August 3, 2015 6 Comments
OK, I’ll easily admit I’m not much of a fan of trophy hunting. I have no problem whatsoever with hunting if you’re going to make use of your kill, say for food. Nor am I much of a fan of big-game hunting with a crossbow, at least without a rifle as back up. I, like most hunters, believe in being humane. So this isn’t as off base as its bias makes it sound.
“On the specifics of the hunt, with baiting, with using lights, and also killing a lion that has a pride — all of it just adds up to an incredibly unethical, unscrupulousway of going about this. … Hunting shouldn’t be about ego. It should be the opposite. It should be about awe at the natural world.”
But should blame rest squarely on Palmer’s sadistic shoulders?
Sure, if he were even remotely concerned with the most basic ethical code of hunting, he wouldn’t be preying on a protected, soon-to-be endangered animal to begin with. But one man’s bloodlust doesn’t explain why the opportunity to kill Cecil was ever presented to him.
Time magazine’s Nash Jenkins writes:
“Zimbabwe was once celebrated as the ‘breadbasket of Africa,’ whose fertile earth supplied the world with abundant tobacco, corn and wheat. Today, 76% of its rural population lives in abject poverty, dependent on foreign food aid and desperate measures — like the poaching of the wildlife … or rendering assistance to those who want to hunt or poach.”
Jenkins points out that 80% of Zimbabwe’s safari wildlife population died between 2000 and 2003.
Really? Steven Hayward over at Powerline has some real data on this:
May I suggest everyone calm down and ponder the inconvenient fact that Dr. Palmer’s paid hunting excursion contributes to the net saving of endangered animals in Africa? And that the predictable impulse—to ban all trophy hunting—that is sure to follow this ghastly mistake is likely to have the reverse effect, and speed up the extinction of rhinos and elephants?
Terry Anderson and Shawn Regan explained the matter at the time of the Parsons incident:
Anti-hunting groups succeeded in getting Kenya to ban all hunting in 1977. Since then, its population of large wild animals has declined between 60 and 70 percent. The country’s elephant population declined from 167,000 in 1973 to just 16,000 in 1989. Poaching took its toll on elephants because of their damage to both cropland and people. Today Kenya wildlife officials boast a doubling of the country’s elephant population to 32,000, but nearly all are in protected national parks where poaching can be controlled. With only 8 percent of its land set aside as protected areas, it is no wonder that wildlife in general and elephants in particular have trouble finding hospitable habitat.
For the landowners who bear the costs of wildlife, the decision of whether to protect wildlife is a simple one: if it pays, it stays. The ban on hunting gives wildlife little or no economic value, causing rural Africans to view wildlife as a liability to be avoided rather than an asset to be protected. As a result, landowners have increasingly turned to agriculture instead of habitat protection, which decreases available habitat and increases the potential for human-wildlife conflicts.
In sharp contrast to Kenya, consider what has happened in Zimbabwe. In 1989, results-oriented groups such as the World Wildlife Fund helped implement a program known as the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources or CAMPFIRE. This approach devolves the rights to benefit from, dispose of, and manage natural resources to the local level, including the right to allow safari hunting. Community leaders with local knowledge about wildlife and its interface with humans help establish sustainable hunting quotas. Hunting then provides jobs for community members, compensation for crop and property damage, revenue to build schools, clinics, and water wells, and meat for villagers—just as Parsons’ elephant did.
By granting local people control over wildlife resources, their incentive to protect it has strengthened. As a result, poaching has been contained and human-wildlife conflicts have been reduced. While challenges remain, especially from the current political climate in Zimbabwe, CAMPFIRE has quietly produced results with strikingly little activist rhetoric.
The numbers attest to the program’s success. Ten years after the program began, wildlife populations had increased by 50 percent. By 2003, elephant numbers had doubled from 4,000 to 8,000. The gains have not just been for wildlife, however. Between 1989 and 2001, CAMPFIRE generated more than $20 million in direct income, the vast majority of which came from hunting. During that period, the program benefitted an estimated 90,000 households and had a total economic impact of $100 million.
The results go beyond the CAMPFIRE areas. Between 1989 and 2005, Zimbabwe’s total elephant population more than doubled from 37,000 to 85,000, with half living outside of national parks. Today, some put the number as high as 100,000, even with trophy hunters such as Parsons around. All of this has occurred with an economy in shambles, regime uncertainty, and mounting socio-political challenges.
Throughout southern Africa, hunting and wildlife-related tourism have spurred private sector investment in wildlife conservation. The region is now home to more than 9,000 private game ranches, 1,100 privately managed nature reserves, and over 400 conservancies. In Namibia, which allows hunting, more than 80 percent of all large wild mammals live on private and community lands, and those populations have increased by 70 percent in recent years. In these regions where wildlife pays its way, habitat is conserved and wildlife populations thrive.
I don’t know if there are data for lion populations in Zimbabwe, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that lion numbers have also increased. The tragic irony here is that if the animal lovers who want to mount Dr. Palmer’s head over their wood pellet stove get their way, they may well hasten the demise of the very creatures they say they want to save.
Continue reading: Lions, Triggers, and Critics, Oh My!
By the way, we’ve been talking about poor Cecil for about a week now, in that time we have murdered, presumably legally 20,293 unborn human babies, without the slightest regard for how much pain we cause them, the only concern seems to be how much their broken bodies may be worth. Which is more important?