January 31, 2020
Judy Malone, The Globe and Mail
See link for photo.
Somewhere in Botswana is a dead elephant walking. He is an individual in his prime. Very few mature bulls today live to old age with tusks that sweep the ground, and nor will he. In January, he was sold to a trophy hunter at the Calgary International Hunting Exposition, hosted by the Calgary chapter of Safari Club International (SCI).
Botswana took a progressive stand in 2014 when its government announced trophy hunters were no longer welcome. Evidence of the abuse of hunting privileges was rampant, and communities were not benefiting from the fees that hunters were paying.
Elephants are highly intelligent, with complex social behaviours that parallel those of humans. They are very aware that ancestral migration routes have become minefields blocked either by fences or by people with guns.
The lifting of the hunt ban was not about overpopulation of elephants; it was about elephants becoming a political football. While Botswana is home to just over a third of Africa’s remaining herds, the population has remained stable for years.
On a Facebook post promoting the hunt, SCI-Calgary told its members Botswana elephants are “tremendously overpopulated” and “native villagers are in harm’s way from marauding elephants.” None of it had the ring of science or reality.
The official SCI conservation claim goes like this: Well-regulated trophy hunting generates revenue for communities, provides an anti-poaching presence, creates employment opportunities and increases tolerance of wildlife presence.
What the industry says to justify what it does is unsupportable, and there are many published reports proving it. Some come through the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
What trophy hunting does very well is contribute significantly to wildlife declines by removing from populations the biggest and best individuals with the most life experience.
The difference between poaching and trophy hunting is a legal permit. In both cases, tusks are removed from dead elephants. Last week, one more permit was sold, and one more elephant soon extinguished.
In February, Botswana’s President will fly to Reno, Nev., to collect his own trophy as SCI “international legislator of the year.” SCI is rewarding Mr. Masisi for taking bold action to welcome its members back “even if it meant facing fierce criticism from uninformed anti-hunting activists in both his own country and in Western countries.”
In a time of staggering loss of wild-animal populations and global biodiversity, how can we possibly continue to allow what conservationist Rachel Carson called this “moronic delight” in killing, which sets back the progress of humanity?
The move to ban trophy-hunting imports by Western governments is growing; a ban by the United Kingdom is now in a public-consultation period. Canada is the world’s leading exporter of hunting trophies to the U.S., ahead of any African country.