Although the public has, for the most part, focused on the loss of life at the hands of a foreign hunter, Cecil’s death has ignited a debate about the topic of nature conservation. When viewed in a more objective light, and when focusing on pure statistics, trophy hunting has proven itself to be a good method of animal conservation, especially for vulnerable species.
In an interview with Dempsey Bayly, a fourth-year marketing student at UP and qualified professional hunter, he said that, “You can hunt an animal, and by hunting animals you make more animals.” He explained that every animal has a value placed on it. Farmers who allow hunters to kill their game make money by doing so, thus they have incentive to keep up their animals’ numbers. This in turn contributes toward conservation as more animals are bred to ensure income. Farmers also stick to a quota to ensure the species remains at a stable level. Bayly said that, “Banning hunting takes away the value from animals, which leads to farmers replacing their game and farming something else, causing the wild ecosystem to collapse and disappear.”
A statement by Rosie Cooney, who chairs the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, said that, “Bans on trophy hunting in Tanzania (1973-1978), Kenya (1977) and Zambia (2000-2003) accelerated a rapid loss of wildlife due to the removal of incentives for conservation. Early anecdotal reports suggest this may already be happening in Botswana, who banned all hunting last year.”
The number of Southern White Rhinos increased from a mere 100, after hunters almost wiped them out in the early 1900s, to 20 000 at present. This bears testament to the fact that trophy hunting does play a role in nature conservation, if done responsibly.
The problem, however, is how to manage the selling of permits and making sure that hunting is done responsibly. In an article written by Laura Geggel titled “Cecil the lion: do paid hunting permits help save wildlife?”, Kathleen Garrigan, a spokesperson for the African Wildlife Foundation, said that, “Sport hunting fees can help sustain animal conservation if the species being hunted aren’t facing extraordinary threats, and if the government or other permit-granting organisations are transparent about how they spend the money on conservation. But all too often, the hunted animals are threatened and many governments don’t enforce sport-hunting regulations or offer transparency about how the money is spent.”
The debate sparked by Cecil’s death has brought a range of views to the table. While many have viewed his death as a tragedy, not everyone feels that the attention given to the story was worthwhile. When asked a question about Cecil’s death, Zimbabwean information minister Prisca Mupfumira responded “What lion?”, according to an Eyewitness News article. Instead, Zimbabwe seized the opportunity to highlight the fact that there are more pressing issues facing their country which are more newsworthy than the death of an animal.
The response to the death of a single lion has been incredible and the conversations surrounding it varied. Although it is easy to take a step back and look at the grand scheme of things, where statistics rule the roost and give clean-cut answers, those who take a more subjective stance have zoomed in on the topic and highlighted the nasty side to hunting that few seem to like – the fact that a human is taking the life of another living creature. Many do not see hunting as fair, because no animal stands a chance against a hunter with a high powered weapon, and many times hunters do not make a clean shot, causing the animal to die a slow and painful death. According to an article titled “Hunting- the murderous business” on the In Defence of Animals website, “Quick kills are rare, and many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them. Some hunting groups promote shooting animals in the face or in the gut, which is a horrifically painful way to die.” Bayly did say that it is a reality that some animals are not killed straight away, but he emphasised that on certain hunts, professional hunters do walk with their client throughout the hunt and back them up of they do not make a clean shot. He said that professional and normal hunters “practise and study shot placement so they can end the animal’s life quickly and efficiently”, and that it is a “professional hunter’s responsibility to finish the job”. Others argue that trophy hunting serves no purpose other than entertainment and that it is unfair to kill an animal if it will not sustain the life of another being.
What has become apparent is a showing of selective humanitarianism by many. As Bayly says, “You cannot place more value on a lion than a fish. Value is attached to every animal so you have to view them on a level playing field.”