End of the trophy hunt: Proposed B.C. rules on killing grizzlies leave hunters and activists unhappy

End of the trophy hunt: Proposed B.C. rules on killing grizzlies leave hunters and activists unhappy

The province, citing poll results, says it’s taking action because the ‘vast majority’ of people in B.C. take the view that grizzly trophy hunting is not ‘socially acceptable’

Under revised B.C. regulations grizzly bears can still be hunted, but only in restricted circumstances for meat. No trophy parts — hide, skull or paws — can be kept by the hunter.Getty Images

The hunter wearing the camouflage ball cap could barely contain his excitement.

He had just fired his bolt-action rifle at a grizzly grazing in the wilds of northern British Columbia, sending the bear tumbling down a hill to within 10 yards of him.

“Holy, Toledo!” the hunter says in a dramatic 2014 YouTube video of the kill. He flashes a wide grin and fist bumps his son and hunting guide.

“This is a dream come true for me. I’ve been wanting a grizz for a long, long time.”

Such videos could soon become a rarity after B.C.’s NDP government announced plans this summer to ban grizzly bear “trophy hunting” — hunting for thrills and bragging rights — and to restrict the harvesting of grizzlies only for meat.

But the proposed regulation, set to take effect Nov. 30, is drawing rebuke from all sides of the emotionally charged debate — hunters who say they should be able to take home mementos of their kills, guide outfitters who say their livelihoods are at stake and activists who say killing grizzlies for food should also be banned.

“The whole thing hasn’t been thought out,” said Ian McAllister, executive director of Pacific Wild, a non-profit focused on conservation.

Currently, B.C. residents can apply for permits to hunt grizzlies in certain designated areas under a lottery system. Those living outside the province can hunt grizzlies only after they have hired a guide outfitter.

The province says its motivation for ending the trophy hunt is not because the grizzly population is in jeopardy. According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, about 250 grizzles are taken by hunters each year out of a “stable and self-sustaining” population of roughly 15,000.

Instead, the province, citing poll results, says it’s taking action because the “vast majority” of people in B.C. take the view that grizzly trophy hunting is “not a socially acceptable practice.”

Under the new regulation, it will be illegal for a hunter to possess “trophy parts” of a grizzly, including the skull, hide and paws. The province has not decided if it will require hunters to leave those prohibited parts at the kill site or require hunters to take them in for government inspection.

But in an open letter signed earlier this month, Humane Society International/Canada, the BC SPCA and numerous other environmental and animal-welfare organizations expressed concern that the trophy hunt ban will be difficult to enforce and that trophy hunting will likely continue “under the guise” of meat hunting.

“People do not travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres, pay tens of thousands of dollars, and risk their lives shooting at grizzly bears to put meat on the table. … Even if the head, hide and claws are left on the ground, or given to a conservation officer, the hunter will take away trophy videos, photographs and bragging rights. The bears will still be killed for sport,” the letter states.

As they called for a complete ban of grizzly hunting, the groups also disputed the province’s claim that the grizzly population is sustainable, saying the species is threatened in some regions due to human conflicts, habitat destruction and hunting.

They would prefer if the province threw its support behind businesses that promote grizzly viewing instead of hunting.

Meanwhile, the province’s guide outfitters worry the new regulation could put a big dent in their business.

“This is not a science-based decision; this is purely an emotional decision,” said Mark Werner of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C.

Werner pointed out that while current regulations require hunters to harvest edible portions of black bears, they permit hunters to take home other parts of the bear, such as the head and hide. Why allow it for black bears but not grizzlies? It would be such a waste to leave behind those parts of the grizzly, he said.

Werner and other pro-hunting advocates said logging and other big industries do far more harm to the grizzly population than selective hunting.

If the ban proceeds, expect the encroachment of grizzlies into urban centres and attacks on hikers and campers to rise, they added. Sometimes, you need that “human fear factor” to keep grizzlies at bay, Werner said.

Neither the father-son duo in the 2014 YouTube video nor the hunting outfitter they hired, Love Bros & Lee Ltd. of Hazelton, B.C., could be reached for comment. But other hunters say the braggadocio depicted in the video is not representative of their behaviour.

Carl Gitscheff of Dawson Creek, B.C., recalled a grizzly hunt that he did with his 34-year-old son, Krostin, this past spring in the northeast part of the province.

“At this stage in my life, to be honest with you, I don’t care if I kill anything. I just enjoy the hunt. My purpose was to go with him and accompany him on his bear,” Gitscheff said.

But when they spotted a grizzly in the distance on the second day of their trip, Gitscheff’s son let him take the shot.

“He actually proved himself as the man and extended his compassion, his love, by insisting that I take it. … It was the gentleman thing to do, which really for a father, touched my heart in a way that’s hard to describe.”

The end result was a “picture perfect” one-shot kill.

Gitscheff said he harvested the entire bear and is in the process of tanning the hide.

“Upon my expiry, perhaps one of my grandchildren may hang it in their home and say this belonged to Papa,” he said.

“You’ll never see a picture of my bear on social media. If you walked into my home, you’ll never see that bear. It’s not on display. I’m not beating my chest over this animal.”

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Donald Trump Jr. Ditched Secret Service to Go Moose Hunting

 http://www.thedailybeast.com/donald-trump-jr-ditched-secret-service-to-go-moose-hunt

Donald Trump Jr. gave up his Secret Service detail in mid-September to go on a moose-hunting trip in the Yukon, according to a report in The New York Timesthat details one reporter’s quest to locate the eldest son of the president during his adventure. Trump voluntarily abandoned the protections when he traveled to the sparsely populated northwest Canada territory, where he spent a week with a few friends and a hunting bow. Trump Jr.’s Secret Service protection has since been reactivated.

A crossbow hunter thought he shot a coyote. It was a family dog named Tonka

 September 23 at 2:46 PM

Tonka, a 1-year-old Alaskan shepherd, sleeps next to James Mongno, 9, and Lauren Mongno, 3. Tonka died Sept. 20 after a hunter mistook him for a coyote and shot him. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Mongno)

Elizabeth Mongno was walking Tonka around her wooded property in rural New Jersey when the 1-year-old dog spotted a deer and decided to chase it.

Tonka liked to roam free on the 3-to-4-acre parcel of land divided among a handful of homeowners, and he usually came back within seconds. But when he dashed into the woods Wednesday evening, he didn’t return. She screamed for Tonka to come back, and about 30 seconds after her dog took off, she heard a yelp. She knew Tonka was hurt, and thought he had been bitten by another animal.

About 10 minutes later, her husband found Tonka on the ground about 50 feet from their property line. He’d been shot directly in the heart with an arrow. Tonka tried to walk home, Mongno said, but he didn’t make it.

“It didn’t occur to me that there’s a hunter in the woods,” Mongno told The Washington Post. “I started screaming.”

Police said Tonka was killed by a crossbow hunter who mistook the 95-pound Alaskan shepherd with white and gray fur for a coyote chasing a deer. The hunter, Romeo Antonucci, was licensed to hunt and was within the proper distance from houses when he fired, police said. But Antonucci has been charged with careless discharge of a weapon and damage to property. (In this case, Tonka is considered property, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told NJ.com.)

Antonucci, of Kenilworth, N.J., did not respond to requests for comment.

Bowhunters in New Jersey are allowed to hunt deer as long as they are 150 feet from residences. The state legislature passed a bill in 2010 to shorten the minimum distance requirement from 450 feet to 150 feet, in an effort to curb the deer population.

Tonka sits on the couch with James Mongno. (Elizabeth Mongno)

State law also allows hunters to shoot coyotes. Only bows are allowed during the fall hunting season, which began this month. Firearms and bows are permitted from November to March.

Mongno said Antonucci is a relative of one of her neighbors, who gave him permission to hunt on their property, which is not far from Mongno’s. She said she and the other neighbors should’ve been made aware that somebody was hunting on the property, which is dotted with five houses, so that they knew to be more careful.

“We didn’t know that there was anybody hunting. . . . Children played in those woods,” Mongno said. “It didn’t even occur to us that anybody would even hunt there because it’s a small piece of property.”

Mongno said she is not against hunting. Though she doesn’t hunt, her husband is an avid hunter.

“If the rule is 150 feet, and that is what it is, that’s fine,” she said. “But we have the right to know if somebody is hunting in the property adjacent to us. . . . It never occurred to us that we needed to have hunting laws for our back yard.”

Tonka, an Alaskan shepherd, with  Lauren Mongno. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Mongno)

She also criticized Antonucci for mistaking her dog for a coyote.

“If he couldn’t tell the difference between a dog and a coyote, he should not have a weapon. . . . You need to know your target,” she said.

Mongno’s family got Tonka last year, when he was still a puppy. The beloved dog had become Mongno’s third child and her little boy’s best friend.

“I will never forgive myself for letting him get away from me. My poor kids couldn’t be more broken, especially my 9-year-old.  . . .  Tonka put so many smiles on so many faces. His lovable, goofy personality made everyone around him happy,” Mongno wrote on Facebook.

Mongno’s Facebook profile has many pictures of Tonka with her children.

One photo showed Tonka sleeping in the car with Mongno’s son James, 9, and daughter Lauren, 3. James was resting his head on Tonka, who was curled up in the middle seat between him and his little sister. Another photo showed a younger and smaller Tonka sitting on the couch with his tongue sticking out as James lay next to him with a big smile on his face.

“My son cried himself to sleep every night,” Mongo said.

James skipped school last Friday because he knew his friends and classmates would ask about what happened to his dog, Mongno said, but he didn’t want to talk about Tonka.

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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.

70-year-old wanted to ‘wear a coonskin cap, hunt bears, be a real woodsman’ — so he did

Biggest muley
Bill Butler shot this mule deer northwest of Hermosillo, Mexico, about 750 miles south of his Wyoming home. The buck’s antlers measured 36 inches wide and had a gross score of more than 195. He collected the trophy animal just days shy of his 70th birthday.

Courtesy photo

Five days short of his 70th birthday last year, Bill Butler shot the biggest mule deer of his long hunting life.

That’s saying something for a guy who literally wrote the book on “The Versatile Trophy Hunter.”

“I’m getting old, but I’m still poking around,” he said.

His love for hunting started when he was just a boy. That was when he developed an “intense instinct and desire.”

“I’ve slacked off a bit as I’ve gotten older, but I still like to get a good animal,” he said.

As if to prove the fact, on Sept. 5 he shot the largest bull elk of his life, which green scored 352 gross and had a 54-inch main beam. He shot the 8×6 elk from a ground blind at 325 yards. He would have preferred to stalk the bull, but with so many other elk in the area, he had little choice.

Montana boy

Bill grew up in Silesia, Montana, hunting with his father, Jim Butler, as soon as he passed Hunter Education at age 12. A photo in his book shows him looking a little unhappy at that age. His father balances a rifle and his right foot on the bumper of a car while draping an arm around his son. An antelope’s leg can be seen sticking out of the trunk. Bill wears a Davy Crockett shirt in the photo, a figure idolized by the youngster in 1958.

“I wanted to wear a coonskin cap, hunt bears, be a real woodsman, and wander throughout the wilderness when I grew up,” Bill wrote in the photo caption.

And he did.

“Growing up through high school, my brothers and I hunted as intensely as young wolves, taking many deer and antelope,” Bill wrote. “Soon we were shooting the legal limit of two deer each. We had more than enough meat to eat at home and supplied several neighbors, also.”

+2  

Bill's big whitetail
While hunting in Saskatchewan, Butler found this big whitetail on Dec. 1, 2016. The buck gross scored 169.

Courtesy photo

Outfitting

After high school Bill started guiding hunters, including difficult backpacking trips for bighorn sheep in remote and lofty portions of the Beartooth Mountains. Just hiking to the locations would be a 15- to 20-mile trip, he said. The outings paid off in five bighorn sheep for him, in addition to those he guided clients to.

“I carried 120 pounds for two days one time when I guided for a hunter,” Bill said, packing out their camping gear and the hunter’s sheep. “Now I don’t have any cartilage between my discs in my lower back.”

After 20 years of guiding in Montana, he hung up his license in 1986. He was 40 years old, had a pickup he still owed $6,000 on and no money in the bank. Yet he quickly transitioned to a new adventure, marrying Diana Wolff. Together they bought 86 acres in Wyoming and opened a guest ranch and started raising bucking bulls for the rodeo circuit.

Diana, 12 years his junior, said it’s a family joke that a month after getting married Bill took off on his honeymoon — without her — to hunt in Alaska for four weeks.

“Hunting is in Bill’s blood,” she said. “I knew who he was when I married him.”

Instead of children, they’ve raised a lot of livestock and dogs. That’s now dwindled down to three horses, three longhorn steers and six dogs.

Hard knocks

Bill even rode bulls for a while, but over a lifetime of active living, the injuries have added up. He’s torn the meniscus in both knees, has a 4-inch titanium rod and shoulder ball because he had dislocated it so much. He still carries around part of a .22 bullet in his shin after he dropped his Ruger Bearcat pistol which discharged and shot him. Then in 2013 he suffered a massive stroke.

“I was given the ‘wonder drug’ tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) which saved my life and left me with no ill effects of a stroke,” he wrote in a text.

But Diana said the doctor warned her before prescribing the medicine that there was also a chance Bill could bleed to death when given the drug. Although he was paralyzed on his left side and couldn’t talk in a way that Diana and the doctor could understand him, he agreed to risk trying the drug.

“That’s no life, not for a guy like Bill,” Diana said of the possibility that he might be permanently paralyzed. “Afterward, he got to thinking about it and said it was like riding a bucking bull. You nod your head and you might die before the ride is over.”

While being treated for the stroke, his doctor told him there was evidence of a previous stroke and that he “could die any day of another one.”

“I would say he’s more reflective on his life now,” Diana said. “He’s probably paying a little bit more attention to the things he wants to do.”

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Biggest elk
Butler had been scouting elk prior to the season but this big bull showed up much later. The bull is the largest Butler has ever shot.

Courtesy photo

Back in the saddle

Such a blunt confrontation with his mortality prompted Bill to lose weight, take dietary supplements and begin a daily regimen of walking.

“I’ve been walking all my life,” he said. And he competed in track when in high school.

It was Bill’s youthful brush with track that prompted him to enter the Big Sky State Games. In the last four years he’s won 29 medals, five gold medals in 2017 and in July set the pole vault record for his 70 to 74 age class — 4-feet-9 inches.

Bill and Diana both took instruction from Cody high school track coach Scott Shaffer in June to get tuned up for this year’s event. The pole vaulters were the oldest he’d ever taught, yet they easily mixed with their teenage counterparts.

“When I first found out about it I was kind of expecting a little wiry guy,” Shaffer said. “But then I saw him and thought, ‘Oh my god, I hope it’s not him cause he’s a huge dude!’”

Bill is 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 241 pounds.

New goals

Just like his verve for hunting, Bill took to pole vaulting with the same determination.

“I’m fairly competitive too,” Diana said. “If Bill wants to do something, he does it to the Nth degree.”

“He wanted to do 50 jumps, I wanted him to do five,” Shaffer said. “He wanted to come back the next day, I wanted him to wait a week.”

But waiting or taking things easy just isn’t in Bill’s DNA, whether he’s raising bulls or hunting, everything is full tilt and all in.

“He’s not one of those guys sitting on the couch getting old and watching TV,” Shaffer said. “He’s going toe to toe with Father Time every day.”

Diana agreed. Even though she was hesitant about letting Bill drive 750 miles to Mexico for last year’s mule deer hunt, and also to drive north about the same distance to hunt whitetails, she said it wouldn’t have been fair to ask him not to go.

“I was very worried, but I don’t want him sitting here in the rocking chair and dying,” she said. “I know he’d be a lot happier dying out in nature.”

Bill doesn’t envision himself kicking the bucket anytime soon. Instead, he’s set his eyes on the prize of setting records in the Big Sky State Games track and field events when he’s 90.

“The more intense you hunt the better you do,” Bill said. “It’s the same with anything.”

How big game hunting is dividing southern Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High profile supporters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Majestic animals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hostile environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compensation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-poaching initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic impact

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

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

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

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

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

Letter in the NY Times re: Donald Trump Jr.’s Hunting

To the Editor:

According to news reports, Donald Trump Jr. spent Earth Day shooting prairie dogs in Montana. His guide was Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Congress and himself a hunting enthusiast. Prairie dogs are not killed to be eaten, but strictly for fun.

Fun? What’s wrong with these people? How can killing defenseless rodents in their natural habitat be seen as fun? This fact further underscores how pathetic and callous the Trump family is. C’mon, Don Jr., really?!

SCOTT CITRON, NEW YORK

Trump Junior’s plans for Saturday morning in Montana causing controversy

Apr 19, 2017 6:38 PM PDTUpdated: Apr 19, 2017 6:38 PM PDT

Trump Junior’s plans for Saturday morning in Montana causing controversy
BOZEMAN –We are learning more about Trump Junior’s plans for Saturday morning and it’s sparking some controversy with local environmentalists. The Ravalli Republic reported that Gianforte told a crowd in Hamilton Monday that he plans to take Donald Trump Jr. Out to shoot prairie dogs.

It’s important to note that shooting prairie dogs in Montana is completely legal, but at least one wildlife advocate says it is far from ethical.

Dave Pauli Senior Advisor for Wildlife Policy with the Humane Society of The United States said, “I was disappointed I guess that any national or international politician or celebrity would have the opportunity to come to Montana in the spring and their first choice of things they want to do is shoot prairie dogs.”

In a Facebook post posted on Wednesday, Pauli voiced his frustrations about the idea of Gianforte and Trump Jr. Spending their time in Montana shooting prairie dogs.

The Facebook post has garnered a lot of attention with more than 300 likes and 400 shares in just a few hours. And there are plenty of comments on both sides of the issue.

Ruth Gessler Farnsworth simply said, “Awful.”

While Jeremy Parish said, “totally legal and encouraged. Just like the coyote slaughter in most states.”

Shane Scanlon Communication Director for Greg Gianoforte says Ginaforte is proud to hunt in Montana. Scanlon released a statement saying…

“Hunting is a big part of gain forte’s life; he’s a sportsman and an outdoorsman and tries to get out when he can. He’s just looking to have a good time with Donald Trump Jr. and shooting some prairie dogs this weekend.”

Pauli says he’d rather see the duo hit a shooting range.

Trump Junior’s first appearance in Montana will be on Friday in Kalispell, from there he will visit Hamilton and close out his trip in Bozeman.

He’s attending several fundraisers for Gianforte who is running against Democrat Rob Quist for Montana’s lone congressional seat.

A detailed analysis of the Trump-Palin-Nugent-Kid Rock photo

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/politics/donald-trump-sarah-palin-kid-rock-ted-nugent/

Washington (CNN)Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as well as rock stars Kid Rock and Ted Nugent were at the White House on Wednesday night, dining with President Trump and snapping a few pics in the Oval Office. “Asked why I invited Kid Rock and Ted Nugent I joked, ‘Because Jesus was booked,'” Palin wrote on her website.

This photo was taken of the quartet:

It is, in a word, amazing. I spent a fair amount of time studying it — cue Twitter outrage; “Don’t you have anything better to do?????” — and I have a few thoughts.
Donald Trump: The President is, of course, talking. What is he talking about? Something on those papers he is holding up. I zoomed in until my eyes blurred to try to figure out what the papers on his desk say. No dice. Maybe you have better eyesight than me? Here’s the close-up:

The look on the president’s face says something like “See, now, isn’t this interesting” to me. Or maybe, “Then I figured out…”
Kid Rock: Robert James Ritchie — and, no, I didn’t know Kid Rock’s real name without looking it up — makes this whole photo for me. He’s the unquestioned star. First of all, the hat: A+. And then “The Thinker” pose: A+++++. Whatever is on those papers Trump is showing RJR, he finds it totally fascinating. In fact, I wish one day I could find something in life as interesting as Kid Rock finds what the President is saying.
Ted Nugent
: First off, I sort of respect the fact that The Nuge didn’t abandon his trademark camo cowboy hat even though he was going to the White House. You do you, Ted. When it comes to the rest, Nugent is the anithesis of Kid Rock. Whereas K. Rock is all attentiveness, Nugent looks more dutiful than anything else. “OK, this guy is the president. He’s talking about something. I am looking and acting interested.”
Sarah Palin: The angle from which this photo was taken makes Palin’s facial expression unknowable. Which makes me sad. But, given how good the rest of the photo is, I won’t get greedy.

87% of B.C. Grizzly Deaths Due to Trophy Hunting

https://www.desmog.ca/2017/04/12/87-b-c-grizzly-deaths-due-trophy-hunting-records-reveal?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=DSCWeekly&utm_campaign=April_13_2017

Grizzly bear trophy hunt

Eighty-seven per cent of known, human-caused grizzly bear deaths in B.C. are attributable to trophy hunters, who have killed 12,026 grizzly bears since the government began keeping records in 1975, according to data obtained by David Suzuki Foundation.*

In 2016, 274 grizzlies were killed by humans — the vast majority of which (235) were killed by trophy hunters.

B.C. currently sanctions a legal trophy hunt by both resident and foreign hunters. Non-resident hunters killed almost 30 per cent of the grizzlies in the 2016 hunt.

The trophy hunt has become a hot election issue with the NDP and Green Party vowing to end the hunt if elected. An Insights West survey conducted in the fall of 2016 found 91 percent of British Columbians are opposed to trophy hunting.

Meantime, Tweet: The @BCLiberals are the party of choice for international #trophyhunters http://bit.ly/2p7i3c2 #bcpoli #bcelxn17 #grizzlyhunt #BanBigMoneythe B.C. Liberals are the party of choice for international trophy hunters — who donated $60,000 to the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. to help prevent an NDP win.

The Canadian chapter of Safari Club International posted to Facebook: “NDP have vowed to end the Grizzly hunt in BC if elected. SCI chapters from CANADA and the USA banded together donating $60000.00 [sic].”

The Guide Outfitters lobby to continue trophy hunting, which attracts wealthy customers from around the world who pay as much as $20,000 for a hunt. The annual spring bear hunt began April 1.

Source: David Suzuki Foundation

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is a vocal supporter of the trophy hunting industry and a past winner of the Guide Outfitter association’s President’s Award.

B.C. has some of the weakest political donations rules in Canada, which allows anyone (including foreign corporations) to donate unlimited amounts of cash.

The New York Times recently called B.C. the ‘wild west’ of political cash and a Globe and Mail investigation revealed that lobbyists are routinely making political donations under their own names while being reimbursed by corporations — something that is illegal.

The B.C. NDP and B.C. Green Party have vowed to ban corporate and union donations if elected while the B.C. Liberals have promised to appoint a panel to review campaign finance rules if re-elected.

* Article updated to clarify data is based on known, human-caused grizzly bear deaths and does not include natural mortality (most of which is unknown).