Hunt Elephants to Save Them? Some Countries See No Other Choice

[New York Times does it again! With friends like them, what animal needs enemies?]

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service last month moved to allow hunters to bring home trophies from elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Safe to say, few conservationists saw it coming.

In a 39-page report, the agency cited Zimbabwe’s progress in creating a sound management plan for its 82,000 elephants and evidence that hunting revenue is in fact reinvested into conservation. Well-managed trophy hunting “would not have an adverse effect on the species, but can further efforts to conserve the species in the wild,” the agency concluded.

The announcement, which would have turned back an elephant-trophy prohibition instituted during the Obama administration, was met with praise from pro-hunting groups, like the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, and criticism from animal-rights advocates on all sides of the political spectrum.

Unexpectedly, President Trump intervened on Twitter, saying that the trophy decision would be delayed “until such time as I review all conservation facts.” Two days later, the president referred to trophy hunting as a “horror show” and cast doubts on its effectiveness for helping conservation of elephants and other species. An updated decision, the president added, was still pending.

[Best tweet Trump ever made]:

Whether the proceeds from big-game hunting should be used to protect threatened and endangered species is a difficult question to answer. In some areas, including in Namibia and Zimbabwe, the strategy has helped revive wildlife populations. In others, including Tanzania, hunting has fed corruption and decimated species.

Among conservation biologists and advocacy groups, trophy hunting is the third rail: Their supporters largely are repulsed by the sanctioned shooting and butchering of elephants, lions and other big game. The killing of Cecil, a Zimbabwean lion, by an American hunter triggered a global social media storm.

Photo

The killing of Cecil, a Zimbabwean lion, in 2015 by an American hunter triggered a global social media storm.CreditAndy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, via Associated Press

Many conservationists “have been bullied into silence” on the subject of hunting, said Michael ’t Sas-Rolfes, a research fellow at Oxford University who studies wildlife trade.

Yet many experts also believe that the proceeds from hunting are all that prevents many poor communities from turning against local wildlife.

“While the noise in the press is all about morals and entitled white men killing innocent animals to hang obnoxiously on their wall — all of which I agree with — this actually has very little to do with pragmatic conservation,” said Brian Child, an ecologist at the University of Florida.

“Like everything else in life, it’s all about the money — money to combat illegal wildlife trade, and money to prevent the much more serious problem of wildlife’s replacement by the cow or the plow.”

Critics of big-game hunting seldom offer viable alternatives for the communities that rely on these funds to protect wildlife, Dr. Child said. Nor do the countries that issue trophy bans typically provide financial assistance sufficient to make up for the shortfall when hunting income goes away.

Hunters pay $65,000 to $140,000 to hunt lions in Zimbabwe, for example; an elephant hunt can run $36,000 to $70,000. (The price would be higher were it not for the American trophy ban.)

“Zimbabwe is on its knees because of economic downturn, yet the international community expects our poor country to look after elephants and lions when we can’t even feed our nation,” said Victor Muposhi, a zoologist at Chinhoyi University of Technology in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe.

“No one is coming to the table to say, ‘Yes, we want you to stop this hunting, but here is a budget and an alternative plan you can follow instead.’”

Calls for blanket bans, Dr. Muposhi continued, overlook the benefits that well-managed hunting programs can bring and gloss over the complexities of the industry and of conservation itself.

“I think one of the real problems in this whole debate is that people are looking for generalizations about trophy hunting, and there just are none,” said Rosie Cooney, chair of the sustainable use and livelihoods specialist group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“There’s great examples and terrible examples and ones we don’t have a clue about — and everything in between.”

Those looking for the terrible examples will find no shortage of them.

A study by Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, found that sport hunting directly contributed to the decline of lions in most of Tanzania’s hunting areas. Over the past dozen years, he also reported, 40 percent of these areas were abandoned because of declines in trophy species.

Benefits from those hunts usually did not reach those on the ground. The Maasai people in Tanzania’s Serengeti region have repeatedly reported eviction from their lands by a luxury hunting and safari company operating with a special “Presidential permit,” Dr. Packer noted.

The precise impacts of sport hunting in Tanzania have been almost impossible to measure, he pointed out, because independent scientists are frequently prevented from conducting research.

In 2015, after 37 years of work, Dr. Packer himself was banned from Tanzania after he warned authorities in the United States about pervasive corruption in the hunting industry.

“The African safari hunting industry is a business, and businesses don’t want people interfering with their bottom line,” Dr. Packer said. “The lack of transparency is a key problem.”

Photo

Park wardens drive through the Mikumi National Park, which borders the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. The precise impacts of trophy hunting in Tanzania are difficult to measure; independent scientists often have been prevented from conducting research in hunting preserves. CreditDaniel Hayduk/Agence France-Press — Getty Images

In other countries, including Zimbabwe, authorities have simply seized hunting preserves and reaped the profits without reinvesting in conservation, according to Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “The Extinction Market.”

The trophy hunting business “becomes very commercialized, and the profits are captured by elites,” she said. “You can also end up with trophy hunting serving as a cover for trafficking.”

Success at a High Price

But in places where hunting is strictly regulated and corruption is minimal, it can be an integral tool for conservation, Dr. Felbab-Brown added. Ideally, science-based quotas and age and gender limits ensure that wildlife populations are not decimated, while funds are channeled back to communities acting as custodians.

Namibia’s communal conservancies, for example, cover some 63,000 square miles and are often hailed for success in rebuilding and sustaining the country’s wildlife. Hunting is integral to the conservancies’ survival; without it, the majority of conservancies would not be able to cover operational costs, researchers at the World Wildlife Fund reported last year in the journal Conservation Biology.

The Save Valley and Bubye Valley conservancies in Zimbabwe, which are primarily supported by hunting, are managed well enough that lion populations are growing. And in South Africa and Zimbabwe, Dr. Cooney said, hunting has pushed landowners into converting agricultural land into private wildlife reserves.

Even where this conservation strategy seems to work, however, some critics question the contradiction inherent in hunting threatened and endangered species.

“Any trophy hunting of an endangered species is by definition unsustainable, as it cannot sufficiently contribute to the survival of the species to justify removing individuals from the population,” said Elly Pepper, a deputy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Indeed, savanna elephant populations across Africa declined by 30 percentfrom 2007 to 2014, primarily as a result of poaching. But the numbers were not evenly distributed.

Most legal trophy hunting for elephants occurs in southern Africa, in countries like Namibia and South Africa. The region accounts for nearly 40 percent of the continent’s 415,000 elephants, according to data presented last week at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Geneva.

Photo

Armed guides watch as an elephant passes in front of a tourist safari vehicle at the Sabi Sands private game reserve in the province of Mpumalanga, South Africa. CreditDavid Silverman/Getty Images

Relatively speaking, legal elephant hunting casualties in those five countries is minuscule, ranging from 0.01 to 0.23 percent of their respective populations in 2015.

Casualties from hunting “are really low, but they provide crucial benefits for rural communities and conservation,” said Marco Pani, a wildlife management consultant who has studied Zimbabwe’s elephant population.

In a recent survey of elephants in Zimbabwe’s hunting-dependent areas, Mr. Pani found that the country could lose a quarter of its elephant population should hunting be completely halted.

If managed well, Dr. Cooney said, hunting finances landholders and communities, providing a crucial incentive for people not only to tolerate potentially dangerous wildlife but to protect it.

In Zimbabwe’s Campfire communities — which are equivalent in size to the country’s strictly protected national parks, but reliant on trophy hunting — elephants destroyed over 17,000 acres of crops from 2010 to 2015. Along with other animals, elephants have killed 139 community members since 2010.

Lions, likewise, killed four people in Mozambique in 2016, not to mention 220 cows. Tolerance for wildlife quickly wanes if animals cease to bring benefits — a growing threat in Zimbabwe, Dr. Muposhi said.

Elephant hunts are still legal there, but leaving behind the animal’s tusks is a deal-breaker for most big-game enthusiasts. After the 2014 trophy ban, 108 of 189 American hunters canceled their trips.

The Campfire program’s annual income dropped to $1.7 million from $2.2 million; private landowners reported similar losses. Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority derives about 20 percent of its funding from hunting fees, over half of which traditionally comes from American hunters.

“All of Zimbabwe’s hunting areas are surrounded by communities who are hungry for agricultural land,” Dr. Muposhi said. “If people see that elephants and lions no longer have value, they’ll kill all the animals and let their cattle use the land currently set aside for wildlife.”

Some argue that photographic tourism can make up for these losses, but Dr. Muposhi disagrees.

Before the trophy suspension, hunters were undeterred by Zimbabwe’s political turmoil. But tourism over all suffered a decade-long decline.

Hunters also tend to relish the chance to spend three weeks or more in rugged wilderness lacking in roads, cellphone service and treated water. Tourists on photographic safaris, on the other hand, “are soft people,” Dr. Muposhi said.

“They expect to sleep in a nice bed in a nice lodge where there’s no mosquitoes and there’s electricity and pure water.”

That’s why transforming hunting areas into destinations that appeal to conventional tourists often requires prohibitively expensive investment in infrastructure and marketing.

Photo

Jao Luxury Safari Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Transforming hunting preserves into destinations that appeal to wildlife watchers often requires expensive investment in infrastructure and marketing.CreditChris Jackson/Getty Images

Communities in Botswana are now struggling with such a transition. In 2013, President Ian Khama issued a national hunting moratorium, accompanied by an order to convert hunting operations — many located in featureless, remote areas — into photographic safaris.

But the government did not provide assistance to help with those efforts or to make up for lost income. As a result, affected communities are increasingly negative about wildlife and poaching has increased, according to researchpublished this year.

Hunting operators also stopped maintaining artificial water holes for wildlife, so elephants, lions, leopards and other species moved into riverbank areas where crops are grown, leading to an uptick in killings.

“We don’t know the number of predators now being indiscriminately killed by farmers and villagers, but we do know it’s much higher than the hunting quota ever allocated,” said Debbie Peake, a longtime advocate of hunting and conservation in Botswana.

Although no credible figures exist for how much trophy hunting brings to the continent overall, critics often write off hunting’s contribution in comparison to traditional tourism.

“There is an enormous wildlife watching industry in Africa, while trophy hunters are in the low thousands,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

“Trophy hunting generates money, yes, but the number of dollars is so small compared with wildlife watching that it just doesn’t compare.”

Photo

The Okavango Delta, as seen from the Jao Luxury Safari Camp in Botswana. The delta is home to an abundance of wildlife. CreditChris Jackson/Getty Images

But in parts of Botswana and elsewhere, big-game hunting can make or break conservation efforts.

“The macro argument about however many millions hunting brings into the country misses the point,” Mr. ’t Sas-Rolfes said. “What is relevant is what would happen at the micro level if you removed hunting.”

“My sense is the damage would be quite significant,” he added.

For Mr. ’t Sas-Rolfes and other experts, the trophy hunting debate remains a tiring distraction from the pivotal question of how to sustainably financeconservation in Africa, and how to deal with poaching and growing human populations.

In a 2015 survey of 133 experts in 11 African countries, trophy hunting came in next to last in a ranking of 11 threats to wildlife. Poaching was at the top.

6COMMENTS

“We’re talking about the wrong thing right now,” said Dan Ashe, president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Trophy hunting is not the issue. We should be focused on wildlife trafficking and the broader plight of elephants.

[That too, but trophy hunting IS the issue here]!

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Hunters are livid over Trump’s elephant trophy decision

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2017/11/20/hunters-are-livid-over-trumps-elephant-trophy-decision/?utm_term=.b95131272568
 November 20 at 5:24 PM

A herd of elephants stands near a water hole in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, east of Harare, in September 2013. Zimbabwean ivory poachers killed more than 80 elephants by poisoning water holes with cyanide that year, endangering one of the world’s biggest herds. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

President Trump’s announcement that he is delaying a decision on allowing elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe drew angry reactions from hunting groups and reignited a heated debate over whether killing iconic animals is the best way to manage their shrinking populations.

Last week, the Trump administration announced it would reverse a ban on trophy imports from Zimbabwe that had been imposed by the Obama administration. Two days later, however, Trump tweeted that elephant hunting is a “horror show” and suggested he would maintain the ban.

Hunters have criticized the decision to delay ending the ban. In voicing their indignation, hunters were careful not to blame the president. Instead, one of the largest and more recognized groups, Safari Club International, issued a call to arms against “hysterical anti-hunters and news media outlets” that “went into overdrive, attacking everyone in sight, including the Trump administration, SCI and even the National Rifle Association of America” after the decision was announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last Wednesday.

The Safari Club said the hold is the result of “shrill, negative reactions.” It asked supporters to use its “action center” to call in and tell Trump how much they appreciate the finding that Zimbabwe had enhanced its program to protect elephants, paving the way for allowing trophies of legally hunted elephants to be imported. SCI did not respond to requests for comment.

Mmmm…OK I’ll take it (let’s just shut up and not ask questions on this one guys, ‘K?) https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/931685146415255552 

Little known fact about Trump — he actually opposes hunting! Here are his tweets criticizing his kids for big-game hunting in 2012. pic.twitter.com/vdM2X8YrIX

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Seventy percent of hunters who pay up to $20,000 for permits to legally harvest elephants are American, according to Campfire, a group in Zimbabwe that manages its elephant hunting program. The program’s revenue dropped from an average of $2 million per year before the ban in 2014 to $1.73 million last year, Charles Jonga, Campfire’s director, said in an email.

Jonga joined hunters in blaming Trump’s decision on others. “This is certainly not about President Trump’s reaction,” he said, “but about animal welfare lobbyists who have nothing to show for their misplaced belief that they can dictate to African rural communities how they should share their living space with wildlife.”

Trump tweeted Friday that he would put off a decision until he could meet with Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke, an avid hunter and trophy collector, later issued a statement on Interior’s website and tweeted that he agreed with the president.

Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!

During the Obama administration, Fish and Wildlife had questioned Campfire’s management and how much revenue was devoted to the conservation of elephants. Animal rights groups such as the Humane Society International said much of the funding was lost to corruption. The arrest of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, within days of the Trump administration’s favorable finding raised concerns.

Elephant hunting trophies are allowed to be imported to the United States from two other African countries, South Africa and Namibia. Another country, Zambia, was given the green light by the Fish and Wildlife Service last week. The current controversy focuses on the import of trophies from Zimbabwe.

On Monday, two environmental groups sued the Trump administration over the move to end the ban, which they called contrary to the slow and deliberate process called for under the Endangered Species Act, which lists African elephants as threatened.

“Trump’s abrupt backpedaling after public outcry, while appreciated, shows how arbitrary this deplorable decision was,” Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “These incredibly imperiled creatures need a lot more than vague promises.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council drew on Zimbabwe’s troubles in the announcement of their lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. To arrive at an enhanced finding that elephant herds are well managed, Fish and Wildlife must rely on “Zimbabwe having the plans, resources, funds, and staff to conserve elephant and lion populations.”

“But . . . corruption is already a huge concern” due to the ouster of Mugabe. Also, the groups noted, “Zimbabwe scored an abysmal 22 out of 100 on Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index.

“Poaching elephants for their ivory remains a significant threat in Zimbabwe. According to aerial surveys — known as the Great Elephant Census — Zimbabwe’s elephant population decreased 6 percent between 2001 and 2013, when the aerial surveys were performed.” They went on to point out that controversies over animal killing often arise in Zimbabwe, where Cecil the Lion was illegally tracked, shot with an arrow and killed by an American hunter.

Elly Pepper, deputy director of a wildlife trade initiative and program at NRDC, called Trump’s announcement a pleasant surprise but said he needs to do more. “These tweets are still really ambiguous,” she said. “And tweets don’t have any legal authority. We want to make sure that the administration doesn’t have its cake and eat too. We want to ensure they aren’t going to quietly start issuing trophy permits and enjoy public support because their tweets indicated they oppose trophy hunting.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said his organization plans to work with Trump without taking legal action. But Pacelle questioned the idea of killing elephants to conserve them.

“Botswana disallowed all trophy hunting, and Botswana has more elephants by a long shot than every other country,” Pacelle said. “It’s recognized that this would damage the brand of the nation. Trophy hunting subtracts animals from nature. It diminishes the value of animal populations.”

During the controversy in 2015 over allowing a rhinoceros hunter to import the trophy head of a rhinoceros he planned to kill in Namibia, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said concern over the act confused illegal poaching with well-managed hunting tourism.

“Well-managed trophy hunting has little to do with poaching, and indeed can be a key tool to help combat it,” the union said in a statement. Without it, African conservationists “would not be able to employ the upwards of 3,000 field rangers employed to protect wildlife and enforce regulations.” Namibia’s conservation is viewed by Fish and Wildlife as one of most responsible such programs in Africa.

Pacelle dismissed this type of argument. Hunters never say “we want to trophy hunt because we want to mount the head,” Pacelle said. “They always apply something to it. They could just give the money for conservation. But they want something out of it.”

In a year that saw the Ringling Bros. Circus fold after a century and a half following an outcry over its treatment of animals, the nation is experiencing a major shift in tolerance, according to Pacelle.

“That was a marker of how our attitudes have evolved toward elephants. We don’t want to see anyone chain them and have them perform silly stunts,” he said. “It’s worse to shoot them in the head.”

Read More

Animal activists finally have something to applaud at Ringling Bros.: Its closure

Before elephants, Trump loosened limits on lion trophies

Lions are raised to be shot in South Africa. American hunters love it.

What Trophy Hunting Does to the Elephants It Leaves Behind

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/elephant-trophy-hunting-psychology-emotions/546293/

The legal African hunting programs that the Trump administration is reviewing affect more than population numbers.

Elephants play against a hazy sky.
Elephants play in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
If you were an elephant, you might be puzzling over human behavior this week. On Monday, the animal-rights attorney Steven Wise filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of three privately owned Asian elephants, arguing that the animals are “legal persons” who have a right to bodily liberty and should be free to live in a sanctuary. Then, on Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia could now be legally imported to the United States as trophies.

This new policy overturned a ban put in place by the Obama administration in 2014. African elephants are considered “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, a step below being endangered. The animals’ numbers have plunged from around 10 million 100 years ago to around 400,000 today, largely because of poaching and habitat loss. The Fish and Wildlife Service has not changed the elephants’ status; instead, it now argues that supporting “legal, well-managed hunting programs” will help provide “much-needed conservation dollars to preserve habitats and protect wild herds” in Zimbabwe and Zambia, the agency’s principal deputy director, Greg Sheehan, said in a news release.

But then, to further complicate matters, President Donald Trump tweeted Friday evening that nothing would actually change until he “reviews all conservation facts.”

The idea that killing more elephants will help save the species is counterintuitive, and its line of reasoning is difficult for many conservation organizations to support: Let rich hunters pay hefty sums to shoot elephants, and use the money to help conservation efforts and local communities. Supposedly, the villagers won’t then need to poach elephants to feed their families and pay their kids’ school fees. Still, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, a respected organization that sets the conservation status for all species, supportsthe notion.

But the evidence that “hunting elephants saves them” is thin. The hunting-safari business employs few people, and the money from fees that trickles down to the villagers is insignificant. A 2009 report from the IUCN revealed that sport hunting in West Africa does not provide significant benefits to the surrounding communities. A more recent report by an Australian economic-analysis firm for Humane Society International found that trophy hunting amounts to less than 2 percent of tourism revenue in eight African countries that permit it.*

And then, there is a larger moral question: How does hunting affect male elephants, especially the “big tuskers” that hunters want, and the overall population?

If elephants are recognized as legal persons, a term the U.S. courts have granted corporations and a New Zealand court gave to a river (elsewhere the term has been extended to chimpanzeesa bear, and the environment), it would be more difficult to hunt them at all—let alone import their body parts. Wise’s lawsuit cites extensive scientific studies that have established elephants’ cognitive abilities, emotional and empathetic natures, complex social lives, lifelong learning, and memory skills. “Taken together, the research makes it clear elephants are autonomous beings who have the capacity to choose how to live their lives as elephants,” he tells me.

One thing elephants would not choose, Wise and elephant researchers agree, is to be hunted. “It doesn’t matter to elephants if they are killed by poachers or trophy hunters,” says Joyce Poole, who has studied African elephants in the wild in Kenya and Mozambique for more than 40 years and is the codirector of ElephantVoices, a conservation organization. “Either way, you’re a killer. And if elephants understand that about you, they change their behavior.”

Elephants aren’t considered game animals in most African countries with substantial populations of these animals. But trophy hunters after large male elephants can seek their prey in South Africa, Namibia, Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Gabon, and Mozambique. Kenya banned the sport in 1973, while Tanzania continued to permit legal hunting. That caused problems for the elephants of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, says Poole, who was studying the large males in the park at the time. The park borders Tanzania, and after the Tanzanian government opened a hunting block on the opposite side, the Amboseli male elephants who wandered across became prized targets. 

“It was an awful time,” Poole recalled, “because on one side, the elephants learned to trust tourists—generally white people—in cars. From our studies, we know they can smell the difference between whites and local people. They also distinguish us by our languages. They know people who speak Maa, the language of the local Maasai people, may throw spears at them; those who speak English don’t.” However, the tables were turned on the Tanzanian side of the border. There, white people in cars who drove up close to see an elephant might lean out with a camera—or a rifle.

“The elephants didn’t run because they didn’t expect to be shot,” Poole said. Two of the large males she was studying were lost this way to trophy hunters. She and others protested to the Tanzanian government, and these particular hunting blocks were eventually closed.

Poole does not know how the loss of these big males, who’d fathered many calves, affected the other elephants. Female elephants, though, do mourn family members who die, and are especially troubled when the matriarch, their leader, passes. In 2003, for instance, researchers in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve watched as Eleanor, an elephant family’s matriarch, died from natural causes. When Eleanor fell heavily to the ground, Grace, a matriarch from another family, used her tusks to lift her friend and helped her to her feet. Despite Grace’s efforts, Eleanor died that night. She had a tiny, six-month-old calf who never left her side. In a photograph, the calf stands like a small sentinel beside her mother’s body, while the rest of the family bunches together, grieving. 

Researchers have rarely seen similar moments among male elephants, who as adults, live away from the female herds they grew up in, and return only to mate. That behavior led to a “myth that males are far less social than females,” said George Wittemyer, a conservation biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins who has studied elephants in Kenya for more than 20 years. His new research contradicts this notion. “Actually, the males are always in groups and have preferences for certain companions. They’re not the loners they’ve been made out to be,” he said.

“The death of a bull will cause less disruption than the death of a family member,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a zoologist who founded the organization Save the Elephants. “If a bull is shot while associating with a family the others will normally run away.” But he noted: “Bulls will defend or help each other sometimes, when one is down.”

From a population standpoint, “older male elephants are very important to the health and genetic vitality of a population,” said Cynthia Moss, who has led the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya since 1972. While hunters in the past have used the belief that older males are reproductively senile as an argument for killing them for their ivory, research has revealed that they are in fact an elephant population’s primary breeders. “By living to an older age, [older males show that] they have the traits for longevity and good health to pass on to their offspring,” Moss said. “Killing these males compromises the next generation of the population.”

It’s not clear if the Fish and Wildlife Service will consider how trophy hunting affects individual elephants or their families. The agency didn’t comment on Trump’s tweet when contacted, but later issued a public statement confirming that permits would be put on hold. “President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in the statement.

Wise believes that the emotional and psychological suffering the elephants endure from this sport is obvious. “One day it will be seen for the moral outrage that it is,” he said.

Before Trump’s tweet, the Fish and Wildlife Service had intended to begin issuing permits for importing elephant trophies on Friday. The new policy would apply to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe between January 21, 2016, and December 31, 2018, as well as elephants hunted in Zambia from 2016 to 2018. Regardless of how hunting affects elephants, if the policy goes through, some hunters will have trophies waiting for them in those countries.

Good News: Trump puts elephant trophy imports on hold

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42035832

  • 18 November 2017
Elephants at Mana Pools, ZimbabweImage copyrightSPL
Image captionThe US Fish and Wildlife Service argues hunting “will enhance the survival of the African elephant”

President Donald Trump has suspended the import of elephant hunting trophies, only a day after a ban was relaxed by his administration.

Imports of trophies from elephants legally hunted in Zambia and Zimbabwe had been set to resume, reversing a 2014 Obama-era ban.

But late on Friday, President Trump tweeted the change was on hold until he could “review all conservation facts”.

The move to relax the ban had sparked immediate anger from animal activists.

“Your shameful actions confirm the rumours that you are unfit for office,” said French actress and animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot in a letter to President Trump.

Protests spread on social media with many sharing images of President Trump’s sons posing with dead animals during their hunting trips in Africa.

One photo of Donald Trump Jr shows him holding the amputated tail of a dead elephant.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) had argued that hunting fees could aid conservation of the endangered animals.

Experts say that populations of African elephants are plummeting.

Their numbers dropped by about 30% from 2007-14, according to the 2016 Great Elephant Census.

The non-profit group’s report found a population drop of 6% in Zimbabwe alone.

Despite their listing under the Endangered Species Act, there is a provision in US law that allows permits to import animal parts if there is sufficient evidence that the fees generated will actually benefit species conservation.

In 2015 a US dentist from Minnesota killed a famous lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

Cecil’s death triggered an outrage in the US and Zimbabwe, and briefly forced the hunter into hiding.

Brigitte Bardot says Trump ‘unfit’ after permitting elephant trophies

 https://www.modernghana.com/news/817234/brigitte-bardot-says-trump-unfit-after-permitting-elephan.html
AFP
French actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot had previously criticized US President Donald Trump over his administration's move to loosen restrictions on hunting bears and wolves on federally protected land in Alaska.  By ERIC FEFERBERG (AFP/File)

French actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot had previously criticized US President Donald Trump over his administration’s move to loosen restrictions on hunting bears and wolves on federally protected land in Alaska. By ERIC FEFERBERG (AFP/File)

French screen legend and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot on Friday slammed US President Donald Trump as “unfit for office” after his administration’s “shameful actions” in authorizing the import of Zimbabwean elephant hunting trophies.

The move Thursday reverses a prohibition imposed under former president Barack Obama, permitting the import of “sport-hunted trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe” between January 21, 2016 and December 31, 2018. Zambia will also be covered under the revised rule.

“No despot in the world can take responsibility for killing off an age-old species that is part of the world heritage of humanity,” Bardot said in a letter to Trump, released through Fondation Brigitte Bardot.

The move is “a cruel decision backed by Zimbabwe’s crazy dictator and it confirms the sick and deadly power you assert over the entire plant and animal kingdom.”

“Your shameful actions confirm the rumors that you are unfit for office,” the 83-year-old added.

According to the Great Elephant Census project, African savannah elephant populations fell by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, while Zimbabwe saw a drop of six percent.

Donald Threw His Sons a Bone.

As you’ve probably heard by now, U.S. President Donald Trump just threw his trophy-hunting, bloodthirsty billionsire sons a major bone by making HUNTING AFRICAN ANIMALS AND BRINGING THEIR HEADS TO THE U.S. IS LEGAL AGAIN.

What a thoutful early Christmas gift from daddy dearest to do for a pair of savage sons, one of whom was quoted recently enjoying the sport of hunting [and therefore, presumably, killing] even better than golfing.

But what if one of them were to follow in daddy’s footsteps and get themselves elected president, as Geoge W. Bush did?

In other words, What If Junior Takes Over?

A scary thought indeed–especially for the wildlife!

HUNTING AFRICAN ANIMALS AND BRINGING THEIR HEADS TO THE U.S. IS LEGAL AGAIN UNDER TRUMP

http://www.newsweek.com/hunting-african-animals-legal-us-trump-712988

Elephant and lion trophies can be imported from Africa again, in a reversal of an Obama-era policy that prohibited the importation of endangered animals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that it will allow trophy hunters to bring back legally hunted wildlife, removing restrictions on permits that were put in place to discourage the hunting and poaching of animals that are on the threatened species list.

The International Wildlife Conservation Council, a newly created arm of the Department of the Interior, wants to bring a focus to the “economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.” Plus, it believes “human populations” could benefit from having Americans visit and hunt.

99602245Philip Dixie (L), a professional hunter from Blaauwkrantz hunting reserve shows a trophy during a hunting Safari in the Blaauwkrantz game reserve some 70km from Port Elizabeth, South Africa.GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The council has determined that hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia will help with conservation efforts, though its announcement does not include research that supports that view.

“By lifting the import ban on elephant trophies in Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Trump Administration underscored, once again, the importance of sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting to the survival and enhancement of game species in this country and worldwide” said Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action in a statement on the NRA-ILA website.

“This is a significant step forward in having hunting receive the recognition it deserves as a tool of sound wildlife management, which had been all but buried in the previous administration.”

In 2015, the Fish and Wildlife Service suspended the import of sport-hunted elephant trophies, citing a lack of evidence that the practice helped conservation efforts.

The expanded import policy will likely be welcome news to Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., who have posted photos of themselves after a trophy hunting expedition. The photos showed them with a leopard and an elephant, and drew criticism from animal rights groups. They have continued to take big-game hunting trips across the U.S. and in Canada, though they haven’t posted photos.

What went so wrong with Trump sons that they could kill this beautiful creature

Trophy hunting may be popular with the Trumps, but not everyone is on board. When Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer shot Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in 2015, he sparked international outrage for targeting one of the most well-known and beloved African lions. Palmer had a permit to hunt in Zimbabwe, and paid around $50,000 to a professional hunter-guide to kill the lion.

Zimbabwe’s elephant population has declined since 2001, and Zambia’s populations have declined in some regions. Hunters often choose the healthiest or strongest members of animal populations, to have a more impressive trophy, but this can have negative effects on the species overall.

A 2015 poll showed that 86 percent of Americans oppose big-game hunting, and six out of 10 respondents said it should be illegal.

Poachers target Africa’s lions, vultures with poison

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/poachers-target-africas-lions-vultures-with-poison/

By

JOHANNESBURG — Hundreds of vultures in Namibia died after feeding on an elephant carcass that poachers had poisoned. Poachers in Zimbabwe used cyanide to kill dozens of elephants for their ivory tusks. In Mozambique three lions died after eating bait infused with a crop pesticide.

Poisoning Africa’s wildlife is an old practice, but conservationists fear such incidents are escalating in some areas, saying relatively easy access to agricultural chemicals and the surging illegal market for animal parts are increasing pressure on a number of already beleaguered species. The threat is compounded by the indiscriminate nature of killing with poison, in which a single contaminated carcass can take down a range of animals, particularly scavengers such as vultures.

This month, a continent-wide database was launched to gather data on wildlife poisoning and better understand a phenomenon that has been widely documented in southern Africa, where a reported 70 lions have been fatally poisoned in the last 18 months, according to managers. While the African Wildlife Poisoning Database lacks records from underreported areas including Central Africa, it dates to 1961 and lists nearly 300 poisoning incidents in 15 African countries that killed more than 8,000 animals from dozens of species, including leopards, hyenas, impalas, cranes and storks.

 “It’s still a big work in progress,” said Darcy Ogada, a Kenya-based database coordinator and assistant director of Africa programs at The Peregrine Fund, a conservation group. The goal, Ogada said, is to get governments to pay more attention to the “underground world” of wildlife poisoning that also threatens livestock, water sources and people who eat meat from birds and other poisoned animals.

Poachers with guns have killed hundreds of thousands of elephants and thousands of rhinos in Africa in past years, but wildlife traffickers have increasingly laced carcasses with poison to target vultures that circle overhead and can draw the attention of anti-poaching rangers. Previously, poisons such as strychnine were primarily used by farmers to kill jackals, wild dogs and other predators that attack livestock, though some landowners and communities have responded positively to anti-poison campaigns.

In 2013, between 400 and 600 vultures died after feeding on the poisoned carcass of an elephant that was killed for its ivory in Namibia’s Zambezi area, said Andre Botha, a poisoning database manager and special projects manager at the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a South African group.

“This is the highest number of vultures killed in a single poisoning incident that we have on the database to date,” Botha said.

 Some of Africa’s species of vulture, whose body parts are also precious in traditional medicine in parts of the continent, are listed as critically endangered. South Asian vulture populations are a fraction of what they were, largely because of feeding on carcasses of livestock treated with diclofenac, a veterinary drug that is toxic to vultures. Government bans on the drug, however, helped level those declines.

African lions are in peril partly because of human encroachment on habitats and the poaching of animals for food, which deprives lions of prey. The killing of lions by poison, once largely a result of livestock owners trying to protect their herds, appears to reflect growing local and Asian demand for lion claws, bones and other parts used in traditional medicine, according to Botha.

“What we see now is people purposely going out and targeting lions,” he said. Some 70 were poisoned in southern Africa since last year, Botha said. The database reports a total of 51 lion poisonings between 1980 and 2015.

In July, officials in Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park on the border with South Africa found poacher tracks, bait laced with poison, and the carcasses of three lions and a hyena, according to the Peace Parks Foundation, which develops cross-border conservation areas. It said authorities believe poachers used a substance containing the pesticide aldicarb, which South Africa banned because of its environmental threat.

Another pesticide, carbofuran, is the “abused product of choice” in countries including Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya, said Tim Snow, a South African conservationist who helps train southern African rangers in how to deal with poisoning sites by wearing surgical gloves for their own safety and collecting samples for study in a laboratory.

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He said poachers in Zimbabwe have killed more than 90 elephants since 2015 by poisoning water sources with cyanide, a chemical used to extract gold from ore. Authorities have seized cyanide stashes from vehicles at police roadblocks and a warehouse in Bulawayo city, Snow said.

Educating communities about the environmental fallout from poisoning wildlife is key, said Mark Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa. Banning poisons, he said, has a limited impact because “there’s an unlimited supply and variety of poisons that can be used.”

Animal trophy hunting documentary misses the mark

http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Animal-trophy-hunting-documentary-misses-the-mark-12218414.php?cmpid=email-desktop&cmpid=email-desktop

“Trophy,” a documentary that explores the commodification of threatened and endangered African species, which premiered earlier this month at the Quad Cinema in New York City, is enough to have Cecil the Lion rolling over in his grave.

While the directors should be commended for putting the issue in the spotlight, it feels more like an attempt by the trophy hunting industry to save face following the public backlash after the tragic death of Cecil the lion at the hands of an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe in 2015. And it’s no wonder, since the movie’s narrative unfolds after the directors attend the Safari Club International’s (SCI) annual hunter’s convention.

They drank the Kool-Aid.

To appease the public, the trophy hunting industry claims that without it there would be no money in Africa for conservation. In the movie, well-heeled American trophy hunters are the unsung heroes whose money is helping to save Africa’s magnificent animals from the bad-guys—local poachers driving these animals to extinction. It’s hard to stomach the hypocrisy—American trophy hunters think their money makes killing ok.

The idea that it doesn’t is not broached by directors who promise to tell both sides of the story with critical examination. The movie never considers that legal trophy hunting is one of the reasons that Africa’s Big Five face extinction in the first place and that legal trophy hunting fuels poaching.

How big game hunting is dividing southern Africa

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41163520

  • 10 September 2017
An elephant kicks up dust outside Kingspool Luxury Safari Camp in the Okanvango Delta on June 18, 2010Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Drifting down the Zambezi in Zimbabwe, I overheard two American men swapping hunting stories.

“First shot got him in the shoulder,” a white man in his late sixties explained to his friend. “Second hit him right in the side of the head!” Pointing at his temple, he passed his phone with a picture. The animal in question was a dead crocodile.

Crocodiles are easy to find on this part of the Zambezi: lying in the sun on the banks of the river, boats can float just a few feet away. And given that they are motionless for most of the time, not hard to shoot, I imagine.

The second American showed his pal a picture of a Cape Buffalo he had killed, and planned to have shoulder mounted. He complained he couldn’t afford the $19,000 (£14,500) Zimbabwe demands for the licence to kill an elephant. His buffalo cost him $8,000 (£6,100).

“Are they saying an elephant is worth more than two buffalo?” he lamented. “I saw hundreds of elephants today. Far too many. You have to see it here to realise. In California they are saying these animals are endangered!”

The first man’s wife then talked of the thrill she gets at the kill, discussing how different calibres of bullet explode the vital organs of African wildlife. I left to look at the hippos watching from the river.

A trophy hunting company welcomes customers in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Image captionA trophy hunting taxidermist welcomes customers in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

But, curiously, I have felt obliged to consider the ethics of big game hunting at home in London in the last few months.

I’m an Arsenal fan, and it recently emerged that my team’s owner, American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke, had launched a TV channel in the UK featuring lion and elephant hunting.

High profile supporters

The corporate values of family brand Arsenal do not sit easily with pay-to-view videos of hunters shooting animals for fun, and after a couple of days of hostile publicity, Kroenke ordered his channel to stop showing the killing of some big game.

But both sides in the hunting debate claim they are the true guardians of animal welfare.

Supporters of African trophy hunting, including some in very high places – two of President Trump’s sons are avid big game hunters – argue that a ban on hunting would harm wildlife and local people.

It would stop much needed revenue reaching some of Africa’s poorest communities, discourage conservation and cut funds for wildlife management that would make it easier for poachers to operate, they say.

Opponents counter that little of the profit from trophy hunting money ends up in the communities where it takes place. They say poachers use legal hunting as cover for their illegal activities, and argue that there are more efficient and humane ways to support the welfare of southern Africa’s animals and people.

I was travelling in Zimbabwe and neighbouring Botswana last month – two countries with opposing policies towards big game hunters. Hunting is still big business in Zimbabwe, as the rich Americans on the Zambezi demonstrate, but since 2014 it has been completely banned in Botswana.

Majestic animals

The difference in approach between Botswana and its neighbours – South Africa, Namibia and Zambia also allow trophy hunting – was brought dramatically home to me in the country’s glorious Chobe National Park.

In the late afternoon, I watched a herd of around 600 Cape Buffalo snake its way down to the Chobe River that marks the boundary with Namibia. It was mesmerising to see these majestic animals following each other, nose to tail, across the water.

Cape Buffalo cross the Chobe River from Botswana into Namibia where hunters are waiting
Image captionCape Buffalo cross the Chobe River from Botswana into Namibia where hunters are waiting

Then my guide pointed out two vehicles on the horizon, across the river. “Hunters,” he explained, simply. Through the binoculars we could see six men with rifles. Apparently oblivious to the risk, the buffalo continued to cross the border towards them. Later, shots would be heard.

In a move interpreted as a direct challenge to the wildlife policies of other southern African nations, Botswana’s President Ian Khama is marching his country towards a new model of African tourism: “low impact/high value”.

Botswana believes that by protecting its animals and minimising humankind’s footprint on the natural world, it can turn the country into an exclusive tourist destination that brings in far more than it loses from the ban on hunting.

Hostile environment

Botswana is home to more than a third of Africa’s dwindling elephant population, and – since the hunting ban – these intelligent animals have increasingly sought refuge there.

The concentration of elephants is a huge draw for tourists but, as predicted by opponents of the ban, it is also a huge temptation for less scrupulous hunters and poachers.

Botswana’s answer is to make the country a hostile environment for those who want to harm the wildlife.

Military bases have been moved to the borders of the national parks. Armed patrols on foot and in the air are ready, if necessary, to kill people coming to kill animals. Some poachers have been shot dead.

The hunting ban doesn’t just apply to rich trophy hunters.

It also limits or outlaws the shooting of game by local people for food or to protect crops and livestock. The Botswana government believes if there is any legal shooting of animals, the big poaching syndicates and illegal hunting operations will use that as cover for their activities.

Farmer Chibeya Longwani shows me his bucket of tabasco chillies
Image captionFarmer Chibeya Longwani shows me his bucket of tabasco chillies

In Mabele village, close to the Namibian border, I watched a man mixing an extraordinary cocktail: crushed tabasco chillies, elephant dung and engine oil. With a flourish he set the contents on fire and stood back to admire his handiwork.

“That is supposed to stop an elephant trampling my crops,” Chibeya Longwani told me, pointing at the ash in the tin.

Compensation

He spread it along the sides of his field, beside plastic chairs, broken electric fans and beer crates, as instructed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

“They said that bees stop elephants too,” Mr Longwani said. “But they don’t have the boxes at the moment.” His frustration was obvious.

As well as advice on deterring elephants, farmers can claim compensation from the government if wild game does damage property. But if they kill the animals, they are likely to get nothing.

Plastic refuse is used to try and deter elephants from farmland
Image captionPlastic refuse is used to try and deter elephants from farmland

To police the new approach, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks has recruited an army of Special Wildlife Scouts, operating in rural villages. Their job, for example, includes ensuring families don’t take more than the five guinea fowl they are allowed each day, and that farmers are honest in their compensation claims.

It is a nationwide exercise in social engineering – trying to change the ancient relationship between the rural population and the wild animals around them. The government believes the long-term rewards justify the rules. Many farmers remain unconvinced.

For those tourists coming to Botswana with cameras rather than guns though, the policies have created an utterly captivating wild landscape teeming with amazing African animals and birds. And “elite travellers” are prepared to pay big money for the privilege of seeing it.

Anti-poaching initiatives

During the high season, a single room in one of the most exclusive lodges on the Okovango Delta can cost more than $5,000 (£3,830) a night, equivalent to the price of a Namibian licence to shoot a single leopard.

Many tourist lodge operators work in partnership with local villages. I encountered one lodge where 10% of the business turnover will soon go to the community nearby. Villagers often have a direct say in development plans.

Cecil the lionImage copyrightPAULA FRENCH
Image captionThere was a huge backlash after the much-loved Zimbabwean lion Cecil was killed in 2015

International tourism is expected to bring in $210m (£160m) to Botswana this year, rising to $370m (£280) by 2021 – more than trophy hunters spend across the whole of southern Africa.

Many in Zimbabwe, by contrast, see hunting as an inextricable part of Africa’s cultural heritage, believing that, if done sustainably and responsibly, it can be a valuable addition to the region’s economy and wildlife management.

The walking guides who take tourists into the bush there aren’t allowed to operate until they have passed a state exam that includes shooting an elephant and a buffalo. I asked one guide how he had felt about doing it. “It depends if you like hunting,” was his enigmatic reply.

The Zimbabwean government argues that 75% of proceeds from trophy hunting goes towards wildlife preservation and anti-poaching initiatives.

Toxic impact

The recent Great Elephant Census project suggests Zimbabwe’s elephant population has fallen 11% in a decade, with poaching and illegal hunting threatening to wipe out whole herds in parts of the country.

The killing of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter just outside Zimbabwe’s protected Hwange National Park area in 2015 made headline news around the world.

The furore prompted a number of airlines to ban the transport of “trophies” from Africa, another sign of how toxic hunting has become for international brands.

Three years after introducing its hunting ban, Botswana is so far holding firm, despite huge pressure from other southern African nations.

It is a critical time for the policy. Any stumble, and the hunters are waiting on the horizon.