Those are not my words. They were published recently by two of the most respected South African conservationists alive today, Bev Pervan and Chris Mercer.
Big game hunting as a useful conservation tool in Africa, in my opinion, has run its course. In my 40-year career I have mostly defended hunting though never hunted myself, but I’ve changed my mind. Its use as a conservation tool is no longer viable.
To many people, probably to the majority of people, hunting worldwide from everything as tiny as pygmy ducks to Africa’s elephants is considered a sport, and a rightful one at that. I suppose the genesis if not historically at least of the idea is that vermin threatened home and livestock, ranchers shot vermin to protect themselves and skill cured by professionalism became sport.
I just finished again reading my first edition copy of TR’s “African Game Trails.” I read it for the between-the-lines insight to the man and the times, because the tome is literally otherwise nothing but a journal of what big game animal he killed where and how.
But so much has changed since Teddy’s time, and in fact, so much has changed just during my own life time, that I think we need to rethink hunting altogether.
First, the manhood and physical fitness of the accomplished sportsman in day’s past has been replaced by rich, fat-bellied voyeurs. No one goes to Africa – indeed, no one goes out to the Wisconsin woods – to hunt to prove their manhood or physical stateliness.
Manhood is reached today by mastering the IRS website, not by tuning your Chevy’s carburetor.
Physical fitness is available at every corner gym, the increased running trails and sports centers and by such simple things as watching your diet.
The skill of a good sportsman comes not from being able to down a ten-pointer at 200 yards but from navigating Class V rapids or scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro. The technology has advanced so ridiculously since TR’s times, that “shooting” is little more than telling Siri to kill it.
I fully expect a barrage of hunters to protest otherwise. And to be sure, the tracking aspect of hunting remains a wilderness skill that takes concentration to learn and time to master. But the ultimate killing of the animal today is little more than abject waste.
It’s why, guys, we do catch-and-release. Try that with a lion.
And where Ducks Unlimited was once a champion for conservation, it and other organizations like it are no more.
The non-hunting so-called “conservation programs” by organizations like Ducks Unlimited today are too little, too late, meager attempts at white-washing.
It didn’t use to be like that, here or in Africa.
But it is, now, and my next several blogs will examine these issues about hunting more carefully. And by refusing to confront these issues, we endanger not just “sport hunting” but the wild in whole:
“Lions have become alternative livestock,” Mercer writes. “Trophy hunters and useless … conservationists have allowed the ‘wild’ to be taken out of our wildlife.”