- - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset, wrote: “One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted.”

For the best among us, hunting is a devotional activity. It is about complete immersion in our humanity; it is about the long trek of evolution; it is the heartbeat of our species; it is our souls, for lack of a better word. But not one of the best hunters among this tribe of sportsmen would continue if we were not also serving conservation and the very animals whom we hunt.

Cecil the Lion died during an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe, and that country is taking action to prosecute the wrongdoers and improve the implementation of its game laws. Why? It was the money that hunting brings into that trackless economy that funded the very park which kept Cecil safe for most of his life.

For my urban friends in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, trophy hunting is inconceivable and signing petitions to ban it seems like the very least they can do. It is the very least, and the very worst. Conservation does not advance anywhere without ensuring the well-being and support of the people closest to the resource.

Hunting is the necessary incentive that allows private landowners to expand territory for these animals beyond the limited acreage of national parks; it is the money that pays the salaries of the Africans on anti-poaching brigades; it is the money that compensates villagers for lost livestock in countries where rural hunger is a fact of life.

No species in modern times has been driven to extinction by sport hunting. With an unsustainable population growth rate in Africa for most species of 10 percent, hunting reduces that number by 2 percent.

Ecotourism does not replace hunting. Photo safaris are concentrated in national parks where there is a diversity of species; where there are lodges, roads or tracks, swimming pools, easier access, and most importantly, safety. Hunters support animal conservation where few others would venture.

Africans whom I know are incensed by the public outcry over Cecil, when there is no outcry about young children in Africa killed by lions, no outcry about the starvation still so prevalent, no outcry about the joblessness or hardship. It is for sovereign African nations to make and enforce their own game laws. Most do this voluntarily under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international organization.

Furthermore, Africans are following the North American model here. Hunting — including trophy hunting — was the wellspring for our own conservation and continues to be an important source of revenue for it.

Hunters, such as President Theodore Roosevelt, led the conservation movement in the 19th century because they were astute stewards and recognized the market unsustainability of much that was happening in our country around natural resources. Today, hunting licenses and fees support conservation. Hunters personally support conservation to an extraordinary degree. Perhaps we have forgotten that many of our public lands were essentially put aside so that sportsmen would continue to have enough game — to hunt. And they were not subsistence hunters; they were the elite.

One of our country’s great conservation visionaries was Aldo Leopold. His daughter wrote this about her father: “To him, hunting was an expression of love for the natural world; you might even say it initiated a kind of bonding with the land. To Aldo Leopold, hunting was not an abomination nor an inconsistency, but a way for active participation in the drama of life.”

Aldo Leopold believed strongly that conservation must rely on those people who understand the resource: those who work the “back forty,” the farmers and ranchers, those who hunt and fish; those for whom nature is it not a photographic memory, but a necessity.

I am extremely disappointed that animal rights activists did not talk to Africans or to environmentalists. They did not talk to women like Susie Offord of Save the Rhinos International, who know that, but for hunting, white rhinos might be extinct now. Instead, their numbers have increased in South Africa from teetering on the brink to several thousand, thanks to hunting on private lands. She calls hunting a “conservation tool.” They did not talk to Catherine Spencer of Humanitarian Operation Protecting Elephants who reminds us that Kenya, after banning hunting, has lost 60 to 80 percent of its animals outside of national parks. She considers a ban on trophy hunting to be “catastrophic.”

The well-intentioned, but misinformed, outcry about hunting in Africa is as morally blinkered to the effects of its actions as we may presume the much-despised dentist was to his.

Theodore Roosevelt IV is an investment banker, conservationist and hunter.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide