7 Tons, One Shot

Hank Konrad: hunter

http://www.methownet.com/grist/features/konrad_hunting.html

It’s not every day that you can walk into a local supermarket and find an African lion attacking a warthog right there by the checkout counters – unless you’re shopping at Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp.

The lion and warthog are among dozens of trophy animals from Africa, Canada and a smattering of other countries on display at the store, most of them sharing space with an assortment of merchandise stacked above the freezer cases.

“I ran out of room at home so I brought some of them down here for the kids to see,” explains Hank Konrad, store owner and passionate hunter.

Each animal has a story. For example, that male lion from Zambia that’s about to dine on the warthog was probably six or seven years old when he died. He had 19 females in his pride and is believed to have fathered three cycles of cubs, Konrad said. But after losing his pride and territory to another male, he was found wandering hungry and alone. He was so thin his ribs and spine stuck out, according to Jackson Konrad, Hank’s son, who was with him on the trip.

photoJudy and Hank Konrad pose with a greater kudu bull, a woodland antelope, taken for meat in Botswana last year while they were hunting in the Kalahari. Photo courtesy of Hank Konrad

“I tracked him for 12 days because I didn’t want to bait him,” Hank said. Finally, the lion came into the open. “He stopped and looked back.” It was the only moment Konrad had to take a shot and he didn’t hesitate.

The warthog is from Zimbabwe. “I shot him [on a different trip] so we could have dinner,” Konrad explained. The warthog skull that’s part of the exhibit is from the animal on display; the lion skull is not.

Both animals were restored to life-like prime by a taxidermist friend who lives outside Missoula, Mont. He’s worked on all the African animals for Konrad, who said he prefers poses and facial expressions that are as natural as possible – no snarls and added drama. He doesn’t discuss the business side of his passion, but Konrad said, “I’m not taking anything out of the store [to pay] for hunting.”

photoA male Himalayan Tahr, a wild goat with a lion-like mane, watches over grocery shoppers. Konrad shot it in New Zealand, where Tahr goats are hunted for meat. Photo by Karen West

And while he’s hunted many kinds of animals, Konrad said, “I’m not a scorekeeper kind of guy.” In fact, after about two dozen trips to Africa, elephants are the only animal he hunts there – unless “somebody wants something to eat.” Why? “Because it’s the biggest challenge… I’m not a killer. I’m a hunter.”

It takes absolute focus, he explained, to stand face-to-face with a charging bull elephant, knowing he wants to kill you and you want to drop him with a single shot to the brain so he dies instantly. Konrad said he’s never missed that shot. His elephant gun holds two .500 Nitro cartridges and the tracker who accompanies him also has a rifle – just in case.

One year he shot a bull that weighed 14,000 pounds. It was estimated to be about 70 years old, the upper end of an elephant’s lifespan. He only had one molar left in his mouth and couldn’t chew food properly, said Konrad, who started hunting as a child.

“I was born in the woods, outside Grangeville,” Idaho, into a family that raised some cattle, ran a small logging operation and worked as outfitters during elk hunting season, he said. His mother was a quarter Nez Perce and his dad a quarter Crow.

When he was in high school, Konrad recalled, “I used to get on the school bus every Friday with my rifle and my pack and nobody blinked an eye.” After school, he went to a ranch for target practice. “All the kids with pickups in the [school] parking lot had rifles in the rack,” he added. “Nobody shot anybody.”

He is a life member of Safari Club International, the Wild Sheep Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation and the National Rifle Association. His three kids were trained in firearm safety and his six grandchildren will be, too. He said he opposes gun control.

He also said the United States government has gotten too big and is weakening the country. “We need to be self reliant again,” Konrad said. “We’ve taught our children that somebody else is responsible for everything. But that’s not the way it is.”

Self-reliance, by his definition, means taking care of your own – your kids, parents and the people in your own community — and not expecting the government to do it.

Konrad is legendary for quietly extending a generous helping hand in the community. “There’s nothing I won’t do for a working man but there’s nothing I’ll do for a man who won’t,” he said.

photoHank Konrad displays an 84-pound elephant tusk, one of the pair he has from his 2012 hunt in Botswana. Since the mid-1980s all elephant tusks being shipped from Africa are assigned a serial number to help track the ivory. Hunters must have permits and document their hunts with photographs. Konrad donates the hide and all meat to local villagers. Photo by Karen West

Hard work has been a hallmark of his life. He said his great-grandmother, Eva Cash, long ago told him: “All good things come to he who waits as long as he works like hell while he’s waiting.”

In 1975, Konrad moved to Twisp with his wife, Judy, a native of Lewiston, Idaho, and his brother and his wife. They bought the ‘Buckingham Palace’ grocery store, which was located where the Confluence Gallery is today.

“I worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week,” Konrad said. “I took a half-day off when Stephanie was born.” Stephanie is the eldest of the Konrad’s three children. She’s living in Wyoming, although her son works at the store. So do the Konrad’s other two children – daughter, Carlan, and son, Jackson, who runs the meat shop. Judy Konrad works in the office. Hank’s Harvest Foods employs 54 people, making it one of the largest employers in the valley.

Over the years, Konrad has had several businesses in addition to the grocery store including an excavating company and a well-digging business. He’s also invested in real estate. The family lives on a 1,000 acre ranch put together over the years up Finley Canyon, where the kids can learn about life by roaming the hills, hunting, fishing in the lake and riding their ATVs where grandpa designates so they don’t “tear up the land.” And you can bet they know the stories of the animals in his trophy room.

Konrad said he likes to travel “but I want to go into the bush and meet the real people.” Judy accompanies him and does some hunting, although she also travels with a group of friends to tourist sites and countries he doesn’t care about. His first trip outside the United States was with the U.S. Army to Vietnam, where he spent part of three different years. There he befriended an “old Frenchman” who talked to him about the place.

His passion for Africa was ignited years later when he saw some films about hunting there. It looked challenging. But the appeal has many facets – the expanses of land, the quiet, “tracking in the African bush and meeting the indigenous people who live out there” for whom hunting “is a way of life.”

photoAbout two dozen white tail and mule deer trophies are on display above the freezer cases. Photo by Karen West

Konrad said he hunts on government lands that are equivalent to our Forest Service lands, where the herds are managed and park rangers set the quotas on the number of permits issued.

The Safari Club promotes hunting and conservation by taking care of the animal populations, he said. It also sponsors anti-poaching teams. “Africa, right now, would pretty much be without animals if it wasn’t for Safari Club International.”

“Hunting is a positive thing for all animals because it gives them a value and without it, they’re gone,” Konrad said. “The trophy fee for an elephant can feed a village for a year, plus they get the meat.”

If he gets an elephant permit this year, Hank and Judy Konrad will make what he expects to be their last elephant-hunting trip to Botswana in August. The permits for where he wants to go may be auctioned off to some very wealthy bidders, he said, which could change his plan. That would be a bittersweet decision for a man who has tracked elephants up to 60 miles through the African bush that so strongly calls to him.

3/4/2013

People killed off the biggest mammals, and we’re still doing it

Human hunting and other activity — not climate change — drove the big mammals into extinction, researchers argue in a new study.

by Maggie Fox /  / Updated 

A ranger takes care of Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on May 3, 2017.AP file

Humans have been killing off the biggest game animals for millennia, and we’re still doing it.

A study to be published Friday in the journal Science argues that humans steadily drove into extinction the biggest land creatures, such as mammoths, rhinos and giant bears.

And human trophy hunting is still sending the biggest land mammals into the endangered zone, the researchers say, with little hope left for saving them from extinction.

Their new analysis contradicts arguments that climate change drove the extinctions of many animals, such as North American camels, several species of rhinoceros, the North African elephant and saber-toothed tigers.

If the trend keeps up, the cow, at around 2,000 pounds, may end up being the biggest land mammal, the team of researchers, led by biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico, argued.

Related

There’s no debate that as humans spread, big mammals declined. But some experts have said that the same climate, weather and geological conditions that killed off the big game allowed humans to thrive and spread.

Smith’s team did a new analysis, looking at the fossil record of large and small mammals and comparing it to what’s known about the spread of humans across the globe.

They found little evidence that climate was to blame for extinctions of big game species.

Large mammals were abundant as people evolved and spread, they noted. “For example, a striking feature of the Pleistocene was the abundance and diversity of extremely large mammals such as the mammoth, giant ground sloth, woolly rhinoceros, and saber tooth tiger on all habitable continents,” they wrote.

And, they also found, large and small mammals were both affected by changes in average temperature.

Related

Yet the big extinction events mostly affected the really big animals.

“If climate were causing this, we would expect to see these extinction events either sometimes (diverging from) human migration across the globe or always lining up with clear climate events in the record,” Kate Lyons of the University of Nebraska, who worked on the study team, said in a statement. “And they don’t do either of those things.”

It’s still going on.

“Wild mammals are in decline globally because of a lethal combination of human-mediated threats, including hunting, introduced predators and habitat modification,” the researchers wrote.

It’s no surprise, said Lyons.

“From a life-history standpoint, it makes some sense. If you kill a rabbit, you’re going to feed your family for a night. If you can kill a large mammal, you’re going to feed your village,” she said.

And people do prefer to kill the biggest animals, whether for food or for glory. “It just seems to be something that we do,” she said.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/people-killed-biggest-game-we-re-still-doing-it-n867621

Trump’s Wildlife Protection Board Stuffed With Trophy Hunters

(AP) — A new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite federal rules for importing the heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos is stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to President Donald Trump and his family.

A review by The Associated Press of the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke indicates they will agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them.

One appointee co-owns a private New York hunting preserve with Trump’s adult sons. The oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., drew the ire of animal rights activists after a 2011 photo emerged of him holding a bloody knife and the severed tail of an elephant he killed in Zimbabwe.

The first meeting of the International Wildlife Conservation Council was scheduled for Friday at the Interior Department’s headquarters in Washington. Council members aren’t being paid a salary, though the department has budgeted $250,000 in taxpayer funds for travel expenses, staff time and other costs.

Trump has decried big-game hunting as a “horror show” in tweets. But under Zinke, a former Montana congressman who is an avid hunter, the Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly moved to reverse Obama-era restrictions on bringing trophies from African lions and elephants into the United States.

Asked about the changes during a congressional hearing Thursday, Zinke said no import permits for elephants have been issued since the ban was lifted earlier this month. The Fish and Wildlife Service said permits for lion trophies have been issued since October, when imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia were first allowed, though they could not immediately provide a number for how many.

A licensed two-week African hunting safari can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates. Advocates say money helps support habitat conservation and anti-poaching efforts in some of the world’s poorest nations, and provides employment for local guides and porters.

In a statement last year, Zinke said, “The conservation and long-term health of big game crosses international boundaries. This council will provide important insight into the ways that American sportsmen and women benefit international conservation from boosting economies and creating hundreds of jobs to enhancing wildlife conservation.”

But environmentalists and animal welfare advocates say tourists taking photos generate more economic benefit, and hunters typically target the biggest and strongest animals, weakening already vulnerable populations.

There’s little indication dissenting perspectives will be represented on the Trump administration’s conservation council. Appointees include celebrity hunting guides, representatives from rifle and bow manufacturers, and wealthy sportspeople who boast of bagging the coveted “Big Five” — elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and Cape buffalo.

Most are high-profile members of Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, groups that have sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the list of countries from which trophy kills can be legally imported.

They include the Safari Club’s president, Paul Babaz, a Morgan Stanley investment adviser from Atlanta, and Erica Rhoad, a lobbyist and former GOP congressional staffer who is the NRA’s director of hunting policy.

Bill Brewster is a retired Oklahoma congressman and lobbyist who served on the boards of the Safari Club and the NRA. An NRA profile lauded Brewster and his wife’s five decades of participation and support for hunting, and his purchase of a lifetime NRA membership for his grandson when the boy was 3 days old.

Also on the board is Gary Kania, vice president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, a group that lobbies Congress and state governments on issues affecting hunters and fishermen.

Zinke described the purpose of the council as representing the “strong partnership” between federal wildlife officials and those who hunt or profit from hunting. Council paperwork said the panel’s mission was “to increase public awareness domestically regarding conservation, wildlife law enforcement, and economic benefits that result from United states citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.”

In its charter, the council’s listed duties include “recommending removal of barriers to the importation into the United States of legally hunted wildlife” and “ongoing review of import suspension/bans and providing recommendations that seek to resume the legal trade of those items, where appropriate.”

In a letter this week, a coalition of more than 20 environmental and animal welfare groups objected that the one-sided makeup of the council could violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires government boards to be balanced in terms of points of view and not improperly influenced by special interests. The groups said they nominated a qualified representative, but Zinke didn’t select him.

“If Trump really wants to stop the slaughter of elephants for trophies, he should shut down this biased, thrill-kill council,” said Tanya Sanerib, a spokeswoman for the Center for Biological Diversity. “The administration can’t make wise decisions on trophy imports if it only listens to gun-makers and people who want to kill wildlife.”

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said the makeup of the council fully complies with the law.

“There are members on the council that represent all areas of conservation and varying opinions,” Swift said.

CONNECTIONS TO TRUMP

Among Zinke’s appointees is Steven Chancellor, a longtime Republican fundraiser and chairman of American Patriot Group, an Indiana-based conglomerate that includes a company that supplies Meals Ready to Eat to the U.S. military.

According to Safari Club member hunting records obtained in 2015 by the Humane Society, Chancellor has logged nearly 500 kills — including at least 18 lions, 13 leopards, six elephants and two rhinos.

In early 2016, records show Chancellor filed for a federal permit to bring home the skin, skull teeth and claws from another male lion he intended to kill that year in Zimbabwe, which at the time was subject to an import ban imposed by the Obama administration.

Later that same year, Chancellor hosted a private fundraiser for then-candidate Trump and Mike Pence at his Evansville, Indiana, mansion, where the large security gates leading up the driveway feature a pair of gilded lions.

Chancellor did not respond to a phone message seeking comment on Thursday.

In the fight to win approval for imports of lions from Zimbabwe, Chancellor was represented by Conservation Force, a non-profit law firm in Louisiana. It was founded by John Jackson III, a lawyer and past Safari Club president who also has been appointed to the advisory council by Zinke.

Chris Hudson, a lawyer and past president of the Dallas chapter of the Safari Club, also was appointed. He made headlines in 2014 when the club auctioned off a permit for $350,000 to kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia. Hudson later joined with Jackson in providing legal representation to the winning bidder, who sued Delta after the airline refused to fly the rhino’s carcass back to the United States.

‘HUNTING LIFESTYLE’

Appointees include professional hunters. Peter Horn is an ex-vice president of the Safari Club International Conservation Fund and a vice president for high-end gun-maker Beretta. He runs the company’s boutique in Manhattan, where well-heeled clients can drop as much as $150,000 for a hand-engraved, custom-made shotgun.

Horn wrote in his 2014 memoir that he co-owns a hunting property in upstate New York with Trump Jr. that has a 500-yard range “put together” by Eric Trump.

The AP reported last month that the Trump sons were behind a limited-liability company that purchased a 171-acre private hunting range in the bucolic Hudson Valley in 2013, complete with a wooden tower from which owners and their guests shoot at exploding targets.

Horn did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Trump Jr. also is friendly with another member of the advisory council — hunting guide and TV show personality Keith Mark. He helped organize Sportsmen for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and recently posted photos on his Twitter page of himself with Trump Jr. and Zinke, standing before an array of mounted big-horn sheep and a bear.

“I see the world from a hunting lifestyle,” Mark told the AP, adding that he has no preconceived agenda for his service on the conservation council. “It’s the most pure form of hands on conservation that there is. I will approach all decision-making with my background.”

Also named to the board is Cameron Hanes, a celebrity archer who advocates for trophy hunting. In a podcast last month, he said hunting allows animals such as elephants to “have value.”

But while supportive of African trophy hunting as an aid to conservation, he said he is more interested in North American wildlife management and sees the council as a way to represent hunters’ interests. He said he hopes to take Zinke out to the archery range.

“We’re trying to make that happen,” he said. “If you have somebody’s ear, you want to tell them what’s important to you.”

Hanes also said he knows Trump Jr. and has been speaking with him about hunting for “quite a while.”

EXTREME HUNTRESS

Also on the council is Olivia Opre, a TV personality and former Miss America contestant who received Safari Club’s top prize for female hunters, the Diana Award.

Opre, who co-produces a competition called Extreme Huntress, has killed about 90 different species on six continents, bringing home some 150 animal carcasses. Many are stuffed and mounted in her house, she told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2016.

“I’m tired of hearing the words ‘trophy hunter’,” she told the paper. “We’re helping to preserve wildlife; we hunt lions because we want to see populations of wildlife continue to grow.”

Opre, who did not respond to messages seeking comment, has previously recounted killing a hippo, buffalo, black rhino and lion, all in Africa.

She said in the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Form newsletter published last year that she and another Diana Award winner, Denise Welker, had “shed tears over her appreciation for life in all its forms.”

Welker also has been appointed to the conservation council. She shot and killed an African elephant from just five paces away, according to a blog post on the Safari CIub-affiliated site, Hunt Forever. Included was a photo of a smiling Welker posing next to the carcass of the big bull, a large bullet hole visible between its eyes.

She also has hunted animals across the U.S., in Mexico, New Zealand and Cameroon, posting photos of herself with a dead leopard, eland and Greenland musk ox, according to a post she wrote on Hunt Forever three years ago.

On the website scout.com, Gayne Young wrote that he hunted elephants with Denise, her husband, Brian, and hunter and tracker Ivan Carter in Botswana in 2013.

Carter — a British citizen who runs a non-profit anti-poaching initiative alongside his guide business — also was appointed to the conservation council. He is a Rhodesian-born professional hunting guide who resides in the Bahamas. On social media postings, he has said banning elephant imports does not reduce how many elephants are hunted, and wrote an article after the infamous shooting of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe declaring that anti-hunting forces were on the march.

“This event and the subsequent events have been the ‘Twin Towers’ of the hunting world — our 9-11,” he wrote in a 2016 article, deploring airlines’ move to stop accepting hunting trophies as air cargo. He proposed fighting back in a war of public opinion, with hunters as infantrymen, organizations like Safari Club International as generals and the pro-hunting media as “a machine gun that can spew thousands of bullets into the opposition’s fighting force.”

In an interview with AP on Thursday, he described himself as a conservationist first and a hunter second. He said he did not have a problem with the council’s membership skewing toward trophy hunters.

“They are what makes the wheel turn in the form of bringing big dollars” to conservation, he said. Without trophy-hunting revenue, the governments of African nations will turn over conservation land to private interests for development, he said.

“The business model doesn’t work with the closure of lion and elephant imports,” he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to provide information on Thursday on whether any appointees to the advisory committee had applied for or received import permits for animal trophies over the last year. Agency spokesman Gavin Shire suggested filing a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of the permits, a process that can take years.

ANIMAL EXPERTS

One of two non-hunters named to the board is Terry Maple, a former director of the Atlanta zoo. Legally importing rare live animals also requires government permits issued by Fish and Wildlife. Maple helped write “A Contract with the Earth,” a book by Newt Gingrich making the politically conservative case for environmentalism.

The other is Jenifer Chatfield, a zoo and wildlife veterinarian professor who has family ties to the exotic animal trade.

The book “Animal Underworld: Inside America’s Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species” accused her father, John Chatfield, of diverting zoo animals to the private market, where they would become pets or stock private hunting ranches.

In one 1997 instance — reported by the AP — the elder Chatfield ended up in possession of endangered lemurs and pronghorn antelopes that were to have gone to a zoo in Indiana. Simultaneously, Chatfield listed lemurs and pronghorn antelope for sale in a publication called “Animal Finders.”

An investigation of the zoo director’s activities resulted in his expulsion from the American Zoological Association. Chatfield denied any wrongdoing at the time. He did not respond to a request for comment from the AP on Thursday.

The Chatfield family since has moved to Dade City, Florida, where they operate a facility housing nearly 200 exotic animals that state business records show Jenifer partly owns. In 2013, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials cited the farm for improperly storing kangaroos after one escaped, then died after being tranquilized and shocked by sheriff’s deputies. According to the state’s report, Chatfield initially denied that the kangaroo was his — but accepted responsibility after the fish and wildlife inspector proposed DNA testing. The inspector noted that Chatfield was unable to say how many kangaroos he currently had.

Though Jenifer Chatfield is a part owner of the exotic animal facility and was present at the time of the kangaroo escape, state wildlife officials did not cite her for a violation along with her father.

She did not return messages seeking comment.

Pearson reported from New York.

Follow Associated Press investigative reporters Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck , Pearson at http://twitter.com/JakePearsonAP and Horwitz at http://twitter.com/JeffHorwitz

Big-game documentary Trophy hunts for answers but comes back empty-handed

Photo: The Orchard

Which sounds more painful to watch, for those sensitive to animal suffering: a deer being shot for sport, or a rhinoceros being forcibly held down and having its horn sawed off? Trophy, a documentary about the uneasy, seemingly oxymoronic junction of big-game hunting and conservation efforts, kicks off by showing both of these events, and speedily reveals that neither situation is as clear-cut as it might initially seem. The group of folks who mutilate the rhino do so in an effort to save its life—the amputation is painless (no different, really, than clipping one’s fingernail; both are made of keratin), and the animal, until its horn grows back, is theoretically of no value to the poachers who would otherwise kill it. Such measures are financed, in large part, by hunters like Philip Glass (not the minimalist composer), who pay enormous sums in order to travel to Africa and bag “the big five”: elephant, lion, leopard, cape buffalo, and rhino. Is it acceptable to let rich people kill a few animals for “fun” if their cash might potentially save many others?

Trophy ostensibly maintains a neutral point of view, allowing people on both sides of various issues to make their best case. Some of their arguments will fall on deaf ears. John Hume, the man leading the team that de-horns rhinos, argues strenuously throughout the film that bans on the sale of ivory should be lifted, because they ultimately hurt rhinos more than they help them; he spends a lot of time being yelled at by angry protestors. Glass, meanwhile, justifies his love of hunting by quoting scripture (specifically a passage in Genesis about God giving human beings dominion over the animals) and brags that no bureaucrat can take his pleasure in a kill away from him. (He also insists that only a fool would believe in evolution, just to burn one last bridge with a certain cross-section of viewers.) Various other interview subjects come and go, without any individual ever really attaining a position of authority. This approach is at once admirable and frustrating, acknowledging complexity to a degree that amounts to a big shrug.

Indeed, Trophy’s tendency to wander is its greatest liability. There’s some digressive outrage directed at what are called “canned hunts,” in which the animal to be shot has essentially been pre-captured and remains confined in a small area, with no real chance of escape. There are legitimate reasons to decry this practice (though the notion that it’s “not sporting” seems a tad silly—the human having a rifle that can kill at a great distance isn’t exactly sporting either), but the issue is tangential at best to Trophy’s larger concerns, and feels like a cul-de-sac from which the film emerges with great clumsiness. It’s also slightly unfortunate—though admittedly no fault of director Shaul Schwarz (assisted by Christina Clusiau)—that Trophy covers a lot of the same ground as did recent Netflix documentary The Ivory Game. This film is more rhinocentric, with elephants and their tusks addressed fleetingly by comparison, but the battle against poachers and the free market is similar enough to make one doc fairly redundant if you’ve seen the other. What’s abundantly clear is that every other species on Earth is at our mercy, and that there are no easy answers when it comes to determining the most compassionate form of our so-called dominion.

https://www.avclub.com/big-game-documentary-trophy-hunts-for-answers-but-comes-1800010236

Big Game Hunter Gets Shot Dead While In Africa Hunting Lions

 http://www.ladbible.com/news/animals-big-game-hunter-gets-shot-dead-while-in-africa-hunting-lions-20180129

A Croatian trophy hunter who’d hunted ‘everything that could be hunted in Europe’ has been shot dead in a freak accident while taking part in a South African hunting expedition.

Pero Jelinic, a 75-year-old hotelier from the Croatian island of Pag, had already killed one lion and was about to shoot another when he was struck and killed by a stray bullet on a remote farm this past Saturday.

Jelinic’s friend Slavko Pernar said Jelinic was a ‘passionate’ hunter who travelled to Africa to land a lion trophy after he found himself seeking a new challenge, the Daily Mail reported.

Credit: Facebook/Pero Jelinic
Credit: Facebook/Pero Jelinic

It is not yet clear who was responsible for firing the shot that killed Jelinic, police said.

Jelinic was shot while he was in the North West province of South Africa, having travelled there with two friends to hunt big cats ‘to complete his extensive trophy collection’.

According to Pernar, a close friend of Jelinic’s and a fellow hunter, Jelinic was particularly keen on claiming the head of a lion ‘to crown his rich hunting career’. For the past year he had even leased his hotel out so he could commit fully to his ambition and enjoy his retirement.

“Pero was a passionate hunter of big and small game, and in search of that he travelled most of the world,” Pernar told Croatia’s Jutarnji List newspaper.

“For the past year he had leased his hotel to dedicated himself to the things he planned to accomplish and enjoyed a deserved retirement.

“He, unfortunately, received the ugliest end – he died in South Africa doing what he loved. His office, a hunting hall, was full of trophies, deer and bear specimens and everything that could be hunted in Croatia and Europe.”

Jelinic was killed at Leeubosch Lodge, a property a four-hour drive from Johannesburg and 40 miles from the border with neighbouring country Botswana.

The property is known for keeping lions in captivity for the sole purpose of their being hunted – a controversial industry known as ‘canned’ lion-hunting.

The owner of Leeubosch Lodge, Dr Gideon Engelbrecht, told News24 that he was not at the farm when Jelinic was shot dead.

‘I was at my surgery when I received the call. I arranged for a helicopter to take the man to hospital, but that’s all I am going to give you at this stage, because the case is still under investigation,’ he said.

South Africa’s ‘canned’ lion-hunting industry, which legally breeds lions in captivity to be killed by hunters, is known for being a lucrative business which is also highly controversial among animal lovers and hunters alike.

Lions at Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Credit: PA
Lions at Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Credit: PA

Hunts in this industry keep lions in a confined space using fences, giving them a zero chance of escape and giving the hunter the best possible chance of claiming his trophy.

In November 2015, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) voted to disassociate itself from canned lion hunting in the country and banned its members from taking part in such expeditions, calling them ‘vanity hunting’.

However, PHASA reversed the ruling last year, a decision which received severe criticism from animal rights groups across the globe.

Police have confirmed that they have opened a case of culpable homicide into Jelinic’s death. They are also investigating charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

However, they ‘do not suspect any foul play’ in the shooting and investigations into the death are ongoing.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Boycott the film “Trophy”

Resharing our message below regarding the film Trophy, which we urge you not to watch.

Image may contain: 4 people, text
CompassionWorks International

Tomorrow, CNN broadcasts the film “Trophy”, a pro-trophy hunting film.

The film was initially presented to CWI as a balanced look at trophy hunting. For that reason, we gave an interview for the film. Executive Director Carrie LeBlanc appears in Trophy, as one of only two primary dissenting voices against trophy hunting.

When we saw the completed film last fall, we were horrified. As it turns out, the films director manipulated and used an anti-trophy hunting protest we held in Las Vegas to their own ends and put a trophy hunter amongst our protesters to provoke response.

Trophy attempts, poorly, to make trophy hunters seem like sympathetic figures, instead of the killers they are.

While we are unhappy to be featured in a pro-trophy hunting film, we are glad to be a voice for the animals.

We encourage you to contact CNN and express your disgust that they would show a pro-trophy hunting film.

We also encourage you, particularly if you are a sensitive viewer, to opt NOT to watch Trophy. There are numerous instances of the brutal killing of animals, including an elephant, by trophy hunters.

Thank you for speaking out against evil trophy hunting. notyourtrophy.org

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]!

Blood and Beauty on a Texas Exotic-Game Ranch

Photo

A giraffe named Buttercup moved closer to Buck Watson, a hunting guide, as he looks on from a vehicle at the Ox Ranch in Uvalde, Tex.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

UVALDE, Tex. — On a ranch at the southwestern edge of the Texas Hill Country, a hunting guide spotted her cooling off in the shade: an African reticulated giraffe. Such is the curious state of modern Texas ranching, that a giraffe among the oak and the mesquite is an everyday sort of thing.

“That’s Buttercup,” said the guide, Buck Watson, 54.

In a place of rare creatures, Buttercup is among the rarest; she is off limits to hunters at the Ox Ranch. Not so the African bongo antelope, one of the world’s heaviest and most striking spiral-horned antelopes, which roams the same countryside as Buttercup. The price to kill a bongo at the Ox Ranch is $35,000.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Water buffaloes walked across a dam at the Ox Ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Himalayan tahrs, wild goats with a bushy lion-style mane, are far cheaper. The trophy fee, or kill fee, to shoot one is $7,500. An Arabian oryx is $9,500; a sitatunga antelope, $12,000; and a black wildebeest, $15,000.

“We don’t hunt giraffes,” Mr. Watson said. “Buttercup will live out her days here, letting people take pictures of her. She can walk around and graze off the trees as if she was in Africa.”

The Ox Ranch near Uvalde, Tex., is not quite a zoo, and not quite an animal shooting range, but something in between.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Mr. Watson points out a Roan on the Ox Ranch. Roan, originally from Africa, never shed their horns, making them attractive trophies for hunters any time of year.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The ranch’s hunting guides and managers walk a thin, controversial line between caring for thousands of rare, threatened and endangered animals and helping to execute them. Some see the ranch as a place for sport and conservation. Some see it as a place for slaughter and hypocrisy.

Continue reading the main story

The Ox Ranch provides a glimpse into the future of the mythic Texas range — equal parts exotic game-hunting retreat, upscale outdoor adventure, and breeding and killing ground for exotic species.

Ranchers in the nation’s top cattle-raising state have been transforming pasture land into something out of an African safari, largely to lure trophy hunters who pay top-dollar kill fees to hunt exotics. Zebra mares forage here near African impala antelopes, and it is easy to forget that downtown San Antonio is only two hours to the east.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

A worker replaces a light bulb at the Ox Ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The ranch has about 30 bongo, the African antelopes with a trophy fee of $35,000. Last fall, a hunter shot one. “Taking one paid their feed bill for the entire year, for the rest of them,” said Jason Molitor, the chief executive of the Ox Ranch.

To many animal-protection groups, such management of rare and endangered species — breeding some, preventing some from being hunted, while allowing the killing of others — is not only repulsive, but puts hunting ranches in a legal and ethical gray area.

“Depending on what facility it is, there’s concern when animals are raised solely for profit purposes,” said Anna Frostic, a senior attorney with the Humane Society of the United States.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Mr. Watson inspects an Axis buck shot the day before by an 8-year-old boy. Trophy carcasses are hung in a cooler room before being transported from the ranch.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Hunting advocates disagree and say the breeding and hunting of exotic animals helps ensure species’ survival. Exotic-game ranches see themselves not as an enemy of wildlife conservation but as an ally, arguing that they contribute a percentage of their profits to conservation efforts.

“We love the animals, and that’s why we hunt them,” Mr. Molitor said. “Most hunters in general are more in line with conservation than the public believes that they are.”

Beyond the financial contributions, hunting ranches and their supporters say the blending of commerce and conservation helps save species from extinction.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Various bovine species, including Watusi cattle and buffalo, eat from a hay drop at the Ox Ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Wildlife experts said there are more blackbuck antelope in Texas than there are in their native India because of the hunting ranches. In addition, Texas ranchers have in the past sent exotic animals, including scimitar-horned oryx, back to their home countries to build up wild populations there.

“Ranchers can sell these hunts and enjoy the income, while doing good for the species,” said John M. Tomecek, a wildlife specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Animal-rights activists are outraged by these ranches. They call what goes on there “canned hunting” or “captive hunting.’’

Continue reading the main story

Photo

To ensure a healthy herd, the Ox Ranch introduces fresh blood lines using animals bred on other ranches. April Molitor watches with her father, Jason Molitor, the chief executive of the Ox Ranch, as newly arrived blackbuck antelope are released from a trailer. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“Hunting has absolutely nothing to do with conservation,” said Ashley Byrne, the associate director of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “What they’re doing is trying to put a better spin on a business that they know the average person finds despicable.”

A 2007 report from Texas A&M University called the exotic wildlife industry in America a billion-dollar industry.

At the Ox Ranch, it shows. The ranch has luxury log cabins, a runway for private planes and a 6,000-square-foot lodge with stone fireplaces and vaulted ceilings. More animals roam its 18,000 acres than roam the Houston Zoo, on a tract of land bigger than the island of Manhattan. The ranch is named for its owner, Brent C. Oxley, 34, the founder of HostGator.com, a web hosting provider that was sold in 2012 for more than $200 million.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Three kangaroos that live in front of the Ox Ranch lodge are mainly for attraction purposes and are not hunted. They greet arriving guests and are often fed corn by the newcomers and by guides. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“The owner hopes in a few years that we can break even,” Mr. Molitor said.

Because the industry is largely unregulated, there is no official census of exotic animals in Texas. But ranchers and wildlife experts said that Texas has more exotics than any other state. A survey by the state Parks and Wildlife Department in 1994 put the exotic population at more than 195,000 animals from 87 species, but the industry has grown explosively since then; one estimate by John T. Baccus, a retired Texas State University biologist, puts the current total at roughly 1.3 million.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

A hunting blind stands among trees near a game feeder at the Ox Ranch. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The Ox Ranch needs no local, state or federal permit for most of their exotic animals.

State hunting regulations do not apply to exotics, which can be hunted year-round. The Fish and Wildlife Service allows ranches to hunt and kill certain animals that are federally designated as threatened or endangered species, if the ranches take certain steps, including donating 10 percent of their hunting proceeds to conservation programs. The ranches are issued permits to conduct activities that would otherwise be prohibited under the Endangered Species Act if those activities enhance the survival of the species in the wild. Those federal permits make it legal to hunt Eld’s deer and other threatened or endangered species at the Ox Ranch.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Mr. Watson petted Buttercup the giraffe. Hunters are not allowed to shoot the ranch’s giraffes. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Mr. Molitor said more government oversight was unnecessary and would drive ranchers out of the business. “I ask people, who do you think is going to manage it better, private organizations or the government?” Mr. Molitor said.

Lawyers for conservation and animal-protection groups say that allowing endangered animals to be hunted undermines the Endangered Species Act, and that the ranches’ financial contributions fail to benefit wildlife conservation.

“We ended up with this sort of pay-to-play idea,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is absolutely absurd that you can go to a canned-hunt facility and kill an endangered or threatened species.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Wildebeest run free on the Ox Ranch’s rangeland. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

The creatures are not the only things at the ranch that are exotic. The tanks are, too.

The ranch offers its guests the opportunity to drive and shoot World War II-era tanks. People fire at bullet-ridden cars from atop an American M4 Sherman tank at a shooting range built to resemble a Nazi-occupied French town.

“We knew the gun people would come out,” said Todd DeGidio, the chief executive of DriveTanks.com, which runs the tank operation. “What surprised us was the demographic of people who’ve never shot guns before.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

A World War II-era M4 Sherman tank. The ranch also has a shooting range built to resemble a Nazi-occupied French town. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Late one evening, two hunters, Joan Schaan and her 15-year-old son, Daniel, rushed to get ready for a nighttime hunt, adjusting the SWAT-style night-vision goggles on their heads.

Ms. Schaan is the executive director of a private foundation in Houston. Daniel is a sophomore at St. John’s School, a prestigious private school. They were there not for the exotics, but basically for the pests: feral hogs, which cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage annually in Texas.

“We are here because we both like to hunt, and we like hunting hogs,” Ms. Schaan said. “And we love the meat and the sausage from the hogs we harvest.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Joan Schaan takes a photo of her son Daniel Schaan, 15, as he prepares for a night boar hunt. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Pursuing the hogs, Ms. Schaan and her son go off-roading through the brush in near-total darkness, with a hunting guide behind the wheel. Aided by their night-vision goggles, they passed by the giraffes before rattling up and down the hilly terrain.

Daniel fired at hogs from the passenger seat with a SIG Sauer 516 rifle, his spent shell casings flying into the back seat. Their guide, Larry Hromadka, told Daniel when he could and could not take a shot.

No one is allowed to hunt at the ranch without a guide. The guides make sure no one shoots an exotic animal accidentally with a stray bullet, and that no one takes aim at an off-limits creature.

One of the hogs Daniel shot twitched and appeared to still be alive, until Mr. Hromadka approached with his light and his gun.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Larry Hromadka, a hunting guide, fires his pistol to end the suffering of a feral hog shot and wounded during a night boar hunt. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Hundreds of animals shot at the ranch have ended up in the cluttered workrooms and showrooms at Graves Taxidermy in Uvalde.

Part of the allure of exotic game-hunting is the so-called trophy at the end — the mounted and lifelike head of the animal that the hunter put down. The Ox Ranch is Graves Taxidermy’s biggest customer.

“My main business, of course, is white-tailed deer, but the exotics have kind of taken over,” said Browder Graves, the owner.

Continue reading the main story

Photo

Many trophy carcasses from the Ox Ranch are taken to Graves Taxidermy in Uvalde for mounting. Meg Rowland, a newly hired assistant, works on a customer order in the workshop.CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

He said the animal mounts he makes for people were not so much a trophy on a wall as a symbol of the hunter’s memories of the entire experience. He has a mount of a Himalayan tahr he shot in New Zealand that he said he cannot look at without thinking of the time he spent with his son hunting up in the mountains.

“It’s God’s creature,” he said. “I’m trying to make it look as good as it can.”

Continue reading the main story

Photo

White stags and white elk graze on the ranch at sunset. CreditDaniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Small herds passed by the Jeep being driven by Mr. Watson, the hunting guide. There were white elk and eland, impala and Arabian oryx.

Then the tour came to an unexpected stop. An Asiatic water buffalo blocked the road, unimpressed by the Jeep. The animal was caked with dried mud, an aging male that lived away from the herd.

“The Africans call them dugaboys,” Mr. Watson said. “They’re old lone bulls. They’re so big that they don’t care.”

The buffalo took his time moving. For a moment, at least, he had all the power.

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.

SHOULD WE KILL ANIMALS TO SAVE THEM?

BY MICHAEL PATERNITI 21 SEPTEMBER 2017
Trophy hunting fees help fund conservation. Critics say the benefits are exaggerated and that killing big game animals is wrong.

Elephants kept appearing in wrinkled herds, loitering near the dusty pans, in search of water. With the September temperature pushing a hundred degrees at midday, the pachyderms were moving at the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia in a community-run wildlife reserve, or conservancy, called Nyae Nyae, where roughly 2,800 San people live today in unyielding conditions.

The elephants left snapped branches and warm scat in their wake. When they caught our scent, our sweat mixing with the sun-scorched grasses, they broke into a trumpeting jog and were gone.

Later, more materialized on the horizon, in the shade of the camel thorn trees, shades themselves. For such enormous creatures, they were nearly invisible but to the sharpest eyes. And those eyes belonged now to Dam, a short, compact man, a tracker from the local San people who stood in the back of the Land Cruiser.

“Oliphant!” he cried, leaning hard over the right side of the vehicle, picking out tracks in the sand. He tapped on the door, and we came to a whiplashing halt. Dam jumped down, checking a footprint, its edges corrugated and etched inside with smaller bubbles. He motioned, and Felix Marnewecke, the professional hunter and guide on this expedition, popped out of the driver’s side door. Strapping, ruddy, and blond, in his 40s, he seemed straight from central casting, wearing a cloth hat and shorts. He stood over the impression for a moment, a quizzical expression on his face, and nodded his head in agreement. If Nyae Nyae’s desert scrub is home to San families, it is also home to some of the last, biggest wild elephants in the world. This footprint was proof.

Surrounded by more than a hundred African game trophies in his home in Wilmington, Delaware, this hunter says the pursuit has been a passion since he was 12 years old. Hunting “sort of got into my blood,” he says, adding, “I’d like to think I’m a conservationist and a collector.” – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR 

A hunter from Texas shot this rhino in 2010 on a game farm in Northern Cape, South Africa—with a tranquillizer dart. The sedated rhino, blindfolded to keep his eyes moist, later got a checkup from a veterinarian. Such hunts offer the thrill of the chase without the kill. A rule change in 2012 generally allows only veterinarians to fire tranquillizer darts; hunters can shoot darts containing vitamins. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

The rest of us unloaded, followed by the tracker they only ever called the Old Man, another tracker in training, and one more San, who was acting as a “game guard” to make sure the hunt was conducted in accordance with the conservancy’s rules and quotas. Last to emerge in that swelter was the client himself, an American businessman, who opened the passenger door and reached up to the rack for his gun, a 12-pound, bespoke .470 Nitro Express double rifle. These guns, costing up to $200,000, are favoured for big-game trophy hunting because of their stopping power, and this is what he was here for, of course—a trophy. Two of them, actually. An avid hunter whose adventures had led him to Central Asia to shoot Marco Polo sheep at 15,000 feet and to Africa to shoot a leopard, he was now back in Africa for elephants.

According to Marnewecke, the going rate for a 14-day, single elephant hunt is about $80,000. The trophy hunt limit of five elephants a year in Nyae Nyae represents real money to the San. A portion of the fee is paid directly to community members and to a fund for conservation projects to protect the area’s wildlife. As for the elephant trophies themselves, the client would take the tusks home, while the meat would all go to the San.

Marnewecke and his client—anonymous at his request, given the controversial nature of elephant hunts—hoisted their rifles over their shoulders and fell in behind Dam, who took off at the speed of a jackrabbit. Marnewecke turned to me and said, as I stumbled to keep up, “I swear, there’s no better tracker in Africa. If it takes 30 miles, he never gives up.”

The head and skin of a lion, prepared for display by a taxidermy shop in South Africa, are boxed for shipment to the American who killed the animal in 2010. In response to dwindling numbers of lions in the wild and doubts about the conservation value of hunting them, the U.S. has since made it harder for hunters to import lion trophies. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

From Charles Darwin and John James Audubon to Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, the most enlightened hunters have long viewed themselves as naturalists and conservationists, committed to sustainability among animal populations and the preservation of wild places where they stalk game. The linkage has become inextricable. Revenues of hundreds of millions in federal excise taxes levied on hunters go directly to wildlife management and related activities each year in the U.S. alone. And anyone who keeps a freezer full of venison is likely to tell you that the act of killing your own dinner in the wild is more humane than buying the plastic-wrapped meat of industrially raised livestock.

But trophy hunting today, especially of the so-called big five in Africa (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and Cape buffalo), brings with it a larger set of moral and financial questions. The sport killing of animals beleaguered in the wild can arouse fierce opposition, even more so if the animal—Cecil the Lion, for example—is named. Biologists estimated total losses of large mammals in protected areas on the continent at up to 60 percent between 1970 and 2005. As big game populations dwindle further under pressure from human encroachment, shifting climate norms, and widespread criminal poaching, there are hunters—the American client in Nyae Nyae, for one—who argue that a thoughtfully regulated and expensive hunt for bull elephants in their waning days makes a sustainable way to protect both species and habitat.

On we went, following the footprints. Every so often Dam would retrace his steps, circling in the dust, until we slowed to a more careful crawl. Coming over a knoll, we saw them at last, Loxodonta africana—what seemed to be three bulls, munching on leaves and grass. Marnewecke reached for his binoculars, the American client took his rifle in hand. Everything narrowed to a nervous point. African elephants live to be 60 or 70, and the biggest tuskers usually are older than 45. Tusks are measured by weight, and anything estimated to be over 50 pounds is considered a “shooter” by hunters. The client was looking for something in the 70-plus-pound range, but in the end, these elephants’ tusks were too small. Marnewecke made his determination, turned on his heel, and began walking back to the Land Cruiser. No one seemed disappointed exactly: It was almost enough to have stood in the suburbs of such magnificent creatures.

Cecil the Lion nuzzles a lioness in 2012, three years before Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer killed him outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. The cat’s death sparked an international outcry and greater scrutiny of hunting for the heads, skins, or other body parts of wild animals. – PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STAPELKAMP, ANASTASIA PHOTO

“The shooting is the last 5 percent of an elephant hunt,” Marnewecke said. “I feel quite shitty when an elephant dies, but those elephants pay for the conservation of the other 2,500 that move through here. Trophy hunting is the best economic model we have in Africa right now.” It was an argument I’d soon hear other hunters make and a host of activists and biologists tear apart. “In the end, it may save this place—and the elephants too.”

Standing in the heat and dust of the Kalahari that bright day, elephants at our back, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is that really how this works? Can you really kill five elephants to save 2,500? Or start from the other side: Why kill one at all?

Seen from the air Africa can appear as an illusion, rich velds and dramatic rifts, wide deserts and thundering rivers, these seemingly vast stretches of unfettered, unpopulated wild ostensibly forgotten by time and people. At a glance, it could be a repository for all our ideas about wilderness at its wildest. And yet today no patch here goes unclaimed, whether it’s marked, monetized, or fought over. The animals that roam the land have become commodified, part of a new consumerism, marketed and sold, their brands pitted against each other, their continued existence now a question of human demand, whim, and calculation. Wild game is the continent’s version of crude oil—and it too will run out someday.

Trophy hunting—the killing of big game for a set of horns or tusks, a skin, or a taxidermied body—has burgeoned into a billion-dollar, profit-driven industry, overseen in some cases by corrupt governments. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa allow trophy hunting, with varying degrees of transparency and control, establishing yearly quotas meant to reflect the status of species and creating exclusions for highly vulnerable populations. South Africa, for instance, no longer allows hunting of leopards. Kenya has banned trophy hunting outright since 1977, and in Botswana, a comparatively wildlife-rich country, a temporary ban in government-controlled hunting areas went into effect in 2014.

This kudu offered good meat for children living in Namibia’s Nyae Nyae Conservancy. Village elders gathered to dance in celebration of the bounty after a German hunter shot the massive bull in 2016. For trophy species, the conservancy charges the hunt outfitter an overall fee, some of which benefits villagers, who also keep the meat. The clients take home the trophy parts. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR 

Africa once seemed to have “an inexhaustible supply of nature,” says American lion biologist Craig Packer, who has lived and worked on the continent for more than 40 years. But, he says, from 30,000 feet you would see that the habitats are shrinking. “Lions really are becoming more of an endangered species, and hunters should really not shoot these animals for sport unless they can provide positive evidence that they’re having a salutary effect on lion conservation.”

Biologists make the same argument against the hunting of other big game, including elephants, whose numbers across the continent have fallen sharply in recent years. Demand for rhino horn, elephant ivory, and lion bones, especially in Asia, has ignited a scourge of poaching. But the issue remains complicated, with some place-specific animal populations, such as the elephants of Nyae Nyae, thriving where there’s trophy hunting.

“If you get rid of those conservancies in Namibia,” Packer says, “you’d probably get rid of all the wildlife and be left with cattle.” He says he and other biologists “are concerned with populations, and that’s an abstraction. That’s where the real conflict with the animal-rights organizations comes, because in their mind, Fifi must never die. That’s where the biologists can sound pretty heartless and cold.” For Packer, saving an individual animal misses the point; what’s crucial is protecting genetically viable populations as a whole. “I’m not against hunting. There’s got to be a middle ground,” he says. In his estimation, though, that middle ground isn’t exactly in the middle: He believes that trophy hunting is of marginal value as a large-scale conservation tool in Africa.

On the other hand, hunters and government officials often cite a hotly contested estimate by the Safari Club International Foundation, a pro-hunting group with the stated goal of promoting conservation and education, that the roughly 18,000 trophy hunters who come to southern and eastern Africa each year contribute $436 million to the region’s GDP. The Humane Society International says the amount for that region is at most $132 million, or .03 percent of GDP.

The cost of trophy hunts in Africa varies widely by country and animal. In addition to an outfitter’s daily rate, the overall cost can include fees to governments and landowners and money for community development support and anti-poaching measures. – MONICA SERRANO, NGM STAFF; MEG ROOSEVELT  – PETER A. LINDSEY, VERNON BOOTH, AND OTHERS, PLOS ONE, 2012

In a 2013 op-ed in the New York Times countering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to list lions as a threatened species, making it more difficult for Americans to hunt them, the Tanzanian wildlife director, Alexander Songorwa, stated that hunters on 21-day lion safaris paid government fees of up to $10,000 and pumped $75 million into the economy from 2008 to 2011. Packer says the 120,000 square miles of hunting areas in Tanzania need $600 million in investment every year, “and you’re not going to get that shooting lions for $10,000.”

For some, the hunting-antihunting debate boils down to Western environmentalists trying to dictate their agenda to Africa—a form of neocolonialism, as Marnewecke puts it. “Who gives anybody the right, sitting in another continent, to preach to us how we should manage our wildlife?” Hunters make the point that with all the outfitters paying to operate in conservancies and with trophy hunters paying fees for the game they shoot, hunting indeed has made significant financial contributions to the continent, and to habitat protection, while all that anti-hunting forces have done is make noise.

As for what happens to the hunters’ fees, that is notoriously hard to pin down—and impossible in kleptocracies. And anyway, Packer says, when it comes to funding lion conservation, “it’s such an underwhelming amount generated by sport hunting, it’s no wonder that despite years of lion hunting being allowed in these countries, the lion population has plummeted.” The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which monitors animal populations, reports that the number of lions in five populations in Tanzania fell by two-thirds from 1993 to 2014.

In Nyae Nyae in 2016 the German hunter who shot the kudu seen in the preceding photograph takes aim. He later killed an old bull elephant.Hunters argue that killing old bulls does the least harm to the species, but biologist Joyce Poole says older male elephants are “the primary breeders. They’re role models for younger males and chosen mates for females.” – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR 

 

Villagers in Zimbabwe shared the meat of this elephant, shot in 2009 by an American hunter. They were participants in CAMPFIRE, a program of long standing in which rural groups sell access to their wildlife in return for some of the profit. Once a model of its kind, CAMPFIRE now gets mixed reviews: Too often the money earmarked for communities doesn’t reach them or get spent on local improvements. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

 

After being picked clean of meat and skin, the bloody skull of a bull elephant awaits collection and burial by villagers at Nyae Nyae. Allowing the soft tissues to decompose underground makes it easier to remove the tusks, which the hunter will take home. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

 

Villagers shovel dirt over the skull of a bull elephant hunted earlier in the day. They dug it up about a week later when the muscles around the tusks had receded. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

Yet hunters say they’ve helped fund everything from health clinics to schools to water wells to boots-on-the-ground assistance against poachers, all while leaving a lighter footprint on the land than the often cited alternative to killing game: wildlife-watching in the form of photographic safaris. The UN World Tourism Organization estimated that 35.4 million international tourists visited sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 and spent $24.5 billion. Operations designed to attract a higher-end clientele that craves a warm shower, big meal, and cool drink at the end of the day require infrastructure and equipment, maybe including a fleet of vehicles.

There’s a danger, some hunters argue, that too many tourists will spoil the very experience they’re seeking. “The Serengeti is amazing,” says Natasha Illum-Berg, a Swedish-born professional buffalo hunter based in Tanzania, who, like Marnewecke, leads clients into the bush for “hunting experiences” and trophies. “The Ngorongoro Crater is a miracle. All these national parks that are filled with minibus after minibus of photographic tourists—it’s fantastic,” she says, noting that the minibuses also put pressure on those iconic wildlands. “But what about the other areas?” she says. “How many people have been to the area I work in, that’s 500 square miles? This year maybe 20 people.” Without trophy hunting, Illum-Berg argues, there would be no antipoaching there, no management. “I keep on saying: Give me a better idea than hunting as long as it’s sustainable.” She adds, “The big question in the end is, ‘Who’s going to pay for the party?’ ”

The earliest evidence of an elephant having been killed by human hands dates back to a blue-mud swamp in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago. The spine of a woolly mammoth found at the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh Rivers seems to have been penetrated by a man-made weapon that left flake traces of stone inside one of the vertebrae. The tusks, we might imagine, weren’t displayed in a trophy room back at the hunter’s cave.

But hunting is more than a quid pro quo for sustenance. At some moment in our dawning consciousness, hunting became equated with status, virility, and power. Assyrian carvings from 650 B.C. depict lions being released from cages for slaughter by a chariot-riding king. The Maasai have long killed lions as a rite of passage.

With the advent of better weaponry, hunting also evolved as a sport, one with class stratifications, micro-cultures, and occasional egregious examples of waste. In records from 1760 for Snyder County, Pennsylvania, two hunters shot more than a thousand animals, including black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, wolves, foxes, bison, elk, deer, wolverines, and thousands more smaller creatures, dressing some of the animals and throwing most of the carcasses into a bonfire.

A giraffe lies crumpled on a game farm in Eastern Cape, felled by a hunter in 2010. Habitat loss and illegal poaching have made giraffes vulnerable to extinction, but in South Africa—where their numbers are increasing—hunting them is legal. Some hunters want a giraffe-skin rug to show off, others the animal itself, taxidermied upright for display in a room with a high ceiling. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

Skinners in Namibia in 2011 hold up the pelt of a leopard shot by an American hedge fund manager. Leopards are elusive, and dogs helped track this one down. Namibia later banned the use of dogs because leopard numbers were falling dangerously. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

Another American hired a cameraman to record his 2016 leopard hunt in Namibia. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

Theologians were among the first to criticize such wasteful butchery. By the late 1700s an anonymous British hunter had penned The Sportsman’s Companion, or An Essay on Shooting, advocating fair chase and setting forth “directions to gentlemen” in the field and forest, including limiting the number of game animals killed. Those rules were expanded and refined during the next century. In 1887 Teddy Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club, a group of influential American hunters who were worried about preserving swaths of their country’s wilderness and became instrumental in building the U.S. National Park System.

In 1934 at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, some white hunters established the East African Professional Hunters’ Association. It promulgated a kind of honour code and pushed for laws and regulations, including a ban on shooting nearly all female animals and on shooting animals at water holes or near vehicles. While the members worked to conserve hunting grounds, they also eliminated huge amounts of game from the continent. Today technology has taken a quantum leap forward, with drones, video of the hunt, and high-powered rifles equipped with laser range finders.

Meanwhile “kill shots”—images of hunters posed with their dead quarry—have created viral sensations and stirred animal-rights activists and the general public to fulsome disgust. People were inflamed when Minneapolis dentist Walter Palmer hunted and killed Cecil, the popular lion from Zimbabwe, in June 2015. Controversy resurfaced in July 2017 when Cecil’s son Xanda was shot on a legal trophy hunt.

With more than half the planet’s population living in cities, our relationship with the wild has become increasingly divorced from our everyday reality. We’re now less a part of that wild world from rainforest to veld than consumers of it. Yet if we eat meat or wear and use leather products, we too are hunters of a sort.

Within the hunting community our hurry-up, have-it-all mentality—our ceaseless consumptive entitlement—has begun to manifest itself in troubling ways. Eschewing the time and cost of an African trophy hunt involving fair chase, some hunters have turned to canned hunting—the killing of often habituated animals in confined areas—baited hunting, herding animals with helicopters, or the shooting of their prey from the back of Land Cruisers. In Tanzania there have been reports of foreign hunters gunning down animals, including pregnant females, with AK-47s. In a hunting area called Loliondo that the government has leased long-term to officials from the United Arab Emirates, local Maasai have reported transport jets leaving with game of all variety, dead and alive. Social scientists writing recently in the journal Biology Letters describe a kill-and-tell generation of hunters exhibiting “show-off behaviour” by propagating their own kill shots on social media, sometimes in poses that undermine the dignity of the animal whose life they’ve just taken.

A hunter carries the pelt of a mountain lion he shot this year in southern Utah. Winter is prime hunting season because the cats are easier to track on snowy ground. Each season the state sets a hunt quota, a number determined in part by how many livestock lions killed the year before. In 2016 they killed 416 sheep and other farm animals, and during the 2016-17 season hunters took 399 lions. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

Radio-collared dogs tracked this mountain lion and chased it up a tree. Using dogs allows the hunter to get a clean shot, but opponents say it’s unethical because a treed cat has no means of escape. Several states have banned hound hunting of mountain lions. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

A state conservation office will inspect and tag this mountain lion before the hunter takes home the head and skin. Hunters consider stalking a mountain lion one of North America’s great challenges—it can entail hiking miles in bitter cold up steep, snowy hills in search of the animal. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR 

In South Africa, which has some 2,000 wild lions, canned lion hunting has grown into a more than $100 million industry, with in excess of 200 facilities raising about 6,000 of the big cats for easy killing. According to Ian Michler, a South African safari operator and photographer who investigated the canned lion industry for the 2015 documentary Blood Lions, the animals are caged and bred sometimes under terrible conditions. The young are taken from their mothers and brought to petting zoos. When male lions grow into adulthood, many are shot and killed for “hunting” fees that are much lower than the cost for a wild lion on a standard 21-day hunt ($5,000 to $15,000, versus $50,000 and up). And the trophy is virtually guaranteed. “It’s appalling,” Michler says. “It’s perverse behavior.”

Canned hunting has another deleterious effect. While hunters happily take the pelt and head, and the claws and teeth once were sold in the tourist shops of Nairobi and Zanzibar, today the bones are most in demand—shipped to Asia either to produce traditional medicines or to be repackaged as “tiger bone wine,” made from crushed bones and Chinese herbs and marketed to the upper class as a health tonic and aphrodisiac. This year South Africa authorized the export of up to 800 lion skeletons, and the worry among biologists, conservation groups, and animal-rights activists is that by legitimizing and allowing the trade, the country is spurring more demand for lion bones and more killing of the continent’s remaining 20,000 or so wild lions.

As it turns out, some of the most vocal critics of these hunting practices are hunters themselves.

“If we are not able to convince the majority of people that hunting is morally in order,” says Kai-Uwe Denker, a renowned professional hunter in Namibia, “there is no future for us.” In the face of bad publicity and bad behavior, some hunters have fallen back on an economic argument—that their presence in Africa provides jobs, that it’s a viable strategy for poverty alleviation. But Denker disagrees. “I see a very big danger in promoting only the financial side. Livelihoods, income generation, job creation—this is an additional thing. You cannot justify immoral things with money.”

When I met Denker in a valley in the Erongo Mountains, where he lives 25 miles off the grid in a house he built, he lamented the intrusion of humans on the African landscape. According to him, hunting, when done properly, brings you into “a conversation with your own death.” As we spoke in the shaded portico, the sun flashed off a blanched elephant skull set nearby, and the wind stirred the acacia, blowing away a certain noon deadness that often grips the desert. Time seemed to bend to the prehistoric. Tall and slender, wearing a torn shirt and short shorts, Denker is legendary for walking up to 40 miles in a day of hunting. He also abides by a strict set of principles that includes hunting game, such as elephant and kudu, that have unfenced free range in historic habitat and shooting only older nonreproductive animals without fixating on large trophies.

“Many of the antihunters, they criticize hunting as perverted,” Denker said. “Hunting as such is not perverted. It’s in our genes. If hunting is immoral,” he continued, “I will stop immediately. But it will be the end of nature.”

Game ranches in the U.S. feature dozens of exotic species, from zebras and yaks to scimitar-horned oryx, which are extinct in the wild. A 15-year-old novice gets field training at FTW Ranch, in Barksdale, Texas, in 2016. The boy later shot an aoudad, or Barbary sheep, which he skinned, cleaned, and prepared for meat processing. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

If it pays, it stays. It was a phrase I heard over and over again, in myriad discussions about African conservation, in part to describe how money has changed the mind-set of rural populations regarding the value of big game. Too often people have seen an elephant destroy their annual crop, and some have known the pain of a lurking lion taking a child for food. Here there’s no mythologizing or fetishizing, no fund-raising around a fuzzy face: The leopard is a killer, the rhino is a ruiner. To protect themselves against the enemy, villagers often shoot and poison these intruders, without an iota of sentimentality. And yet, the argument goes, if those animals are worth money to a local community, that community will work hard to conserve and protect its assets.

This is something I witnessed firsthand. My time in the Kalahari coincided with Nyae Nyae’s annual game count, in which 50 or so San camped for three nights at various water holes, trying to account for the number of animals within 3,500 square miles of sand, bush, and baobab trees.

As fragile as it is, Nyae Nyae might be called a conditional success story, in part because the hunt quotas have been methodically monitored and increased over the years. On occasion cattle have threatened to overrun the conservancy, but the big game have returned, and the menu of animals offered to hunters includes leopard, kudu, and wildebeest, with prices set by a management committee of five members of the conservancy. Profits are shared communally: Last year each adult over 18 in Nyae Nyae was issued about $70. “We have enough,” the chief, Bobo Tsamkxao, told me as he sat in his yard in front of a disintegrating house, his wives sitting in a row among children and litter. The arrangement also requires that the professional hunter employ and train local people and contribute toward development projects such as schools and health clinics.

Nyae Nyae became Namibia’s first conservancy, locally owned and run, in 1998. Every five years the conservancy is put up for tender, with professional hunters offering bids to the San for the right to establish an on-site operation. Last year the winning bid was more than $400,000, a rich number in large part because the elephants have become so big and valuable. The professionals sell hunting packages to clients to recoup the tender offer, cover expenses, and make a profit. Many operate on more than one conservancy; some string together enough to build their own little fiefdoms.

When I was there, in September 2016, Marnewecke had just learned that he’d been outbid and would lose his Nyae Nyae operation by season’s end. “I’ll miss the San,” he said, but he had another conservancy to the north that would keep him busy. What worried him most was the Jenga-like fragility of Nyae Nyae, and that irresponsible people might come with their own selfish designs—crisscrossing the conservancy with new roads and upsetting the equilibrium.

A pair of hunters weigh a black bear shot in Maine in 2016. The bear had been baited, a practice that involves placing caches of food to draw the animals to a particular spot in the forest before the hunting season begins. In Maine the numbers of bears, which are not endangered, have been rising. Mainers recently rejected a proposal to ban baiting and hunting with dogs. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

This black bear, shot by a hunter in Maine, is at a state fisheries and wildlife station, where one of its teeth will be collected. The tooth allows wildlife authorities to determine the animal’s age and reconstruct bear numbers to better manage the population. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

The hunter removed the bear’s heart, which is shot through with a bullet. Many hunters pride themselves on “nose to tail” eating—consuming not just the meat but sometimes the kidneys, liver, and heart too. The heart can be pickled, fried, or slow cooked. It can be ground up for taco meat or spaghetti sauce. – PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID CHANCELLOR

While Namibia has turned wildlife management over to the local population, governments in places such as Tanzania have taken an opposite tack, directly owning and leasing hunting grounds. Critics say that no country should be in the business of selling and profiting from dead animals. When coffers run low and funds are needed, they say, hunting quotas get raised without regard for the animals’ population numbers. And in those hunting areas where funds aren’t reinvested, there’s no wildlife left to hunt. That could explain how 40 percent of Tanzania’s designated hunting areas have been emptied of game animals during recent decades. A promotional video that surfaced in 2014 shows a hunting company, Green Mile Safari, guiding hunters from the United Arab Emirates on a disturbing shooting party. The minister of tourism and natural resources said the party violated a host of laws by, among other things, firing automatic weapons, hunting female and young animals, and allowing a minor to hunt. The government banned Green Mile from conducting hunts in Tanzania in 2014 but reissued the company’s license last year, leading to accusations of corruption. No arrests were made, and Green Mile claims that the guide was at fault.

In the Selous Game Reserve ecosystem, a prized trophy hunting destination, aerial surveys estimate the elephant population at some 15,000, down from perhaps 50,000 as recently as 2009. “Why has the Selous been such a killing field?” says Katarzyna Nowak, a conservation scientist associated with the University of the Free State, Qwaqwa, in South Africa. “If hunters are coming in from all around the world, and you’re really pumping money earned from trophies back into the Selous for conservation and antipoaching, where have all the elephants gone?”

Craig Packer sees the conservation of African wildlife in practical terms: If hunters were shooting lions “for a million dollars and returning a million per lion directly into management, they would be on solid ground. But lions are shot for tens of thousands of dollars, and very little of that money goes back to conservation.” With two billion dollars a year we could save and protect the wildlife in Africa’s national parks, Packer says. But that would have to come from international partners such as the World Bank, eco-philanthropists, and nongovernmental organizations.

RISE OF THE WHITE RHINOS Nearly extinct in South Africa a century ago, southern white rhinos rebounded thanks to conservation efforts, limited trophy hunting, and the harvesting of horns, which regrow. But with a recent surge in poaching, those rebounding numbers are levelling off. White rhinos are considered “near threatened”—they could face a high risk of extinction if conservation came to a halt. – MONICA SERRANO, NGM STAFF; MEG ROOSEVELT – MICHAEL KNIGHT AND RICHARD EMSLIE, IUCN SSC AFRICAN RHINO SPECIALIST GROUP 

Some trophy hunters say it’s not fair to blame them. Make of their sport what you will, they don’t set the fees or determine the quotas. And they can’t control endemic corruption in some countries, even if they indirectly feed it. Some claim to share the concerns of environmentalists who see collapsing habitats and dwindling populations. Kevin Reid, a big-game ranch owner in Texas, says he raises endangered African species not only for the sport of trophy hunters but also to create “a seed vault of animals,” including oryx and white rhinos, to help rewild Africa once its problems have been sorted. “We’re trying to reverse extinction,” Reid says. In the never ending ironies of the issue, though, the near extinction of African elephants, rhinos, and lions comes today courtesy of the barrel of a gun.

Perhaps, then, it boils down to another set of questions: In light of who we’ve become as a species, what new form has nature taken, and what new rules might be practiced there? Might we owe it to the natural world, after bunging it up so badly, to act differently—less acquisitively, more generously—toward it? Might it now be time to stop killing the dwindling herds for sport and display? Or, perhaps more difficult to ponder: Will these trophies be all we have left someday, tokens of a wild nature we once knew?

Hunters bring the first white-tailed deer of the regular firearms hunting season to a market in Jerome, Michigan. Before the deer are butchered, some will be hung along a “buck pole” to see who bagged the largest animal. Unlike trophy hunting in Africa, where big game expeditions cost tens of thousands of dollars, deer hunting in the U.S. is pursued widely. In Michigan alone, nearly 600,000 people hunt deer.

On the 12th day of the elephant hunt in Nyae Nyae, in the rising heat of the day, Dam, the tracker, picked up the marks of three bulls moving together. Once Marnewecke and his client saw the elephants from a mile away, they knew they were big and approached them from downwind so as not to be detected. Two of the bulls were in front of them, but the largest and oldest stood apart and behind. So they manoeuvred out around the others and came up on the third as he began to walk toward a clump of brush. The client crouched low on one side as the old bull—sagging and on his sixth molars, half ground down already, which means he was well on in the last season of his life—unwittingly ate on the other side.

Would killing an old bull like this one help save all those other elephants in Nyae Nyae?

Old bulls, says Caitlin O’Connell, a biologist and elephant researcher focused on how the animals communicate, are a font of wisdom, deciding when and where the herd will move in search of water, imposing an order on pachyderm society. “Contrary to myth, elephant bulls are very social creatures,” she says. “They move in groups of up to 15, and they maintain a strict hierarchy. The older bulls exert a very important regulatory impact on the herd and an emotional-social influence on the younger bulls.” Younger bulls in musth, a heightened state of aggression during which testosterone levels can be 10 times as high as normal, will be more likely to fight each other when an older bull is absent.

At 15 yards, the client could see every wrinkle draping the elephant. He aimed his 12-pound double rifle with its hand-engraved silver stock and fired directly at the heart. The bull turned and began to run, 30 yards before it fell. The client put one more shot in the brain, and it was done. The tusks weighed out at more than 70 pounds each. Within six hours the carcass had been stripped by the San, who took roughly three tons of meat for their families.

Two days later the hunting party found another big bull. The client fired a shot, bringing it down—but then, as another bull gave chase, he and Marnewecke ran for at least half a mile before the elephant lost interest in them. Eventually the process repeated: the flensing of the skin, the stripping of the bone, the feeding of families. With that elephant, Marnewecke’s quota for the year was filled. His client flew home; the tusks of the two elephants would follow, destined for his trophy room back in America.

I thought about those tusks in the weeks that followed, possessions now, totems of a fraught accomplishment. They were all that was left of two 15,000-pound sentient beings. Which brought me to Bobo Tsamkxao, the San chief, and his wives and children, and how they and others in the community would eat from those animals. And how they would receive money, at least indirectly, from those animals as well. But something still seemed askew: a paying client killing a vulnerable animal to feed the San or conserve Nyae Nyae’s land. Even if hunting is in our genes, as Denker said, the essential question remained: Was it moral to kill such an imperilled creature at this moment in our history?

After the hunters had packed up, the herds—sometimes called a “parade” of elephants, or even a “memory” of elephants—searched for water in temporary peace, unaware that another season would bring another group of hunters. We must imagine: Memories of elephants wandering all that contested space, some already with price tags on their head, there for us as things of wonder.