Photo: taken at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY
You might remember the tragic story of Cecil the lion. A trophy hunter from the United States spent tens of thousands of dollars to hunt in Africa, killing the beloved lion.
It sounds bizarre that many conservationists support trophy hunting, but they see it as a way to make money to pour back into saving wildlife. The thinking goes: Kill a few animals, save a lot more. Also, the meat can be shared with tribesmen and not go wasted, unlike the rotting carcasses poachers leave behind.
But, it is a sad state of affairs that trophy hunters are willing to pay enormous sums to kill endangered species. Couldn’t they spend enormous sums for luxury safaris instead?
Yet, Conservation Magazine writes, “Between 2011 and 2013, hunting operations paid $5.41 million to community conservancies, while ecotourism operations paid $2.13 million. (Buffalo and elephant, by the way, were the most lucrative trophies, with elephants representing 55% of all hunting-related income.)” The magazine is pessimistic that ecotourism could ever catch up to the profitable hunting industry. It suggests that the trophy hunters should only be allowed to hunt older animals who will not reproduce.
The problem with that suggestion is that it sees elephants only as numbers and not as societies. Elephant herds are families, each with an important role. Unlike many species, elephants stick together and develop close relationships that are multi-generational.
When it comes to trophy hunting, I also question how much money is truly put back into conservation. I’ve discussed corruption before on this blog, and I’m willing to bet a lot of the trophy money gets “lost” with middlemen.
In addition, I cringe at the colonial mindset that tribes benefit from the meat offered by the wealthy westerner. Surely if anyone should be allowed to hunt an elephant, it should be the local tribes themselves.