How To End Trophy Hunting In Africa


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:

cecil memorial

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.


5 Responses

  1. Zig Pope

    “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.” Really? Americans don’t give enough money?

    Americans have already given 100 MILLION in AID in 2014 for only 14.15 million people in Zimbabwe, alone. The World Bank has given Zimbabwe,on average 818,050,000 a year for the past three years, alone. Again for only 14.15 million people. And now you tell the 99.999% of us who do not hide behind blatant dishonesty of the motto “killing for conservation” to give more?

    Wow. How pompous of you and how dare you tell us, that is not enough. How about people like you develop some integrity and honor and stop the practice?

    And to that end, I will leave you with this letter from a former game warden in Kenya to the now infamous Cory Knowlton.

    From a wildlife warden to a trophy hunter.

    Dear Mr. Corey Knowlton,

    I hope this letter finds you and your family well in light of recent developments surrounding the Namibian black rhino hunt auction.

    Mr. Knowlton, I had only just returned from anti-poaching patrols when I opened up Facebook and saw the flurry of posts and comments mentioning your name. I did not comment until a few days later (please see your page inbox) as I felt I really needed to understand this situation better.

    I have watched several of your interviews and would like to start by apologizing for what your family must be enduring, I know how important family is and you must feel terribly threatened. Please do convey my apologies to your wife, and your children on behalf of myself and the scouts I just spent two weeks with fighting poachers and illegal loggers.

    Sir, please know that we are protectors of life, not just because we are rangers and scouts, but because we are human. We must only take that which is sustainable and in a way that will not bring harm to the delicate balance of nature. This is our way, the way of true Africa.

    Sir, I have struggled to understand why SCI and DSC continue to put prices on the heads of our wildlife. It is laughable that they even think they have any right. The wildlife of a nation remains the sovereign property of its people. Would this not mean then, sir, that privatizing such public property would, in fact, be a gross violation of the rights of the African people? I will let you ponder over that for a while.

    We are in the wake of a crisis that has gripped our region. Poachers have decimated our herds, and Africa is no longer teeming with wildlife. You kind sir, have been duped into believing that your hunt will aid conservation in Africa.

    It will not. Aside from gaining Namibia huge disrepute, it will go against the very fiber of what we are trying so hard to achieve – the protection and true management of our last wild things. It is also imperative to note here that local African communities do not eat rhino meat. Please ask Mr. Carter of DSC to stop shaming our people and insulting your intelligence.

    Initially when questioned on the hunt, the response resonated ‘support for conservation and anti-poaching’ with specific focus angling towards ‘better training and equipping rangers.’ Mr. Knowlton, let me assure you that this is most discourteous and rather insulting. Is this what SCI and DSC have reduced the value of our wildlife to? A few boots and uniforms?

    Please sir, I plead with you to understand what we are facing. Exactly a year and some days ago now, my colleague and good friend was shot by poachers. He stood right in between a rhino they were targeting. He took the bullet for the rhino. He didn’t ask it’s age, he didn’t ask if it was a breeding bull, he didn’t ask if it was male or female, white or black. He just saw poachers, and a rhino, and did what he knew he had to do. THAT, kind sir, is true conservation, management and protection that will ensure the survival of our precious rhino species.

    By now you must think I’m just ‘another one of those bunny hugging antis’ and I am fully cognizant that you are probably not seeing any ‘conservation value’ in my words. So I will share with you the following;

    “In forty years of close association with black rhinoceros, I have NEVER known of a free ranging wild old male past his breeding period targeting, and killing, rhino females and calves but, rather, the odd fights have only, in my own experience, occurred amongst breeding competing males, as is common in other species.

    In Africa old age is respected: by extension, it is un-African and basically unethical not to allow an old male that sired many calves a peaceful retirement, in the same way as breeding bulls in the cattle world are put out to pasture, not sent to the butcher, once they stop being productive. It is equally unethical to use two sets of measures for poachers, who shoot a wild animal for financial gain, and are arrested or shot, and for a wealthy legal hunter who can pay a fortune for the pleasure to kill it, and is congratulated instead? In both cases a dead endangered animal is the end product. This auction is cruel, ill-timed, and to be condemned.

    If the person bidding to shoot the rhino bull has that spare cash available, why not DONATE it to the cause and leave the poor rhino alone? The old rhino does not deserve a bullet.

    – Kuki Gallmann; Conservationist, author, founder of The Gallmann Memorial Foundation and honorary game warden.”

    Sir, we on the field do not understand the logic in this matter. For us, every single one is absolutely critical to the survival of the species, to the sustainable development of the ecosystem they are a part of, and most of all, to the well being and protection of our culture and heritage.

    You seem to be a pragmatic man, which is why I’m writing to you. I note your concerns for your family and hope you see our concerns as conservationists and protectors of those we love as our own, the wildlife our friends have fallen trying to protect (I’m also quite sure my colleague would have taken the bullet if you were on the other end of the gun instead of a poacher).

    Hunting never has been, and probably never will be, in the true interest of the African people or nations. I appeal to you to spend some time with us to see this for yourself. It is not conservation, and the government officials that continue to allow such ‘fun hunts’ on endangered and critical species, must be ashamed. Indeed they know our great herds are gone, and the more this continues, the more we will fall into the abyss of misery and I’m sure, kind sir, that you do not wish such a ferociously merciless fate for us.

    Mr. Knowlton, as I write this I am reading the news from neighboring Tanzania. Poachers have killed one black rhino, and now there are just 35 remaining. Do you think perhaps that DSC would be willing to use the us$350 000 you gave them in good conservation faith, to do a translocation? I know the ‘old bull past breeding’ excuse was thrown around, but I share with you the sensible words of Dr. Ian Redmond, a world-renowned and respected conservationist and biologist, “An old male self-evidently has a good immune system and may carry the genes giving immunity to the next epidemic which might kill some apparently stronger young males. In such circumstances an older male might resume breeding and pass on those important genes.”

    Words worth considering don’t you think?

    Wildlife protectors and conservationists don’t usually get to air our views Mr. Knowlton, rangers are too busy on the field, protecting wildlife and often don’t have access to world news. I see SCI and DSC have taken full advantage of this, which isn’t really fair.

    You deserve a balanced view on this matter, so I will soon be sending you a petition, signed by conservationists and rangers from as many outposts as possible.

    Again, I thank you for your time.

    With respect and kind regards,

    Raabia Hawa

    KWS Honorary Warden,

    Founder, Walk With Rangers.
    – See more at:

  2. You’re right, a ton of money has already gone to these nations.

    Then find a way to compensate the people who would suffer–local hunting guides, etc.–for the losses incurred if trophy hunting was made illegal. Either way, the point is to alleviate the economic burden.

    I’m only offering an idea. If you don’t like it, find another way to end big game hunting. I put this in the hands of those such as yourself who detest the practice.

  3. lz

    The same people who protest the killing of an old lion, relatively speaking, or any other trophy animal be it deer, rhino, elephant, etc., are generally those who see no problem with the selling of parts of a human fetus, or the ending of human lives by abortion.

    1. Kell

      Dear Iz: You are so wrong in your assumption. Back it up with facts or stop assuming that we conservationists support the killing of babies. Praying for your spirit…

What say you?