Trophy hunting can provide economic incentives to conserve wild species, but it can also involve risk when rare species are hunted. The anthropogenic Allee effect (AAE) is a conceptual model that seeks to explain how rarity may spread the seeds of further endangerment. The AAE model has increasingly been invoked in the context of trophy hunting, increasing concerns that such hunting may undermine rather than enhance conservation efforts. We question the appropriateness of uncritically applying the AAE model to trophy hunting for 4 reasons. First, the AAE assumes an open-access resource, which is a poor characterization of most trophy-hunting programs and obscures the potential for state, communal, or private-property use rights to generate positive incentives for conservation. Second, study results that show the price of hunting increases as the rarity of the animal increases are insufficient to indicate the presence of AAE. Third, AAE ignores the existence of biological and behavioral factors operating in most trophy-hunting contexts that tend to regulate the effect of hunting. We argue that site-specific data, rather than aggregated hunting statistics, are required to demonstrate that patterns of unsustainable exploitation can be well explained by an AAE model. Instead, we suggest that conservation managers seeking to investigate and identify constraints that limit the potential conservation role of trophy hunting, should focus on the critical governance characteristics that shape the potential conservation role of trophy hunting, such as corruption, insecure property rights, and inadequate sharing of benefits with local people.
Keywords: acceso abierto; caza de trofeos; conservation incentives; economics; economía; gobernanza; governance; incentivos de conservación; open access; trophy hunting.
© 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.