Trophy hunters' willingness to pay for wildlife conservation and community benefits
In the face of fundamental land‐use changes, the potential for trophy hunting to contribute to conservation is increasingly recognized. Trophy hunting can, for example, provide economic incentives to protect wildlife populations and their habitat, but empirical studies on these relationships are few and tend to focus on the effects of benefit‐sharing schemes from an ex post perspective. We investigated the conditions under which trophy hunting could facilitate wildlife conservation in Ethiopia ex ante. We used a choice experiment approach to survey international trophy hunters’ (n = 224) preferences for trips to Ethiopia, here operationalized as trade‐offs between different attributes of a hunting package, as expressed through choices with an associated willingness to pay. Participants expressed strong preferences and, consequently, were willing to pay substantial premiums for hunting trips to areas with abundant nontarget wildlife where domestic livestock was absent and for arrangements that offered benefit sharing with local communities. For example, within the range of percentages considered in the survey, respondents were on average willing to pay an additional $3900 for every 10 percentage points of the revenue being given to local communities. By contrast, respondents were less supportive of hunting revenue being retained by governmental bodies: Willingness to pay decreased by $1900 for every 10 percentage points of the revenue given to government. Hunters’ preferences for such attributes of hunting trips differed depending on the degree to which they declared an interest in Ethiopian culture, nature conservation, or believed Ethiopia to be politically unstable. Overall, respondents thus expressly valued the outcomes of nature conservation activities—the presence of wildlife in hunting areas—and they were willing to pay for them. Our findings highlight the usefulness of insights from choice modeling for the design of wildlife management and conservation policies and suggest that trophy hunting in Ethiopia could generate substantially more financial support for conservation and be more in line with conservation objectives than is currently the case.