Nov 29, 2017

Trophy hunting hurts a species' chances of survival

Hunters view antlers of deer bucks during a trophy inspection in Hungary. Photo: Zsolt Czegledi / AP

Species of elephants, lions and other animals targeted by trophy hunters and poachers looking for the biggest, most impressive horns and antlers, have less of an ability to adapt to climate change, according to a new study by researchers at Queen Mary University.

The reason: Impressive antlers, manes and other characteristics can indicate how well an animal is doing overall, which can also mean they are better genetically equipped for their environment. "They also father a high proportion of the offspring. But if they're killed before they can spread their 'good genes' around, this reduces the overall fitness and resilience of that population," the study's lead author Robert Knell told National Geographic.

Yes, but: Knell said properly managed trophy hunting can be an asset to conservation, which is why the group is not calling for a ban. One suggestion may be to restrict the age at which a trophy animal can be hunted in order to give them time to pass on their genes to the next generation and the population more broadly.

In other studies: David Coltman, a biological science professor at University of Alberta, said that the results from Knell's study using a computer simulation model matched those of his own on big horn sheep in the Rocky Mountains, where they've seen a 20% decline in the size of the sheep's horns due to decades of trophy hunting.

Big picture: The Fish and Wildlife Service recently lifted a ban on importing hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia when it can be proved it aided in conservation efforts. The announcement sparked outrage, which led to Trump tweeting and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke releasing a statement saying permits would be put on hold while the decision about the ban was reviewed.

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