible items, even a photo.
The tasteful display of a trophy is a reminder of the hunt and of intensely lived moments. It is a way of extending the appreciation of the experience and the appreciation of the animal. This also means that every animal taken is a trophy – irrespective of points and score.
Let me add one more thought. A trophy is all the more valuable to the hunter, if the difficulties associated with the hunt are exceptional. Don’t you agree that such trophies make for the best stories around campfires or over a bottle of good red wine? The American Jim Posewitz has said this well:
“The basic idea of a trophy is the pursuit of an animal that has grown to maturity by having survived both nature's limitations and many hunting seasons. The pursuit of such an animal limits the hunter's chances of taking an animal because there are few of them in a population. Testing your skill as a hunter by restricting yourself to the pursuit of these uncommon, individual animals elevates your personal standard.
Mature males display usually extraordinary characteristics in horns, tusks, overall body size, mane, etc. These characteristics develop with age and they are usually directly connected with breeding success. Animals in their prime breeding period of life show impressive trophies. But it is the animals crossing the line to the post-reproductive stage, which show the really outstanding trophies. Virtually all males with the most impressive trophies are often already well past their prime, and will have spread their genes during many breeding seasons.
As hunters we are naturalists. We therefore know that advancing age eventually becomes an exclusionary factor from breeding activity. We also know that the removal of a few mature males from an animal population with a healthy demographic structure falls largely within the compensatory mortality range. And we also know that the killing of trophy animals from a certain age upwards has no detrimental effects on the genetic make-up and the viability of a specific population.
Anti-trophy demagogues always concentrate their arguments on the killing of the best “trophy-bearing males”. They forget that females contribute 50% of the genes determining the characteristics of the offspring. The ultimate potential of a “trophy animal” is determined by the genes of dam and sire. But in wild animal populations the genetic make-up is usually overridden by environmental factors. The popular myth “that trophy hunting for big horns” contributes towards degeneration of the species’ characteristics originates probably from a Canadian study on a small population of Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. This particular study is often used for opinionated hypothetical conjecture of dangers arising through trophy hunting. One just has to consult the Record Books to find some irrefutable facts and real data. No computer modeling, no assumed factors and no complicated statistical analyses! Just plain facts and figures.
The Bighorn Sheep in the Boone & Crockett Record Book of North American Game are proof. It took ten decades (1880 – 1980) to achieve 47% of the top 100 Bighorn trophies. It took only two decades (1980 – 2000) to enter the other 53%. The conclusion: Big-horned bighorn rams are becoming more numerous, not less so. They are definitely not going bald! The statement that trophy standards are improving applies also to a wide variety of African game animals. The African elephant is one possible exception. The poaching pandemic during the third quarter of the past century was responsible for the near total elimination of big tuskers. The African Buffalo is another one as we will hear later on. But in general, the good old days for trophy hunting African game are now!
But there are some other aspects to trophy hunting. For the non-hunter, the main reasons to view trophy hunting with circumspection are most likely originating from there. I suggest that these aspects have their root in the competitive twist which lead to the exaggerated exhibition of trophies and in the singular objective of some hunters to obtain “record” trophies.
Another reason may be the term sport hunting. This expression entered the hunting world from America. Unfortunately the term is increasingly subjected to deliberate misinterpretation. Both hunters and anti-hunters fall prey to this misinterpretation. Let us make another excursion into history to investigate the reasons.
Where do the terms sport hunting and sportsmen as synonym for hunters come from? My research points towards Theodore Roosevelt’s Fair Chase movement at the end of the 19th century. Roosevelt intended to distinguish the real hunter from the market hunter. Commercial market hunters had indiscriminately killed game to the point of eradication for economic reasons in the American West. To Roosevelt sportsmen and sport hunting meant fair play, style, dash and above all moderation. He and his hunting friends introduced the first bag limits and the first National Parks. Roosevelt certainly never had the intention that hunting was to become a sporting contest for the largest or longest trophy.
Almost a century later – towards the end of the 1970s – a strong notion of contest and competition was unfortunately introduced into trophy hunting. Knowingly or not, Safari Club International was most likely one of the chief protagonists. The aggressively marketed record book and the SCI award programs developed into a highly profitable cash cow for SCI. The result was foreseeable. A “record book” with relatively low entry limits, an ever growing number of so-called slams, inner circles, gold and diamond awards, etc fostered a growing competition amongst hunters to collect the most, or the biggest, or most of the biggest trophies. This trend diminished the importance of the original subject, the trophy animal. When bestowing “crowning achievements” or “hunting hall of fame” honors on individual hunters, the protagonists concentrated on the celebration of the hunter. It was a development which gave rise to wide spread anti-trophy-hunting feelings, and not only in anti-hunting circles!
The programs back-seated the recognition of the biological and aesthetic merits of the game animal who lived through many dangers to grow the coveted trophy. They failed to recognize the intricacies of conservation management neces- sary for trophy animals to grow. They diminished the holistic experience of a hunt by pinning ultimate success solely on a kill which “qualified” for the records.
Hunters traveled the world with the record book in their suitcase, the tape measure in the pocket and a “shopping list” with animals and specific trophy sizes in the wallet. Unfortunately, a good number of professional hunters and guides succumbed to the “record temptation” too and abetted this trend. This very trend led to the shooting of canned animals, to genetic manipulation like in the red deer of New Zealand and to high-fenced killing grounds. In its ultimate consequence, this development led to the present situation, where the words hunting trophy, trophy hunting and trophy hunter are actually four-letter- words in the eyes of many.
Volker Grellmann said some time ago that “a hunt should never been downgraded to a competition between hunters”. On one of our campfire discussions he mentioned one of his greatest regrets: “that he could not exert influence towards giving more weight to mature and old trophies whilst the SCI record book was created”. Grellmann’s feelings are now repeated by a growing number of professional hunters in Africa and beyond. I have read interesting threads on many a chat forum of international hunters. All of them deplore this trend of turning hunting into a sporting competition.
The CIC Formula System did not perform much better, I am afraid to say; at least not in the sense of its original promoters. Looking at the development during the past several decades, we realize that the CIC system has been hijacked by commercial interests, especially in some countries in Eastern Europe. Check the trophy price lists in Europe. Most base their pricing schedule on “CIC Points”; the higher scoring a trophy is, the more expensive the hunting gets. This would not be too much of a problem, if the CIC would have retained control over the application of the system, but this was not the case. Moreover, the scoring system has distinct flaws, like peculiar beauty points and penalty points, given or subtracted on a very subjective basis. The inclusion of weight and volume components in cervids leaves also questions open, since the density of antlers is a result of environmental factors.
Looking at the “competitive factor” mentioned earlier in connection with SCI, I suggest that the CIC scoring system too falls short of being ideal. The example of the so-called “Burlei Red Deer” is significant in more than one way. One of the rather disturbing implications is the growing perversity of shooting preserves, which use semi-domesticated game animals, bred and raised under questionable circumstances and traded across borders. The uncontrollable situation makes a mockery of the CIC listings, since virtually every game animal can be entered. If the “trophy” originates from behind a fence its score is marked with an asterisk. That marking, however, does not say anything about the size of the enclosure – and we all know how small they sometimes are!
Another conclusion shows that the CIC system can also be misused for individual glorification and it fostered an unhealthy competition between European hunting countries. This later competition, most likely born from an intense desire to “produce” the largest antlers during the communist domination of Eastern Europe, is as unnecessary as it is detrimental to the public perception of hunting.
The hunting countries in Europe have a rich tradition of hunting and unique landscapes. We should not aim for a deer from Spain or from Scotland to look like its cousins from Hungary or Bulgaria. The richness of a country’s biodiversity finds expression in a specific formation of trophies; it would be a loss for hunting, if this uniqueness is abandoned for some short- sighted anthropomorphic trophy ideals or for economic gain.
Evolution – or a view of the Future of Trophy Hunting
I have quoted Jim Posewitz earlier and at this point it seems to be right to use his words again:
Implicit in the idea "trophy" is that the game pursued is a wild, free-ranging animal and that other hunters have not been completely restricted from its pursuit. Also implicit in the trophy concept is that the animal is the natural product of the land. Practices such as stimulating antler growth with mineral blocks, hormones, or other substances is beyond acceptable ethical practice, and diminishes the value of all trophies.
Yes, we live in a competitive world; competition is a key element in our everyday lives. But does this permeating competitive spirit have a place in the forests, on the mountains, in the savannas? Does it have a place in the highly individualistic world of the hunter? Is our fellow hunter a competitor? Do we want to downgrade a wild creature to an inconsequential ranking expressed in naked numbers and fractions?
The games we play as hunters reflect the kind of people we are. The way we hunt, the manner we record our hunting experiences, and how we portray ourselves will determine how we are seen by the non-hunting world. And don’t shrug off the opinion of the non-hunters! Remember that the hunters are but a small minority. If the majority perceives, right or wrongfully, that our activities are undesirable for whatever reasons, hunting and hunters will soon be joining the South China Tiger on the Red List of highly endangered species!
We need contemplate what threatens to destroy the hunters’ image. We need to establish the real meaning of trophy hunting. We need to reaffirm our credibility as conservationists and true hunters. We owe it to the wild spaces and the game we pursue therein. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to conservation, because sustainable trophy hunting is an indispensable conservation and wildlife management tool in the 21st century.
I suggest that we have to admit that elements of “trophy craziness” exist and will most likely continue to exist. There will always be people who view the trophy as a victory over the animal or over other hunters. There are people who need the “World Record Deer” on their walls and who confound hunting trophies with decoration elements; who become so obsessed with collecting trophies that neither the hunting experience nor Fair Chase are of any consequence for them.
Hunters are as multifaceted as other groups in our society. As long as the antics of some are purely a matter of human vanity inside the boundaries of law, we might be tempted to shrug it off. We come across similar samples of vanity and competition every day in our lives – in business, family, recreation, sport and practically any human activity. Why should hunting be different?
I tell you why. Hunting is not collecting – the goal isn't merely a dead animal. Hunting is not shooting at live targets. Hunting is not another way of decorating a home. Hunting is not competing with your fellow hunter. Hunting is not the trophy.
Trophy hunting has societal, economic and ecological implications. It is important to consider all those aspects – we have looked already at some societal aspects, therefore let us now review those of economic and ecological importance. Capturing economic return from hunting through the entrepreneurial spirit helps to preserve and produce hunting opportunities. Top economic returns are often related to excellent conservation management and all what flies, crawls or walks within these habitats. Top economic returns are also directly related to the trophy quality of the animals in a particular area. Mature trophy class animals are not growing on trees. They are the product of sound conservation management. This applies globally and it applies to private, communal and state landowners. If the wildlife of an area is managed to produce top class trophies in mature and post prime game animals the outcome is added conservation value in general. This is a direct benefit for society.
The ownership of game on the property, combined with appropriate conservation measures, provides economic returns beating those of conventional agriculture and enhances biodiversity conservation. However, we must not overlook the thin red line which separates good game management with intensive animal husbandry.
Boone & Crockett Club does not permit record book entries of any game animal from escape proof fenced properties. CIC measures trophies from the open range as well as those taken behind a fence. According to a committee decision made in Prague 1937 trophies from fenced enclosures must be identified in the listings. The experience with the Burlei-Deer from Bulgaria have stimulated and focused the debate within CIC over high fences. Rowland Ward accepts trophies hunted behind fences, with the exception of lion taken in South Africa or Namibia. SCI created subcategories of “estate taken animals”. In 2005 SCI introduced a High Fence Policy, but this policy is – according to the SCI website – limited to game from the North American continent. The policy has a sound basis and valid points. Nevertheless, SCI should answer the question why the policy is limited to North American game?
Irrespective of these policies, I propose that fair chase and ethical hunting is not necessarily determined by the existence of a fence surrounding the property. The high fence does not necessarily preclude Fair Chase hunting. Hunting inside a fence can be as rewarding, challenging and sometimes as frustrating as beyond the fence in the wilderness. We just have to observe a few basic conditions.
About a decade ago, I was an insignificant part of a select group of hunters, amongst them Anthony Dyer, the last president of the East African Professional Hunters’ Association and Volker Grellmann, as well as the then president, president-elect and CEO of Safari Club International. We battled and de- bated for the good part of a day to arrive at a definition of fair chase for hunting in Africa. Finally the participants put their signature under a definition. I just read part of it now:
Fair chase is defined as pursuit of a free ranging animal or enclosed ranging animal possessed of the natural behavioral inclination to escape from the hunter and be fully free to do so. A sport hunted animal should exist as a naturally interacting individual of a wild sustainable population, located in an area that meets both the spatial (territory and home range) and temporal (food, breeding and basic needs) requirements of the population of which that individual is a member. Sport hunted animals should, wherever possible, be sustained within an ecologically functional system.
I admit – our statement from the 1990s could still be refined and made more precise, but it was a beginning. Unfortunately, neither the signatories from SCI could prevent that SCI withdrew all support for this document barely a fortnight later. I suggest that we could have avoided quite a few of the problems which we are discussing right now, if this simple position paper crafted by an international group of knowledgeable hunters would have received more attention.
The trophy quality of horned and antlered game can be used to judge the status of a game population. Trophy evaluation according to the traditional criteria is however only of limited value to judge biological parameters of wildlife populations. There are two reasons. The first one is the relative weight given to anthropomorphic factors in the formulas. The second one is the lack of attention for biologically relevant species- specific parameters.
The protectionist school of thought amongst conservationists advocates the prohibition of all wildlife trade and markets – hunting included. This school is purely focused on eco- logical aspects and does not take socio-economic factors into consideration. Their line of thought is paralleled by an equally narrow focus in hunting circles: the selection of trophies based on highly anthropomorphic “ideals” and trophy measuring systems, which disregard biological parameters. Both viewpoints are detrimental for wildlife.
Let me give you an example from the African continent.
I suggest that today the average hunter of the African buffalo selects buffalo trophies according to such anthropomorphic ideals. This led in recent years to the disturbing fact of an increasing number of buffalo bulls being killed before these bulls enter the breeding cycle. Studies have shown this to be the combined result of high quotas and of trophy scoring systems favoring younger animals. Maintaining a high market value for buffalo hunting relies upon the provision of quality trophies. The growing concern that buffalo quotas have been set too high could be overcome by relying less on a defined figure, but by tying the quota to a minimum age bracket. The other factorinadequate scoring systems might prove to be more difficult to overcome.
SCI and Rowland Ward provide the two measuring systems which are in use today. The RW system ranks buffalo according the greatest outside spread of the horns, and notes additional measurement like width of boss, greatest inside spread, and the length of the longest horn alongside the outer curve. SCI takes a tip-to-tip measurement along the curve of the horns which includes the depth of the curl plus the width of both bosses; the greatest outside spread is measured but not included in the score.
The SCI system is biased towards younger animals which have yet to reach or just reached their prime. Field studies have shown that the highest scoring bulls according to SCI have not yet participated in the breeding process or are just at the beginning of their reproductive cycle. On a time scale, this bias will threaten the sustainability of mature trophy populations. The RW method does not favor the young animals and seems there- fore to be supportive of more sustainable off-takes in the long term.
Buffalo were truly immature of about 5 years; 73% were between 6 and 8 years old; 19% were in the 9 and 10 year class and 5% of the hunted animals were 11 years or older. The average Rowland Ward score stood at almost 37 inches, whilst the average SCI score was just over 96 inches. The respective minimums for record book entries are 42 and 100. Only 4 of the 91 samples were eligible for entry for Rowland Ward, whilst an astounding 34 reached the SCI minimum.
The Zimbabwean Winston Taylor looked at the relationship between age and trophy size. He analyzed 91 individual buffalo collected in one hunting season in northern Zimbabwe. The average age of the sampled buffalo was 8 years; 3% of the The score/age relationship in a comparative analysis between Rowland Ward and SCI provides interesting insights.
The results indicate that RW scores decrease minimally with age, whilst SCI trophy scores do decline significantly when the bulls get older than 8 years.
- Conclusion number one: The SCI scoring system favors the trophy attributes of younger animals and bulls that score well on the SCI scale are likely to be young, if not immature.
- Conclusion number 2: Hunters have a preconception of an ideal buffalo trophy. The popularity of the SCI scoring system therefore preconditions hunters to regard immature or barely mature buffalo trophies as desirable.
- Conclusion number 3: The high offtake of 6-8 year-olds shows a trend which may put sustainable buffalo trophy hunting at risk.
Brian Reilly of the South African Tshwane University proposed an alternative scoring method in 2004. According to his proposal, a good and mature buffalo trophy exhibits a wide tip-to-tip space in relation to individual horn lengths, a wide outside spread, large boss widths and a small boss space. It may astonish most in this room that it seems that the CIC method of measuring African buffalo trophies probably comes closest to a buffalo-specific socio-biological scoring method. In order to evaluate the usefulness of the CIC method, I have requested Winston Taylor to make some comparative measurements.
We need to emphasize that maximum yield quotas
cannot form the basis of trophy quality management in buffalo
populations. Wildlife managers and professional hunters must
cooperate to set region-specific quotas to sustain trophy quality
long term. This means that trophy hunting should concentrate on
end-of-prime or post prime bulls, preferably from bachelor
Hunting and trophy selection are not exact science. The “pressures” of hunting involve limited time frames, fussy clients, the vagaries of buffalo and a good dose of luck. The clients’ nationality has a bearing on the trophy ambitions - European clients, especially German and Austrian, tend to prefer “character” trophies, usually older animals. American clients, who comprise 60% of the safari clientele in Zimbabwe, are hunting bulls for their trophy size using SCI parameters. This is compounded by the “if I don’t take it now, the next hunter will” thinking.
The buffalo question is being debated in Africa for several years now, yet no major scoring system has given any indication of change. Together with buffalo experts like Kevin Robertson, Winston Taylor and Brian Reilly guidelines for sustainable trophy buffalo hunting and a more adequate scoring method could be developed quickly. What is needed is the “Will for Change”!
My second example is form Europe:
In Europe, the Red Deer occupies center stage with many hunters. Trophies of exceptional stags were the pride and joy of the aristocracy from the Middle Age. The trend continued into the 19th and 20th century. The international hunting exhibitions in the first half of the past century compounded the value of red stag trophies. The development of scoring systems started with the Nadler system, evolved into the Madrid formula and lead to the presently valid CIC scoring method. We all know that this process has been the subject of many discussions and heated arguments.
The Austrian Professor Klaus Hackländer links the number of points and the crown formation on red deer antlers to genetics. Hunting selection based on anthropomorphic ideals in scoring formulas for antlers may therefore throw the genetic diversity of a population out of balance since it disregards the natural genetic diversity. I am certainly not an expert for red deer like Professor Hackländer, but I still would like to share my personal opinion with you. I believe that the existing red deer formulas and the record keeping of trophies display one or more of the following serious flaws:
- they are too complicated,
- they have not evolved with deerspecific socio-biological and mor- phometric research results on antler formation
- they concentrate on subjective anthropomorphic ideals
- they do not address the danger of subspecific extinction through singleminded hybridization focused on highscoring antlers
- they do not provide checks and balances to exclude “trophies” from artificially bred, domesticated or genetically manipulated animals
For me there is only one conclusion that we can draw from these shortfalls. We urgently have to create a round table of hunting organizations and deer experts to revise the existing shortfalls. We owe this to the “King of Glades and Forests”. Do we want to relegate this king in his European realm to an unrecognizable hybrid disinherited from the distinct sub-specific bloodlines? Do we want to subject him to domestication with semen straws of “extraordinary specimens” traded around the globe between New Zealand, the United States and Europe? Do we want him to suffer the indignity of hormone treatments, close confinement and a caged transport to the execution grounds? And all this just for one reason - to produce ever more monstrous “record trophies”?
The CIC has to be commended for having taken a firm position during last year’s General Assembly on the Bul- garo-Austrian red deer named Burlei. Yet, it is not enough – we need to take decisive steps towards changing the system which permits or abets these developments.
The Way Forward
I suggest that the words of Bertrand Russell, one of the founders of WWF and an ardent hunter himself, are still valid today:
“What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, the will to respect and the will to debate”.
True to Russell’s words the trophy recording authorities in the CIC, Rowland Ward, Boone & Crockett, and SCI need to understand that the time has come for what I audaciously call a “World Forum on Trophy Hunting”. We need international cooperation to safeguard the future of the game and wild places. To ensure the future of our passion we must establish globally acceptable “Best Practice Standards” for hunting in general and trophy hunting in particular.
Broad based public acceptance of trophy hunting will not be forthcoming, if our efforts are not inclusive of the scientific community. This concerns in particular IUCN and its various specialist groups. Transparent and close cooperation will eventually produce positive outcomes for hunters. Hunters and scientists need, however, a third partner for the final breakthrough. We require a sympathetic regulatory framework. Therefore the conservation authorities of governments must be included. The CIC has a core group of state members. CIC representatives participate in CBD, CMS, CITES, IUCN, UNEP, etc. CIC was deeply involved in the development of the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for Sustainable Use.
Other hunting organizations too have their direct and indirect links to governments. An international Hunters’ Alliance could, therefore, most likely muster the necessary multilateral governmental support. This international Hunters’ Alliance would be far more effective than any one organization on its own.
Before concluding, I consider it of importance to revisit a statement which I made during various points of my presentation:
It seems to me that the recording of trophies around the world still places too much emphasis on the anthropomorphic trophy ideal and neglects to take biological parameters into account. Dr Bubenik discusses this issue in the supplemental article “Socio-Biological Versus Hunters’ Viewpoints in Antlers and Horns” published in Werner Trense’s 1989 book “The Big Game of the World”. He claims that the designers of the trophy scoring formulas were all more experienced as hunters, rather than as biologically minded sportsmen or naturalists. I tend to agree with Bubenik. I therefore paraphrased Bubenik’s concluding remarks, written almost 20 years ago, but nevertheless as significant today:
Hunters who are concerned with the fate of horned and antlered game on the one hand, and the fate of hunting on the other, should also give thought to the scoring formulas. Hunters cannot compete in harvesting world record trophies for the improvement of personal status without losing face before the public. Socio-biological trophy formulas are designed to undercut such efforts. The trophy should not be regarded as a status symbol of the hunter, but once more as a status symbol of the game itself and as a species specific feature. Under such conditions, trophy shows and record books will be unique educational aids and valuable scientific tools presenting evidence as how hunters can improve the welfare of the game. The largest antlers and horns are carried at the transitional age between the prime and post-prime stages of the animal. Males in that age group can be harvested as best trophy bearers and as a reward for the conservation of the primes.
I also want to share with you that Trense’s book is also graced with a preface by Andre-Jacques Hettier de Boislambert and a foreword by Dr Luigi Musy. Both gentlemen are prominent CIC members. A good score of other CIC members features amongst the contributors in Trense’s list of acknowl- edgements.
Trophy hunting is an important tool in conservation, but it is not conservation in itself. As a conservation tool, trophy hunting should provide measurable social, economic and eco- logical benefits. Hunting is the least intrusive form of ecotourism, since the infrastructural requirements are low. Significant revenue can be obtained from low numbers of the hunters and the hunted. The removal of a controlled number of individual animals does not harm the respective populations.
I hope that this article and the series of papers published in African Indaba Volume 5, Number 3, will initiate dialogue and exchange of views and ideas. I also hope that it will produce a better understanding of trophy hunting and underline the importance of trophy hunting as a conservation tool.
Today, the window of opportunity to establish trophy hunting as a globally accepted conservation tool is wide open. Actually, it has never been as open in the past few decades, despite of the eternal haranguing of the antis.
The London symposium on “Recreational Hunting, Conservation and Rural Livelihoods in Science and Practice” last October was a first step. Some papers published in 2006 by my friend Dr. Peter Lindsey, who is among us today, served as fur- ther catalyst giving the topic of sustainable trophy hunting a focal position in major international news networks.
The sub-header of an article on the National Geographic News on March 15th reads “Trophy hunting can play an essential role in the conservation of African wildlife, according to a growing number of biologists”. And Marco Festa-Bianchet, a wildlife biologist and specialist on wild sheep at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada said in an article published by the New Scientist in January 2007 "The underlying theme is the enormous amount of money that [hunters] are willing to spend. That can be an enormous force for conservation".
Those articles do not only have praise for trophy hunting, however. They also highlight some real and some perceived negative sides – and I have touched some of these issues in my presentation. In general however, the new focus on trophy hunting gives us a welcome opportunity. It shows that there is room for reasoned dialogue, since the balance of evi- dence proves that trophy hunting can help conserve threatened species and their habitats.
We need to take this opportunity and we need to take it now. Our task is the creation of a suitable framework.