Okay. If you want to end trophy hunting in Africa, here’s how to do it:
First you need to understand why it exists. People enjoy big game hunting for the same reason people in my family like deer hunting–or even fishing. It’s about strategy and problem solving, a mental exercise of knowing where the animal will be and when, how to overcome our relative, human shortcomings–poorer eye sight, poorer hearing–with our minds to sneak up on an animal and take it. Many consider it barbaric. Well, then many still like to flex these barbaric muscles via this tactical game taking place in the great outdoors. And when you’ve correctly assessed the landscape, the wind, the timing, and made a good shot, you’ve accomplished something. If you’re tempting to mock it, avoid the laziness of doing so.
Years ago, I remember once fishing on Lake of the Woods with my brothers. It’s a huge lake and the wind was blowing our boat all over the place, so I eyed the horizon and suggested we go into a small bay near the landing and troll the shore. We did this, and I landed a couple of small northern pike. “Yes!” I pumped my fist. I was perhaps more thrilled with those humble catches than I’ve been for 20 pound lunkers I’ve caught since under my big brother’s direction. Because for the little ones in the bay, I directed the action and was proud of the results.
This is the same lure of hunting.
Now, why do they have to kill rare animals like elephant, rhinos, and lions? And aren’t they cheating by baiting these beasts? Depends on your rules, I guess. The thing is, these are exotic animals whose catch is made thrilling for what they are more than how they are. And how they are helps us to understand the next part of the puzzle.
The lands of these animals are the most impoverished on Earth. A $50,000 (or more) price tag for a big game hunt sure beats the $150 I spent on a safari when I lived in Tanzania.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, big game hunts–managed appropriately–don’t decrease the numbers of these animals. Killing an old male–the usual target, that has already sired many offspring–doesn’t lessen the number as much just hastens a life span. I know this may sound cold, but the numbers are the numbers. And the relatively small amount of animals taken by above-the-board hunts don’t dent the tens of thousands of, say, lions in Africa.
But there are enough big game hunters with cash that are willing to pay exorbitant prices. So of course, there are countries interested in servicing them–and keeping these tourist dollars coming in. You have to appreciate that it’s hunters and hunting outfitters–whose hobby and livelihoods depend on the survival and thriving of the species–that also want to keep the numbers up, albeit for reasons entirely different than perhaps you might.
The money is used to help preserve habitat and populations. At least that’s the theory. If that’s not what is happening, if the government is corrupt–then we have a large problem on our hands. Because people angry about this hunting want it to be made illegal. But how can you trust a corrupt government to enforce that?
People who are angry also choose to simply shame the hunters. In words that belong in bathroom stalls and Quentin Tarantino films and curses that belong in satanic rituals, people generously spewed Bloomington, Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer’s Facebook page, work website, and answering machine these last 24 hours.
Palmer recently killed a popular lion in the country of Zimbabwe. Mourners for the lion, Cecil, paid a touching/expressive tribute on July 29 to the lion on the dentist office’s door:
This recent uproar–along with previous uproars–will probably put a dent in the interest of a hobby that is likely going out of fashion anyway. But as long as there are interested hunters–of which there are several; and as long as there is a supply–of which there is enough, arguably; then this industry will continue.
Telling these governments–corrupt or not–to make big game hunting illegal is asking a lot. I think it is unlikely that the poorest nations in the world, with people dying of diseases eradicated long ago in America, are going to say no to millions of dollars from these hunts.
UNLESS, these countries’ economies don’t suffer as a result.
To those wishing to end these hunts, stop demanding and start offering. Stop cursing people to hell, and start a solution.
Start a fund to raise money for these countries outweighing the money otherwise earned through big game hunts. Offer it to nations like Zimbabwe under the condition that they prohibit big game hunting. If they can prohibit the activity without an economic sacrifice, they will have much easier time doing so. And you will have provided a lifeline to the animals who you wish to see saved from the arrows and bullets of big game hunters.