The anti-trophy hunting campaign is in high gear, employing questionable ‘surveys’ while playing on the emotions of affluent suburbanites whose views of Africa are often shaped by Disney and Tarzan. Both hunting and game viewing have ecological pros and cons — and both have colonial and racist roots — points often lost in the fog of an emotive and agenda-driven debate.
The cow elephant was shot dead in September last year at close range in the Kruger National Park. She was of breeding age and her sudden death would have been a traumatic experience for a calf in her care, as well as the entire herd. One presumes that animal welfare NGOs campaigning to end trophy hunting would also mourn her passing.
But this cow was not the quarry of a trophy hunter. She was shot dead while charging a group of ecotourists on foot, whose armed guides had unwittingly, in thick bush, blundered into the middle of a herd. Our Burning Planet has spoken to a number of the people who were part of the group — they wish to remain anonymous — and they were also traumatised by the incident.
“It was quite upsetting. One member of our group immediately said ‘we should not have been here’,” said one person from the group.
The point here is that game viewing or similar bush experiences — part of the wider ecotourism sector — can also trigger the death of a large animal, including those of breeding age. This clearly has conservation and animal welfare consequences.
Campaigns to end trophy hunting, which got a massive lift with the killing of a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe seven years ago, have gained new traction of late. Animal rights organisations owe a huge debt of gratitude to Walter Palmer, the US dentist who shot Cecil with a bow and arrow. His actions provided them with an endless vein of outrage to tap for cash.
And affluent people up north, whose own children are almost never exposed to the risk of megafauna attack, always know what’s best for African wildlife.
In June, more than 100 celebrities and heavy hitters signed a letter to former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to make good on his populist pledge to ban UK hunters from importing legally hunted trophies taken abroad.