I usually like to stay out of controversy, but when I see a blog post that states, "Another American Poacher Has Killed A Beloved Lion In Zimbabwe And It's Time We Start Selling Licenses To Hunt Poachers", I can't help but to butt in. Being an avid hunter and seeing what a poacher in Africa has done firsthand I was instantly angry, but then after actually reading the article and noticing that this headline and much of the information inside the article is totally misleading, I have become frustrated.
First off, no, I am not here to tell you or convince you if hunting a lion is right or wrong. I am here to talk about the difference between hunting legally and poaching.
Poaching? Definition of poacher, one that trespasses/steals, one who kills or takes wild animals illegally. Poaching is a complex issue driven mostly by poverty and other socio-economic factors. Put bluntly, poaching is fucked up and no one hates poachers more than hunters.
Hunting, however, is regulated and recognized as a conservation benefit at the International level by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), national level by wildlife management authorities, and domestically by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS.)
This lion hunt in question, which has enraged keyboard warriors who have never been to Africa, was fully permitted, approved, and sanctioned by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. No foul play or shady tactics. The lion was hunted inside his natural range, which encompassed parts of both the Hwange National Park and the adjacent hunting reserve where animals are legally hunted. This lion and many like it are free to roam throughout whatever areas they please since the national park is not a fenced in location. Baiting, which was used in this hunt, is common practice and is actually used to selectively harvest the correct individual of a certain old age. The meat from the lion was not wasted.
I have seen many comments from people who know little to nothing about Africa express how they do not believe in African big game hunting, so here are some things to understand.
Hunters are the largest funders of conservation and anti-poaching efforts in the world. They pay significant amounts of money to hunt these animals, with the meat, funds and supporting jobs going to the local villages and wildlife management authorities. Revenue from trophy hunting is estimated to be about $450 million annually according to a Safari Club International Foundation study! These funds help with village aid, clean drinking water, food security, education, and most importantly, habitat conservation.
Habitat deprivation, due to human economic activities, is the biggest threat to terrestrial wildlife populations. Poaching comes in second on this major issue.
The local village could possibly wipe out an entire pride of lions if legal hunting were outlawed because they have no incentive to tolerate cattle predation and conflict. However, legal big game hunting assigns monetary value to the wildlife and the habitat they depend on, encouraging communities to ensure the species’ survival. This is similar for private landowners. African wildlife officials offer unrivaled monetary incentives for private landowners, which encourages them to preserve the habitat on their land and use it as a game reserve. Zimbabwe has a robust lion population and the second largest elephant herd in part because of this sustainable use model.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations explains,
“Hunting increases tolerance of wild-life and thereby reduces illegal wildlife killings and human-wildlife conflicts. Retaliatory killings and local poaching are common when wildlife imposes serious costs on local people – such as the loss of crops and livestock and human injury or death. There are no legal means for people to benefit from it. This is a particularly important factor in Africa, where elephants and other species destroy crops and where large cats kill humans and livestock.”
Trophy Hunting promotes population and habitat protection. Wherever hunting is not allowed, poaching numbers increase by the thousands.
In many cases, if a big cat attacked a human or killed off livestock the village would go after that lion and would kill whichever lion they come across. Whether that being one lion or five. Hunting combats this issue.
The Safari Club International (SCI) also provided an illustrative example, saying,
I said it once and I’ll say it again, money paid by foreign hunters is the largest source of funding for African anti-poaching efforts. These efforts include hiring and training armed rangers. For example,
“Namibia and South Africa host 90% of the world’s White Rhino populations. In 2019 less than 1% of their total population was offered for legal hunting, but hunting dollars pay for 63% of operational expenses specifically geared towards protecting White Rhinos. Photo tourism pays for 18%” according to multiple peer reviewed scientific studies.
I also want people to understand that poaching and human-wildlife conflict is very real in Africa and all over the world. It is important to spread awareness and understand that it is not the ethical hunter to blame.
You know what is not going to help protect lions, elephants, rhinos, and other species? It's internet trolls who write about hunting in Africa when they haven’t even been to the continent or even taken a few hours to do basic research that would tell you everything that I wrote above.
I get that this is an emotional topic, but just because you watched the Lion King, think that hunting is wrong, and have a Twitter account doesn’t mean you should make hyperbolic arguments about “selling permits to hunt humans” that chose to hunt animals legally.
Relying on emotionally charged arguments is what you do when the facts aren’t on your side, so I wanted to write this blog with facts and not just with my emotions. I don’t care if you agree or disagree with me, but before someone writes a click bait headline about something they know little to nothing about… do your research.
And a big thank you to Safari Club International for highlighting this important global issue and for fighting for hunters’ rights here in the U.S and all over the world.