Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI dispels trophy hunting claims

Posted: 23 September 2016. Updated: 23 September 2016

On 23rd September 2016, Sky News broadcast footage of an American trophy hunter killing an elephant in Namibia under the headline ‘We do it because we love them’.

After four days of tracking down the herd, the hunters single out an “old bull” with one tusk, a “drawback for the client”. The hunters shot the bull twice, and he suffered for four hours while the hunters tracked him down. It took seven shots to kill the animal and as the majestic animal convulsed on the ground the laughing hunters high-fived (image below). Moments later the professional hunter who led the expedition cried crocodile tears and claimed “We do it because we love them”.

Various unsubstantiated claims were made about the benefits of trophy hunting to conservation. These were debunked in some broadcasts by interviews with ADI President Jan Creamer and others, but sadly a completely unbalanced report appears online with a series of myths uncontested.

Hunters’ myth: The aim is to kill the animal with one bullet - a quick death, with little suffering.

ADI fact: These hunters were operating in optimum conditions, shooting a stationary animal, yet they failed to kill him. The wounded elephant struggled on for four hours and finally succumbed after a total of nine shots. His death was slow and painful; he would have been extremely distressed. Many animals killed by trophy hunting experience this – after being injured with a bow and arrow, Cecil the lion suffered for 40 hours.

Hunters’ myth: Trophy hunting helps reduce poaching.

ADI fact: The level of elephant poaching in Namibia has increased since 2011. Rather than reduce illicit slaughter, trophy hunting provides cover for and thus encourages poaching. Local ivory markets create a significant opportunity for the laundering of illegal ivory under the guise of legality; it muddies oversight and complicates already difficult enforcement.

It reduces respect for wildlife. Why shouldn’t hungry Africans hunt endangered species for bushmeat or sell their tusks for money if these animals are up for sale to wealthy tourists to shoot just for fun? Hunting encourages the belief that animals are a disposable commodity of no intrinsic value.

Encouraging the killing of elephants as entertainment for wealthy tourists cannot move us to a position where we recognise the abhorrence of owning ivory, so demand will remain, only to increase as the species nears extinction.

Hunters’ myth: Hunting helps conserve wild elephant populations.

ADI fact: Hunting has not helped elephant conservation. Elephants have roamed this earth for millions of years, and only began their precipitous decline in their interactions with man. Forty years ago, there were one million elephants. The 2016 Great Elephant Census, the most comprehensive population study to date, revealed savannah elephant populations are much worse than estimated – numbering 352,271 individuals, having crashed 30 percent in just seven years (between 2007-2014). Fewer than 100,000 forest elephants remain. As keystone species, forest elephants and savannah elephants each play their own particular roles to serve their respective ecosystems.

It’s true that poaching is the primary cause of their currently devastating decline - 8 percent per year – which occurs faster than their birth rate. It’s also true, according to both the science and experience over these last decades with legal ivory trade (and tiger farming), that legal trade (such as that with hunting trophies) incentivizes poaching.

The removal of individual elephants from a herd causes the herd left behind to experience long-term social disturbances; lasting decades according to some studies. Trophy hunters and poachers aim for older elephants’ prized large tusks, removing patriarchs and so impact entire herds for many years.

Hunters’ myth: Income from trophy hunting benefits local communities.

ADI fact: Communities in areas where trophy hunting takes place receive very little benefit from the companies who facilitate this cruel trade; only 3% of income reaches local people. Trophy hunters are a wealthy minority and the money they spend goes to a select few. Elephants are worth more alive; sustainable ecotourism offers local communities self-sustaining, self-directed economies, not those dominated and benefitting primarily foreign interests.

Hunters’ myth: Trophy hunting brings money into the country.

ADI fact: Trophy hunting contributes at best just a fraction of a percent to a country’s GDP and only 1.8% of tourism revenues. This is in stark contrast to the significant role nature based tourism has in national development. Wildlife tourism benefits far more people and boosts national economies. There are negative effects too; the very people who are attracted to see wildlife in vast numbers will increasingly be deterred from visiting countries as they gain a reputation for encouraging hunting.

There is also information in ADI’s submission to the USFWS on trophy hunting.

The sky news trophy hunting report can be viewed here – warning contains disturbing images


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