Sep 27

The Trophy Hunters Strike Back

In Brief—As a result of the recent illegal killing of Cecil the lion, animal conservation groups, several American states and some international airlines have made moves to stop trophy hunting. Now trophy hunting organizations and interested African nations are attempting to stop the animal preservation efforts.


Follow the Money—

Cecil and mate

Cecil and mate

On August 30, I published a blog piece detailing the illegal killing of Cecil the protected and much-loved lion. Cecil was lured out of the Hwange Park preserve and killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer who is now being sought by Zimbabwe’s government on poaching charges. The United States government is studiously ignoring Zimbabwe, and trophy hunter Palmer has returned to his dental practice.

On September 12, the New York Times prominently featured an article credulously written by Norimitsu Onishi titled “A Hunting Ban Saps a Village’s Livelihood.” Emotionally-loaded verbiage told readers about the sad state of affairs in the village of Sankuyo, Botswana, since a ban on trophy hunting went into effect. The villagers complain that now they are at the mercy of rampaging lions and elephants even as their income has ceased. Before the ban, their standard of living rose. Toilets could now be installed. Today they are suffering without the money trophy hunting provided. The counter-attack has started.

The propagandistic arguments invite, indeed, demand honest rebuttal. For a more complete discussion, I urge you to read “The Lion, the Hunter and Human Nature.” This piece addresses the flawed claims made in the Times article.

Lions and elephants now “raid” the village to such an extent that the animals are no longer welcome. Imagine that! As if it just started and hinged on trophy hunting. A map of the shrinkage of wild animal territory over the past century is both shocking and revealing. The too often grossly corrupt African governments have whittled away more than 95% of the animals’ territory. Poor villages have sprung up on land assigned by the governments. Roaming animals like lions, elephants and other threatened animals find themselves condemned to exist within tiny islands of territory, but their roaming remains a necessity for survival.

Palmer and Dead Animals He's Killed.

Palmer and Dead Animals He’s Killed.

Wealthy trophy hunters like Palmer pay perhaps as much as $50,000 for their trophy, but they bring in a modest amount to the local economy. Of this amount, less than 5% goes to the poor people most in need while the hunt organizer gets a large chunk of the income. The overwhelming lions’ share (pun intended) goes to the corrupt government of the country and often winds up in Swiss bank accounts. The poor people may get a pastel-colored toilet.

A government spokesperson whose paycheck depends on supporting the government line tells us that only the weak and old animals are permitted to be killed. If you believe that, I have a bridge I want to sell you. As a trophy hunter, do you want bragging rights to a weak, old animal on your den wall or a big, healthy one?

While the animals are forced to exist in ever-smaller ranges, the government urges the poor people to move into land that once was part of the animals’ range. Unfortunately, the animals don’t count, but they still need to eat and have access to water.

What happens to the money that should improve the lives of the country’s citizens? The criminal president of Sudan, corrupt politicians and the leeches who are part of the always-present patronage system live in luxury and often have their nest eggs resting in Swiss vaults. The poor have to subsist on their little plots and maybe enjoy a pastel toilet. Think I am exaggerating? Google “African corruption” and prepare yourself for reality.

The capper is that the trophy hunters and government toadies wrap themselves in the “conservationist” mantle and have the brass to say that were it not for killing animals—strictly limited to the old and infirm, of course—the animals would cease to exist. Forget the experts and the REAL conservationists who deplore the slaughter. As I said before, the hollow claim made by the hunting supporters is reminiscent of the American military’s infamous Vietnamese motto, “We had to burn the village to save it.”


The Times should hang its head in shame for the trophy hunting propaganda and stick to journalism. Yes, without a question we should ban the so-called “sport” of trophy hunting. The citizens of Botswana and other African countries must demand that their leaders provide for the people of the country. And the animals should be left alive and in peace.


Skip to comment form

  1. The phrase “stop the killing” rings true in so many contexts, and this certainly is one.

      • Don Bay on September 28, 2015 at 15:49

      Somehow I suspect that the fate of other species is closely linked to the fate of the human species. Certainly Cecil’s death is a message to all of us: stop the killing! The big question is…Is anybody listening?

    • Donna on October 5, 2015 at 00:43

    I hope you sent your comments to the NYT. – good comments about animal territory, location of villages and corrupt governments.

      • Don Bay on October 5, 2015 at 15:27

      Nope, unfortunately I didn’t send my comments to the Times, but I hope they saw them anyhow because I listed the Times in my tags at the end of the piece.

      Though it doesn’t show, I am outraged by the fact that the animals are a tiny afterthought of the corrupt African hierarchies and the hunters. I am genuinely grieved by the thought that so many of these animals will be the last of their kind in the world’s zoos rather than on the land where they belong.

Comments have been disabled.