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“Ever since we arrived on this planet as a species, we’ve cut them down, dug them up, burnt them and poisoned them. Today we are doing so on a greater scale than ever.” – Sir David Attenborough
I start my article with this quote not only out of respect to its author, climate change activist David Attenborough, but due to its succinct message.
This quote is so brilliant because it can be interpreted in so many ways. This quote encapsulates how we, as the human species, have affected every element of the earth’s circle of life through our insensitive desire to be at the top of the food chain.
The “them” can apply to anything: fossil fuels, wildlife, the ocean and, most importantly, the animals that we live side by side with.
In my eyes, I see this quote as a message to the world and its leaders on why trophy hunting (the act of killing a wild animal for sport) should not remain legal any longer.
Most people struggle to understand why hunters want to take life from such beautiful animals.
The statistics from a 2016 report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that 1.7 million hunting trophies were traded between nations between 2004 and 2014, of which 200,000 were endangered.”
Even though this data was collected a few years ago, it still highlights the ever increasing number of trophies being exported and traded, meaning more and more animals are being killed. Which I believe needs to stop.
There is an ongoing biodiversity crisis on our planet. Biodiversity refers to the variety of animals and life on earth and sadly this is ever decreasing. A statistic from CareOurEarth says that the current rate of global extinction is 100 times higher than the average over the last million years.
Serious action needs to take place in order to prevent any more of the Earth’s biodiversity from being lost- and this must start with change. Trophy hunting laws might be a good place to start.
Walter Palmer’s killing of Cecil made international news in 2015. It is estimated that hunting has led to the lion species’ gene pool shrinking by 15 percent in the space of 100 years.
This lion, Cecil, lived in Hwange National Park in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. On the 2nd July 2015, he was killed by American trophy hunter Walter Palmer. Cecil was allegedly lured out of his enclosure then shot with a bow and arrow and left there in extreme pain. Palmer then came back the next day to shoot the lion. On discovery that Palmer had a permit, making the murder legal, controversy arose. A petition was created to change laws on big game hunts in Zimbabwe.
There have been numerous cases where hunters have told journalists and news broadcasters that there is a conservation side to trophy hunting. Some argue that the land allocated for trophy hunting provides protection to species’ habitats and can benefit local communities with both employment and wildlife (when done correctly). Canned hunting in particular means the animals are bred and the species are saved from otherwise definite extinction in the wild.
And yet the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation found that that only 3% of hunting revenue went to causes such as helping communities. This tells us that there is only a minor contribution to communities and they are able to cope with or without the revenue brought in, even before any ethical considerations.
These so called acts of conservation make the wildlife into an economical asset, which does not solve the problem- rather, it endangers species by giving them an economic value that humans might seek out. The treatment of species which are not yet endangered as assets to be collected or traded will surely lead them to the same fate as those already under threat.
Fortunately, there are wildlife conservation examples to be seen, mainly in Africa, which help preserve suffering species from game hunting. An example is The Makalali Game Reserve ,which is one of South Africa’s private reserves. Their aim is to counteract illegal hunting and wildlife trade by game hunters preying on critically endangered animals. The conservation area gives shelter to the animals known as ‘The Big 5’: lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos.
Elephants are in the top five most sought after animals for trophy hunters.
These animals are the most likely to be hunted due to their distinctive features; whether that is tusks from an elephant or a fur coat from a leopard- these are financial opportunities to hunters, who will either illegally or legally sell these items as commodities, or keep them for their own display.
The ban of trophies being imported to the UK through new laws has seen improvement, and is expected to dis-incentivise hunters who can no longer bring their trophies home. This is a glint of hope but there is a lot that still needs to be done.
I end this article with yet another quote by Sir David for the younger generation to ponder on.
“Cherish the natural world, because you are a part of it and you depend on it.”
Feature lion image © Kevin Pluck via Wikimedia Commons
Cecil the lion picture via Wikimedia Commons © Daughter#3
Antelope in the grass © Stevepb via Wikimedia Commons
Elephants picture © Benh Lieu Song via Wikimedia Commons