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Trophy hunting and the decay chain

Monday 16th May 2011

Trophy hunting and the decay chain

Radioactive decay is a natural process – for example uranium 238 undergoes over a dozen changes before stabilizing as lead 206. This decay chain, as it is called, can be clearly seen among proponents of trophy hunting as well, and that is also a natural process.

The decay is internal as well as external. Internally, trophy hunters are no longer believing they do the good for conservation that their lobbyists keep thumping on about. They do not conserve the species they hunt, they bed with corrupt operators and government officials, and they do no good with the money they supposedly spend for African communities to gain any benefit from wildlife. Soon they will be globally recognized as the lead weight to conservation we all have known them to be for many years.

Externally? We know trophy hunters for what they are. Abusers of wildlife, complicit in corruption and a neo-colonialist approach to African communities, exposed for their excesses, and a happy self-satisfied few who select to read their own literature rather than the truth.

But the trophy hunters do have some radioactive life left. The SCI president, Larry Rudolph, urged members not to apologize but to realize they are part of a great conservation effort. Sounds to me like Sarah Palin, a member of SCI, who says things like “don’t retreat – reload”.

Let’s look at a few more current bleats from the hunting community:

• They quote Jose Ortega y Gasset (a Spanish philosopher who wrote a short book called “Meditations on Hunting) in this passage: “the true hunter does not hunt to kill; the hunter kills in order to have hunted”. Ortega further states... “as the weapons became more and more effective, man increasingly imposed limitations upon himself as the animal’s rival in order to leave it free to practice it’s wily defences, to avoid making the prey and the hunter excessively unequal, as if passing beyond a certain limit in that relationship will annihilate the essential character of the hunt, transforming it to pure killing and destruction!”

Good for the hunters to attempt to venture into philisophy, but then there is also this they did not quote:

 “Pushed by reason, man is condemned to make progress, and this means that he is condemned to go farther and farther away from Nature, to construct in its place an artificial Nature. Now it is clear why I said earlier that, far from hunting’s being a “reasoned pursuit” of the animal, the greatest enemy of hunting is reason.” 

This was written in 1942, and “reason” in trophy hunting has not prevailed. Instead, it has led to destruction of wildlife populations, the generation of a canned hunting industry in South Africa, and corruption among operators and wildlife departments in other areas.

 “In the third millennium, the privilege of being able to hunt exacts the responsibility and obligation of the sport hunter to demand an ethical experience and the obligation for the hunting guide and/or professional hunter, to provide such an experience. This privilege also demands of all participants an ethical respect for nature and a sincere commitment that wildlife and wildlife habitat, in all their natural diversity, be maintained and enhanced.”

Nice words, no action.

• Then this: “Hunters usually argue that hunting is as old as humanity - but in reality the hunt and hunting is much older. It forms the instinctual basis of existence of many life forms past and present and it is part of nature and with that, also of the human nature. The hunter venturing into the outdoors follows an ancient tradition with its roots deep in the very beginning of our evolution. The desire to hunt - even when hunting may no longer be essential to survival - remains a natural drive and, if ethically pursued, is a socially acceptable activity.”

A natural drive? Strange that, I must be an evolutionary mutant then, as I have not felt this tidal pull to hunt?

• And this: “Leaders of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) like Sir Peter Scott, H. R. H. Prince Bernhard and H. R. H. Prince Philip are all hunters.”

Perhaps it is time that the WWF published their stand on trophy hunting in general and lion trophy hunting in particular. And in that statement address corruption and the realities of community disenfranchisement?

• And this: “Sport or trophy hunting presents conservationists with an uncomfortable dilemma. They do not like killing animals and they do know that most people, who give money to conservation organisations, deplore hunting. At the same time, conservationists realise that hunting is a necessity in conservation."

Recreational hunting has been shown over and over to have no conservation value. Hunting operators have been advised time and again to conduct themselves more ethically, to engage communities in partnerships, and to hunt sustainably. This has been wilfully ignored, so therefore there should be no more talk of a partnership in conservation.

 “Conservation will not succeed with full effectiveness in Africa without hunting. It is not a debate or consideration whether true conservation organisations partner hunting organisations, it is a given. Our constitution supports sustainable use and sustainable hunting is one form thereof”(Dr. Rob Little, WWF-SA, February 2002). 

Rob Little was CEO of WWF South Africa until 2008. He issued statements against canned hunting of lions, but WWF takes little overt action against the practice. WWF is involved in trophy hunting in two ways – by “assisting” community-based natural resource management programmes that include trophy hunting, and by having a voice in CITES. Again, we would call for a clear statement from WWF assessing community programmes’ successes or lack thereof, and about the effectiveness of WWF within CITES.

• Rob Little also had this to say about trophy hunting: “However, WWF recognises that the trophy hunting of threatened species may appear at odds with their conservation, particularly those that are seen as icons of the natural world and as powerful symbols of the need for concerted action. WWF urges that for threatened or endangered species, all other conservation incentives and activities be fully explored before considering hunting them for trophies.” 

In that case, we would ask WWF to provide a clearly worded message on their current stand on lion trophy hunting.   

David Western, former director of Wildlife Conservation International (the field research arm of the New York Zoological Society) and of Kenya Wildlife Service, supports hunting as a conservation tool. 

That should actually be the Wildlife Conservation Society. Western is now chairman of the African Conservation Centre based in Nairobi, and an adjunct professor at the University of California San Diego. Perhaps we could also extend the invitation to speak out on lion trophy hunting to the ACC?

• The South African conservationist, Dr Ian Player, said in a letter to the author in 1998 that he fully endorses ethical hunting and hunting’s place in conservation.

Ian Player, now 84, was awarded the Safari Club International Conservationist of the Year award in 2009.

• Russell Train, former Chairman of WWF-US believes “that elephant hunting provides the most cost-effective form of producing economic benefits for local people that you can find”. 

Russell Train, now 91, was heavily involved with conservation at WWF and founded the African Wildlife Foundation.

 “Today sport hunting is an important factor in generating the substantial revenues for holistic wildlife management and it is, therefore, one of the best ways to conserve biodiversity (John Ledger, 1994). In Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) schemes, sport hunting often delivers important contributions to the financial results, although the creation of proper and just revenue sharing systems is badly needed in some African countries. Nevertheless it is a fact that the revenue earned through sport hunting is a major conservation incentive for rural communities.” 

In fact, the communities benefit next to nothing from hunting, and can’t wait to get rid of the hunting operators.

• “Of critical importance for the credibility of hunters within a modern society are ecological motivation, sound conservation practices and ethical behavior. The entire world is asked today to be more ecologically orientated….  In Africa, the importance of hunting for conservation is undeniable… the average modern urbanite is at the most a mere observer of nature, whereas the hunter – modern or traditional – still intensively lives and acts within and as part of the natural system. For these reasons, the hunter usually knows more about biodiversity than his urban counterpart. Yet, the layperson often negates the hunters’ competence on basis of the mentioned “killing argument”, without even trying to engage into a discussion of the essential topics of biodiversity conservation.” 

Too bad trophy hunters in Africa are not ecologically motivated, do not have ethical practices, and could care less about conservation.

A blog will to follow will bring more hand-wringing arguments from hunters. They are deeply in the decay chain, but it was not the major conservation NGOs that exposed any of this hunting excess. Stay tuned here for more of the actual truth.  


Picture credit:

Posted by Pieter Kat at 01:36

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