TROPHY HUNTING: Why it May be the Key to Saving Endangered Big Game

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.17.01 AMFor all of those who are crying foul on trophy hunters, take a few deep breaths and read this. It might change your mind.

It may sound odd that by killing a few we can save many, but it IS working!

Trophy hunting. Just uttering those two words during a conversation is bound to liven things up a bit. Many people have very passionate opinions concerning trophy hunting, both positive and negative. The concept even engenders debate and division within the hunting community.

But if we can set aside the emotion that the subject of trophy hunting typically elicits, we will see that trophy hunting is in fact a sound and effective conservation and wildlife management tool. The evidence is becoming increasingly convincing that, as counterintuitive as it may seem, allowing a few animals to be hunted does indeed benefit the larger population and the protection and long-term viability of a species.

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In a nutshell, here’s how it works (we’ll break down each of these components in a moment):

  1. The wildlife management and conservation programs that are vital to protect and otherwise benefit exotic big game animals (and by extension, the other animals in the ecosystems inhabited by big game) require money to operate.
  2. Funding for those wildlife management operations is, for many countries, an ongoing and, at times, losing struggle.
  3. Wildlife management program scientists and biologists have determined that a small number of specific animals in a population can and/or should be removed each year for the benefit of the health of the larger population.
  4. Trophy hunters are willing and able to step in and contribute to solving both issues by providing operating funds and removing problem or surplus animals.

Let’s quickly look at each of the components in this simplistic, though accurate, breakdown.

1. Wildlife management programs require a lot of money to remain active and effective. Money is needed for equipment, technology, infrastructure, utilities and other support systems, personnel support and people’s salaries – the stuff that any agency or business needs to stay in business. (And bear in mind that wildlife management and anti-poaching programs are not in the business of selling widgets or a market item.)

Their business is to spend money to increase their effectiveness in protecting and enhancing habitat and wildlife.

2. It’s difficult to say how much money is consumed by all of the various animal protection and conservation programs around the world, but it’s safe to say that it’s an astronomical figure.

For example, last year in South Africa alone the government earmarked $7 million inextra funding to increase anti-poaching security measures in its national parks. It also engaged municipal police and military forces to assist in protecting threatened wildlife. And those measures are still not sufficient to prevent the rise in poaching, let alone doing things to increase and improve habitat. Last year, 22,000 elephants were killed by poachers in South Africa.

The Save the Rhino conservation and rhino protection organization gives hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to various rhino protection agencies. And it’s still not enough to stem the tide of poaching losses.

3. Wildlife scientists and biologists closely monitor big game animals under their charge, both as individual animals and the population as a whole. It is often the case concerning big game animals like rhinos or bull elephants, that older males that are nearing the end of their viable reproductive lives may become violent and dangerous to other members of the herd or population. Older males have been known to injure and even kill younger males, females and calves.

Their removal is beneficial for the safety of the larger population. A few are relocated to zoos and the like, but there aren’t enough zoos or shelters able or willing to receive and care for animals that are already determined to be dangerous. Wildlife management agencies themselves have the power to remove by extermination such animals, and they do when no other options are available.

Namibian biologists, for example, have determined that up to five rhinos per year may be removed without harming the health and growth of their rhino population. That doesn’t mean that they do actually remove five animals each year, simply that that has been scientifically determined to be an acceptable number, of which certain animals of that number are necessary to remove for the reasons stated above.

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