In The Light Of Cecil, The Protected Lion In Zimbabwe, Being Shot And Killed By The American Dentist Walter Palmer, Do Laws Need To Change Regarding Trophy Hunting Or Hunting For Sport?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL August 11, 2015

Gastonia, NC Correspondent- The arguments in favor of continuing trophy hunting always come back to the fact that hunters support the societies where they hunt by buying permits, hiring guides and spending money on food, lodging and incidentals.

This is silly.

Yes, they buy permits (sometimes), but given the level of corruption in a regime like Robert Mugabe’s, does anyone in their right mind honestly think any of that money makes it back to the local economies?  And as for the money paid to the guides and for other expenses: They’re selling a commodity the supply of which is vanishing by the day.  It won’t be long at all before there’s no more game to hunt, at least none of the “trophy” animals.

I must briefly interject my own opinion on “trophy” hunting here.  Any idiot who thinks killing a giraffe makes him more manly or shows his prowess as a hunter should just pay a farmer to let him hunt cows or sheep…they’re equally as “dangerous” and challenging to hunt.

The time to shift the focus from hunting to safari-style tourism is now. Kenya has made billions by turning a large part of the country into wildlife preserves.  By turning an endangered species into a renewable resource (pardon the buzzwords), African and Asian nations can ensure generations of camera-toting tourists will arrive to see the animals in their natural habitats.

And even more important to the local economies: While trophy hunters usually travel alone, tourists travel in families or other groups, which means more beds slept in, more mouths fed and more “I Saw A Rhino And Lived” T-shirts sold.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent- Trophy hunting is a “cottage industry” in parts of Africa, and Zimbabwe is no exception, particularly with lion hunting, as the locals there report that lion hunting occurs on a regular basis, and the shooting of lions for sport is nothing out of the ordinary.  The problem is that this particular lion, Cecil, was the exception to the rule, as the animal was a tourist draw and a “national treasure.”  Cecil was hunted on a protected preserve within the Hwange National Park and was part of an Oxford University research project as well.   It is obvious that laws, regulations and permit issuance were circumvented in the case of hunting Cecil, and the local Zimbabwe guides and professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst (with Bushman Safaris) were at fault in allowing the hunt to proceed.

Indirectly, dentist, Walter Palmer, was partially at fault in not further investigating his hunt for irregularities before and during the hunt, and he is now sought by both U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority for illegally killing a lion.  Palmer paid over $50,000 for a supposed permit, which he was ensured was legal, utilized local guides and hunting agents in Zimbabwe and later stated, “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and was part of a study until the end of the hunt.”  So now Palmer faces numerous charges that include extradition and possible violation of the U.S. Lacey Act (conservation law) that protects wildlife not only in the United States but throughout the world.

Palmer has since gone into hiding from all the death threats and actions by animal rights groups, and others obsessed with the situation, though a legal representative for Palmer has contacted the federal government and offered cooperation in the investigation.

As far as laws being changed regarding trophy hunting, or hunting for sport, revisions need to be made at the local level concerning sponsoring, organizing, guiding and allowing such hunts, but even with revisions or new sporting laws in place, many times the greed for substantial financial gain from such hunts gets in the way through the authorities, hunt promoters and local guides themselves.  Obviously, legal limits do need to be placed on animals that are seriously endangered and strict permit procedures followed for any capture or hunt of such animals.  Also, moratoriums should probably be placed on hunting endangered animals, such as white rhinos, black rhinos and other animals, until their numbers are significantly increased.

Again, appropriate permitting procedures are abandoned for the lure of big money, and Zimbabwe obviously draws considerable revenue from sport hunting, so why not capitalize on this overly publicized incident to make even more and drain an American dentist dry?  As long as shady dealings and a high rate of return for the host nation appear to trump adherence to the law, selective enforcement of existing or new laws will continue to be part of the process.  Corruption at the local level must be placed in check.  Without strict adherence to existing laws, permit and guide procedures, illegalities and similar “Cecil” incidents will continue to occur.

Asheville, NC Correspondent-Trophy hunting is an ancient practice that has recently come under much more careful scrutiny. As species like rhinoceroses, elephants, and tigers were hunted to extinction, conservationists began to campaign throughout the developed world against what they saw as cruel and pointless exploitation of animals. Yet, despite the success of these campaigns in enacting tough regulations on the import and export of trophy animals, the practice still continues.

In July of this year, Cecil, one of the oldest African lions in the world, was killed by trophy hunter Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota. Cecil lived in a protected wildlife park in Zimbabwe, yet a hunter was still able to lead Palmer to him. This killing has provoked widespread outrage and calls to further regulate the hunting of lions.

This impulse toward regulation may be misguided. The areas which serve as habitats to the most seriously endangered trophy animals are necessarily remote. If these animals were common around human settlements, there would be little value in taking them as trophies. Because of this remoteness, regulation will always be a step behind those who wish to break it. Short of keeping every one of these animals in captivity, there is no efficacious policy solution to prevent their hunting.

Instead, what needs to happen is a widespread conversation about humans and their relationship to the natural world. Instead of seeing ourselves in competition with animals for survival, we should see ourselves as fulfilling part of the same natural order. This consciousness change is the only way to preserve the African lion and other species who face extinction because of the excesses of humanity.

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