The Hunters and the Hunted
In light of recent events regarding the killing of a well known lion from Hwange National Park, ZImbabwe, I would like to re-post this blog entry from winter 2013.
You will find some very personal thoughts on a rather controversial topic here. And please do note that my views are based on my own, personal experiences and may not be in line with the concepts and programs pursued by the conservation organisations I support.
Many if not most of today's leading conservation experts maintain a "use it or lose it" view when it comes to trophy hunting of super charismatic and even endangered species. They will argue that hunting operations help to conserve additional land, which withouth the hunters could not be protected. That hunting quotas would keep under tight control the killing of wildlife for entertainment and the income from this would be vitally important for the development of the people on the ground.
Needless to say that professional hunters and hunting outfitters and clubs around the globe use these arguments to form their political and social influence against conservation efforts that question the commercial hunting of threatened and endangered species. To them, just as long as they are allowed to kill the animal they want and have their tropy shipped home, the world is fine.
Just recently I had the privilege to spend an evening with some of the most experienced, leading experts in long-term species conservation and without my adding to it, the topic of trophy hunting came up. One expert in this round referred to people opposed to this practice as tree huggers who would fail to see the bigger picture.
Well, I am absolutely flat out behind long-term species conservation. However, when this big picture is observed through the viewfinder of a camera, an image presents itself that leads me to differ on the hunting issue. Through my camera and lens, I see the short-tusked and tuskless elephants. I see the immature lions taking over a pride, because the dominant male got lured into a hunting concession where it was shot by some dimwit, directly causing the death of 4 cubs and a female (so Mr dimwit trophy hunter actually killed 6 lions without knowing it). And I see vast areas of bush dominated by troops of baboons hundreds strong, because the leopards that are supposed to keep things in balance have all been baited an lured to hunting blinds, where they, too, were shot by someone for sport.
Subadult lion mating... where are the dominant males at Chikwenya?
Hunter selfies: The Melissa Bachman case and related stories
I would generally refuse to post images of trophy hunters posing with the animals they just killed, as I consider this to be one of the worst forms of disrespect for life. But if you are nevertheless interested to see what such disturbing behaviour looks like, then follow this link to view an image of a person called Melissa Bachman, posing with a male lion she killed for fun. Her picture recently did the rounds in social media. The lion she claims to have stalked was released into an enclosure, probably no more than 24 hrs before that Bachman woman got there. It was raised simply to one day be shot by some trigger happy coward. She will have the lion stuffed and shipped to her home in the USA, where she will bragg about how she took this lion's life. Another example, again a "huntress" can be found here.
More and more information about South African farms where lions are bred for canned hunting comes to light. It deeply saddnes me to see humans treat animals in such a way. Just how far removed from any kind of appreciation for life does one have to be to engage in such activities?
This, and nothing else is the reality of canned hunts.
The winds of change
In some places, people have started to understand that in the long run, life is more valuable than death. It is true that hunters sometimes pay a lot of money for their trophies, but then the trophy animal will be "used" only once and by one hunter. If that animal would remain alive, however, there would be other people coming to see it and to photograph it. Potentially for years and years. Some of the best examples for hunting concessions that have been successfully converted to photographic safari destinations exist in Botswana. Other countries, I hope will follow.
My personal view on this is absolutely clear: There needs to be a drastic change of attitude towards trophy hunting of rare and endangered wildlife. Worldwide, on every level of society. This change of attitued has to follow the change that we saw in the fashion industry with the ban on selling fashion items made of exotic furs. It is not ok to shoot a leopard or a lion for sport. Especially when there are less than 25'000 lions surviving in the wild and several leopard sub-species are facing extinction. If you, dear reader personally know people who do this, then go out and tell them that in this day and age, their behaviour is disgustingly reprehensible.
Instead of hunting with a rifle or bow and arrow, I do my "hunting" with my camera equipment. Rather heavy artillery, as it is. And when I have collected my trophy, in the form of a special image captured in technical perfection, then my trophy walks away and carries on with its life. After all, this life is just as precious as the life of any other species on the planet, including that of a Homo sapiens carrying a firearm. How could it not be.
Please feel free to comment and share your views.