Our Ethics

Terry Pratchett said, “If cats looked like frogs we’d realise what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.” Funny. Only it’s not.

Who are we to judge that the Elephant is more important than the tree, the tree more important than the flower, the flower more important than the caterpillar? The bumblebee, the lichen, the eagle, the orchid. On what basis do we prioritise?

Here at Courteney we believe that Mother Nature knows best; that any ecosystem, however large or small, should be maintained with its natural checks and balances. Whether a conservancy or a few square inches under a rock, prey and predator should be allowed to thrive in accordance with the laws of the universe.

We understand that as man begets more and more children who encroach daily on the natural habitat of so very many of God’s creatures, and so much of His flora is cut down, and dug up, to allow space for new homes to be built – whether deep in the African bush or on the edges of the world’s cities, the wilderness is ever reduced. Every day more forest, woods, bush and savannah disappear and are replaced by human habitation, and in the case of Africa this includes for growing crops and raising cattle.

We cannot teach wild animals that land free to them yesterday is off limits today. We cannot teach a lion not to carry off a calf in the night, nor an elephant not to feed on the young maize.

Is it reasonable, is it fair, to expect a human not to poison the lion – and, as a result, the vultures and hyaenas and jackals – and not to poach the elephant, when he is losing his food and his wealth?

The problem is that humans and animals compete for space and the humans always win. But there are dreadful consequences.

Do we have the solution?

Yes, we do. And we have had for a long time.

Furthermore, it is natural and logical for a villager to source his protein by poaching and by laying snares for wild animals. We know that these methods are indiscriminate and, in the case of snares, cause untold suffering for any creature caught. We know that many snares – hundreds – will be placed over a wide area, and few of them checked regularly, so many of those animals will die a slow, lingering death. It’s natural for any non-villager to be heartbroken at the images.

Do we have the solution?

Yes, we do. And we have had for a long time.

Through various programmes and projects villagers learn that wildlife has a real value from which they can benefit. They learn that if they do not poach, trap, snare and poison the wildlife they will be given meat – Africa’s most valuable currency – and money.


Because wildlife has to be managed. No government department, conservancy or landowner can allow nature’s balance to be upset. If an area develops too large a number of any species which causes harm to the environment and other species, then steps have to be taken to manage its numbers.

How does that work?

By regular culling, which yields meat but no money. And by the hunting of a small number of animals in accordance with a Government quota system, which yields both meat and money.

In the case of a hunting operation trophy fees are paid to, or are used to support, the local rural district council, and these funds go towards projects that benefit the whole community, such as water points, clinics and schools. Meat from the animals is delivered to central points in the community for distribution.

There are variations to the protocol, for example sometimes meat is delivered directly to schools which then sell it, and use the revenue for text books and stationery. Provided the community receives both funding and meat they will actively forbid poaching, snaring and poisoning. However, if those funds dry up and no meat arrives there is no incentive to protect the wildlife.

A large animal yields a good supply of meat and a substantial trophy fee. But of course it’s the larger animals that tend to bring out our soft and sentimental sides, and suddenly when we look at both sides of this equation the complexity of the problem creates a conundrum for us. Now we’re asked to prioritise – who, or what, is more important? The villager? The villager’s child? The animal? The answer is that they are all important. Decisions must be made that create the best possible outcome for all – and, critically, maintain nature’s balance.

How do they do that? And how is it funded?

A Forestry Department or a conservancy or a hunting safari operation will sell a hunt to a foreign client who has to pay an eye watering sum of money for the privilege. The client is guided by a professional whose job it is to take the client to the oldest animal, the one that’s on his last legs, the one that’s been kicked out of the herd, on his last teeth, and to make sure that the client does not make a mistake. The trophy fee paid by the client for that animal is paid to the surrounding villages as above. This is a neat solution – the client pays heavily; the money goes to the community; the old animal who was close to the end of his days – well, he just fed and educated some children, and a younger animal gets to eat the vegetation and drink the water that he would have, and bring fresh blood into the herd.

Why can’t we just rely on photo safaris?

Because all countries worldwide want their national parks to be affordable to all their citizens as well as foreign tourists – it costs pennies to get into them. Expensive photo safaris are hosted by luxury hotels – and that’s where your money goes, not to the parks. Consequently, photo tourism barely pays park wages, and it certainly doesn’t fund the expensive projects we’ve outlined.

Wild animals are a renewable resource – of course they are – they have lifespans as do we all, they mate and breed. Areas where the wildlife has been decimated can be rejuvenated and become game-rich in a relatively short space of time if they are managed both wisely and pragmatically.

As long as Mother Nature’s rules of perfect balance across all flora and fauna are followed.

So here at Courteney we support measures that help both our local population and our wildlife, thereby preventing the scourges of poaching, snaring, trapping and poisoning, and preserving our wild spaces and their denizens for the next generation.

An interesting article from National Geographic:
Culling to Conserve: A Hard Truth for Lion Conservation

And a thoughtful movie from The Economist:
Why Hunting Animals could be Good for Conservation