I have no problem being outspoken and I’ve never shied away from even the most controversial of topics.

That’s why in this blog post: Is Trophy Hunting Conservation? I would have to answer, I’m not sure.

Personally, I have no problem with hunting if it is for reasons of subsistence and sometimes even for employment. Furthermore, I am not a vegetarian, so I don’t want to come across as some sort of hypocrite. But I personally am not for trophy hunting – the hunting of animals for sport or entertainment – where only a portion of the animal is taken as a trophy: head, antlers, paws, jaw, etc.

TwitterRecently, British comedian Ricky Gervais was on the offensive through a series of tweets after celebrity Trophy Hunter Rebecca Francis posted a picture of herself lying next to the dead carcass of a giraffe. Francis claims she killed the giraffe with a bow and arrow in a Katniss Everdeen fashion, saving the giraffe from a worse fate after it was ostracized from its herd and she donated the food to the local villagers. “I chose to honor his life by providing others with his uses and I do not regret it for one second,” she said.

Gervais tweeted: “What must’ve happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?” Gervais got into an all-out on-line spat with Francis, her accusing him of targeting her because she was a woman and even claiming that she received death threats from his followers. In response, Gervais tweeted:” We need to stamp out this terrible sexism in the noble sport of trophy hunting. The men & women that do it are EQUALLY vile & worthless.”

I’ll admit, I was fairly ignorant of the practice of trophy hunting. That is until an article on the CBC last summer showed a young woman named Kendell Jones who posted pictures on her Facebook and twitter accounts of actual big game hunting kills – some of the big 5 while in Africa: the lion, the elephant, the leopard, the buffalo and the rhinoceros. I was so befuddled by these images, Kendell’s smiling face as she sat on, or next to or even holding the dead game.

But what surprised me even more was when she called herself a conservationist, defending the practice because it actually helps many of the rare and endangered species she is killing. In fact, many hunters proclaim to be stewards of the land and lovers of animals, to be enjoyed by hunters and non-hunters alike. But how can that be possible, when that seems to be completely counter-intuitive and go against what we believed was true of rare, protected, or of concern species, some of which the big five fall under?

Here’s the trophy hunters argument: They pay a permit fee, usually a large one to a foreign nation country and often times in Africa in exchange for the hunt. In turn the money, so the hunters claim, helps to fund government conservation efforts which include the protection of endangered and rare species from poachers. As well, most trophy hunters, from what I’ve read, donate the meat to the local village, while the rest of the trophy parts are shipped back to the US or other foreign nations.

“In Africa overall, North Americans (USA) make up the greatest number, particularly in countries where hunting safaris are expensive (they are followed by the Spanish). In French-speaking Africa, there are many European and particularly French hunters. This is even more pronounced in West Africa. After the French, Spanish hunters are the next largest group.”

ConservationCritics argue that many of these governments are corrupt and that only a small percentage, as low as 5%, actually goes to the people living in these regions. Also, big game watching (Lions, Rhinos, etc.), a form of eco-tourism, brings in far more money and employment to the regions than a ticket for one dead animal.

A recent and very controversial example, is when the Nambian government, who offer 5 Black Rhino kills per year, auctioned a hunting permit for a black rhino in Namibia’s Mangetti National Park back in January of 2014 for a whopping $350,0000. According to the Dallas Safari Club “removing old, post-breeding bulls, which are territorial, aggressive and often kill younger, breeding bulls, cows and even calves, increases survival and productivity in a herd”.

The Save The Rhino supports Rhino trophy hunting and says on their website: “In an ideal world rhinos wouldn’t be under such extreme threat and there would be no need for trophy hunting. However, the reality is that rhino conservation is incredibly expensive and there are huge pressures for land and protective measures; funds raised from trophy hunting can provide a real difference for the conservation of rhino populations. Our overall aim remains to increase the number of wild rhinos in viable populations in the wild.”

According to Jeff Flocken, North American Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the lion population is limited to only 32,000 lions left in the wild, as approximately 600 lions a year are killed on trophy hunts in 14 African nations, with 60% of the trophy kills shipped to the US.

The argument against trophy hunting of lions, once killed by hunters by “taking the large, robust, and healthy males from a population for a hunter’s trophy room” leaving its pride vulnerable to a dominant male lion, who will take over the pride, killing the cubs less than eight months old.

Trophy hunting brings in $200 million dollars in revenue each year, but only about 3% actually goes to community development, most of the money going to the outfitters. After the diamond industry, tourism is the second largest industry, bringing in over 13 billion US dollars in the continent of Africa every year or 2.4% of the GDP, while trophy hunting is merely 1.8% of the tourism revenue.

To show what a drop in the bucket this is, the Canadian Government has spent $482 million on outside legal fees since it came to power in 2006, despite having 2,500 legal counsel on staff. That’s more than double the trophy hunt revenue.

But some African Nations are making a stand. The Republic of Zambia in South Africa took the necessary action to ban lion and leopard hunting, citing that populations have abruptly declined in recent years. Botswana, where a third of the global elephant population lives and average trophy fees per elephant upwards to $30,000, has a country-wide ban on sport hunting that began in January of this year. The BBC reported the government will continue to issue special game licences “for traditional hunting by some local communities within designated wildlife management areas” as to not threaten the livelihood of these communities. Kenya has long banned trophy hunting since 1977.

A conflict, however, has arisen between the indigenous Bushmen of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the government, refuses permits, preventing them from hunting on their own land, their main source of food. To add to the controversy, the government still gives permits to trophy hunts for $8000 or more despite the ban that began this year.

Flocken says, “Each year, the United States imports over half of all lions captured and killed by sport trophy hunters… Listing the African lion as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act would prohibit the importation of lion trophies into the United States, thereby removing one of the biggest incentives for participating in this blood sport and taking a crucial step to curbing the continuing precipitous decline of the species.”

And then there’s canned hunting…

Did you hear the one about the guy who walks into his local humane society looking for an animal?

The employee asks, “What kind of animal are you looking for?”
The man says, “Something big. Maybe a bit fierce.”
The confused employee shows the man some options.
“I’ll take that one,” he says, after looking at various caged animals.
After filling out the paperwork, and paying the fee, the man returns to the cage and shoots the animal dead.
“Why did you do that?” the employee asks in horror.
“I paid my fee. Now you can feed a homeless family for a week. You’re welcome.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it, when put in those terms? But it’s not that much different for large game animals raised and hunted in captivity. Canned hunting does not offer the animal fair-chase because humans raised the animals in captivity and they have nowhere to escape to because they are within a fenced-in perimeter, often baited by hunters using food to lure them.

After a failed attempt at preventing African permits issued to Australian trophy hunters in what are considered canned hunts or captive hunts, “a legal practice where animals like lions and rhinos are bred and farmed overseas for the sole purpose of being hunted in captivity” on privately run for-profit game farms, the Federal Government has issued a ban on all rhino body parts being imported into the country in response backbencher Jason Wood campaign against canned hunting. Environment Minister Greg Hunt has started the process to ban African lion trophies, including stuffed bodies, paws and skulls being returned to Australia.

“Canned hunting, not just in Africa but other countries that support this practice, are condemned by animal welfare and some organizations that support sport hunting such as “Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young, and the Izaak Walton League of America.” Source: Humane Society

China banned trophy hunting of protected animals since 2006.

Na Chunfeng, media officer with the State Forestry Administration, said that China has not approved a single case of protected-animal trophy hunting in the past eight years.

KP-sbER1_6067-crop-web-800x200On September, 12, 2012, the Coastal First Nations in Canada declared a ban on trophy hunting in their traditional territories of the northern and central coast of B.C. “Jessie Housty, a councillor with the Heiltsuk Nation, said bears are often gunned down by trophy hunters near shorelines as they forage for food. ‘It’s not a part of our culture to kill an animal for sport and hang them on a wall. When we go hunting it’s for sustenance purposes not trophy hunting.’”

Unfortunately, this is at odds with the BC Provincial government’s 1995 Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy. The “strategy outlines steps to sustain the province’s bears with healthy populations and recover those with declining populations,” stated Faisal Moola, Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada on the David Suzuki website that. In a peer reviewed study headed up by PHd student Kyle A. Artelle at Simon Fraser University: Confronting Uncertainty in Wildlife Management: Performance of Grizzly Bear Management,  and partly funded by the David Suzuki, “found that of an estimated population of 15,000 bears in B.C., more than 3,500 (including over 1,200 females) were killed over the last decade, in most cases by trophy hunters.” Source: David Suzuki Foundation

Meanwhile, Garth Mowat, a BC provincial government grizzly bear biologist says, “We have spent a lot of resources improving our understanding of the number of bears in British Columbia and I’m quite comfortable that it’s good enough to allow us to conservatively manage the hunt.” Source: CTV News

Today, the BC government estimate 15,000 grizzly bears live in BC, although their numbers, by some conservationists counts as low as 6000. In 2004, the European Union banned the import of all BC grizzly bear trophies.

They urge the government to be more conservative in their estimates, with some grizzly deaths caused by road accidents or by farmers protecting their property going unreported. In some territories the grizzly overkill may be as high as 70%. The study makes the recommendation that if the “government wants to keep the level of risk of overkilling fairly low, it will have to eliminate hunting in about one-third of the population units.” Source: The Globe and Mail

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