- Posted September 12, 2013 by
San Antonio, Texas
Does Conservation mean to conserve habitat and only select species meant for human consumption?
Does the conservation of natural habitat and only select wildlife species with the intent to hunt them, for the recreation of hunters, carry out the intent of conservation? Does our current model and policy address the meaning of conservation?
The North American Model of Conservation has admittedly evolved to become preservation of wildlife primarily for the consumption and use of humans. It does not prioritize animal rights, the intrinsic value of animal species, or the indigenous order of the ecosystem.
Ideas of Teddy Roosevelt, a traditional hunter, and John Muir, a pioneer environmentalist, naturalist and advocate of wilderness preservation, with others, affect what we think is conservation. Roosevelt initiated programs that use revenue from recreational hunting to minimize the damage to wildlife habitat as he saw rapid expansion of industry in his era. He viewed the world as a hunter. Muir spent time speaking with President Roosevelt, to spread the idea of appreciating the intrinsic value of wildlife and the balance of nature. He stressed that we are only a humble part of nature. When we now say the word conservation, we are not all hearing the same understanding of the word.
During trophy hunting, there is a cultural and psychological trauma that Indigenous people experience when animals considered sacred are slaughtered for the sport of hunters, a concept that is foreign and repugnant to many Indigenous peoples. Does trophy hunting add any real value to those communities if they are given money after the killing of their animals? A number of recent studies say no, that ecotourism can and is bringing in more money than hunting in many areas. These studies show data that where hunting continues in both Africa and the United States, endangered species decline much more rapidly than where there is no hunting. The communities express indignation and continue to ask trophy hunters to leave.
In the past, with the intent to prevent total devastation of habitat due to human expansion, there has been compromise from the WWF, Sierra Club and others to allow money from trophy hunting as a solution to keep wildlife viable. The black rhino, the lion, clouded leopard, and the elephant are all in danger of extinction in the near future or have become extinct in areas where hunting takes place. The Humane Society and other international studies shed doubt that communities see much if any money from trophy hunting. In areas severely impoverished, the temptation to accept compromise for a large fee is a factor in decisions that are being made. Large hunting organizations have large capital that they can promise for the quid pro quo of extending the hunt, despite the known devastating consequences.
Tourism attraction to these wildlife preserves from Africa to Yellowstone Park can bring in large amounts of money to sustain wildlife, through photo safaris and other public events. They cannot accomplish this in an atmosphere of violence, where the public grows to love and respect the animals who are then gunned down by trophy hunters and poachers masked by trophy hunting. The wildlife observers and the animals are traumatized by this violence.
Some modern trophy hunters say that hunting is a way of life, and that they are merely following in the footsteps of Native people. To speak to that..
Traditional Native cultures were and are very explicit in the sacred understanding that “you never take more than you need”. Trophy hunting is not intended for survival, it is recreation from killing animals. There now exists an extreme faction of trophy hunters who are publicly violent, and have been using threats and racial epithets towards Native groups. The same words used now to fire up for the hunt and slaughter of animals considered sacred, including wolves, coyotes, even horses, were used not very long ago used to talk about slaughtering Native people. The KKK has been referenced. These words are not forgotten by Native and other people, they are just not repeated out loud in a world that is trying to move forward, except evidently by these hunters. "The only good one is a dead one", "because I can", "I'm the apex now", etc. This has nothing to do with living in Harmony, walking in Beauty, or learning the Medicine of each animal.
Traditional hunters say that they would only kill for food or self-defense, which was the custom in a time where people really did live from the land. On asking more questions, it is likely that traditional hunters may be less than 5-10% of today’s hunters in today's world. What is common is recreational trophy hunting and making a living by slaughtering large numbers of animals for their pelts, whether endangered or not. Poaching is occurring and poaching laws need to be enforced. Rarely is self-defense a realistic justification to harm wolves. It is not likely that a wolf would attack a human but more likely livestock if hungry. Livestock deaths from predators occur in very small numbers compared to farm conditions including respiratory illness and infections. In these cases, non-lethal means of management are easily available, and believed by many wildlife experts to be more effective, as they do not interrupt pack structure causing more panic and confusion to the animals.
We need to reevaluate our perception of our wildlife and what we need to do to become true caretakers, and true conservationists.
Gifford, John C. (1945). Living by the Land. Coral Gables, Florida: Glade House. p. 8. ASIN B0006EUXGQ.
Turner, James Morton, "The Specter of Environmentalism": Wilderness, Environmental Politics, and the Evolution of the New Right. The Journal of American History 96.1 (2009): 123-47 online at History Cooperative
“Livestock Losses” Wild Earth Guardians, (2011) http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/PageServer?pagename=priorities_wildlife_war_wildlife_livestock_losses “Self-reported cattle deaths reveal minor losses to predators”, Defenders of Wildlife (February 2012)
Flocken, Jeffrey, “When it comes to trophy hunting, rural African communities don’t get the gold”, International Fund for Animal Welfare (Jun18, 2013) http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/news/when-it-comes-trophy-hunting-rural-african-communities-don%E2%80%99t-get-gold
Economists at Large, 2013, The $200 million question: How much does trophy hunting really, contribute to African communities? a report for the African Lion Coalition prepared by Economists at Large, Melbourne, Australia, http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/Ecolarge-2013-200m-question.pdfis