The South African Government’s Reviewed National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (2024) continues to promote trophy hunting as a conservation tool. This policy briefing challenges this approach, arguing that trophy hunting, particularly of endangered species, should be removed from the national biodiversity strategy due to overstated economic benefits and high ecological costs.

Instead, the briefing suggests exploring sustainable, non-consumptive alternatives to trophy hunting. Successful pilot programmes should be expanded, integrating local communities into ecotourism and conservation-enhancing agriculture. This strategy aims to join fragmented landscapes into larger, ecologically sustainable areas, providing sustainable livelihoods while conserving biodiversity.

Moreover, the current focus on consumptive use, such as game ranching and trophy hunting, needs re-evaluation. This philosophy creates unrealistic revenue expectations and promotes fundamentally unsustainable practices. The briefing emphasises the need to prioritise ecological sustainability over consumptive use, aligning with the constitutional duty to protect the environment for future generations.

These recommendations are based on the analysis that the economic value of trophy hunting is often inflated and that the opportunity costs are significant. Non-consumptive alternatives can better support both conservation and community livelihoods, ensuring a genuinely inclusive conservation strategy.

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Dr Ross Harvey is a natural resource economist and policy analyst, and he has been dealing with governance issues in various forms across this sector since 2007. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Cape Town, and his thesis research focused on the political economy of oil and institutional development in Angola and Nigeria. While completing his PhD, Ross worked as a senior researcher on extractive industries and wildlife governance at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), and in May 2019 became an independent conservation consultant. Ross’s task at GGA is to establish a non-renewable natural resources project (extractive industries) to ensure that the industry becomes genuinely sustainable and contributes to Africa achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ross was appointed Director of Research and Programmes at GGA in May 2020.