An interesting article was recently posted on the Kenyan based African Wildlife Foundation’s (AWF) website entitled: “Trophy hunting not an option to finance conservation in Africa” The article makes reference to the recent, legal safari hunting of a male lion in Zimbabwe in the Ngamo-Sikumi State Forestry block. This hunting concession borders the Hwange National Park, is 420 000 acres in extent and gets one lion on quota a year. Briefly here’s what happened on the hunt according to the Zimbabwean Professional Hunters Association’s press release:
- 14 kilometers outside of Hwange National Park tracks of a big male lion were picked up and followed by the professional hunter and client.
- After tracking for 7 kilometers the lion was spotted and the hunters were able to get a good look at it before it disappeared into the long grass. They noted that it had a GPS collar.
- The park researchers were contacted. They told the hunters that they knew of the lion and that it’s age was around 6 ½ years, well within the legal hunting age.
- The lion had been ousted from it’s pride by a coalition and was now extensively traveling outside the park. It had no dependent cubs. The hunters were told that it was the correct lion to harvest. It is not illegal to shoot a collared lion in Zimbabwe as the collaring of a lion is for research alone and not protection, as is the case for elephant.
- After the lion had been shot the collar was returned to the researchers along with mane hair and blood and tissue samples.
So no news here, nothing controversial except that the lion was “Xanda” who we all (now) know is “Cecil the Lion’s” son. The Cecil saga was a fantastic money spinner for the animal rights groups, so never to let a crisis go to waste, time to cash in again.
In the AWF article Kaddu Sebunya, AWF President trots out the usual anti’s drivel about banning sport-hunting and any trade in wildlife products and that other non-consumptive means be put in place to replace the revenue earned from hunting. He contends that Africa must not rely on the killing of “rare” species to finance conservation and calls on the conservation community, institutions, and governments to increase investment in alternative financing to support programs such as relocation, eco-tourism development, and securing space for these species to thrive.
But then he contradicts himself in saying that the presence of lions signifies a healthy ecosystem with prey species and symbolizes conservation success. This is a pretty good description of Hwange National Park and surrounds where the lion population is just about at carrying capacity. In closing he goes on to say that as an Africa-based organization (whose headquarters are in Washington DC) they have a deep appreciation of the cultural and economic value that lions and other rare and iconic species play in a modern Africa. They expect that their interpretation of how to realize an economic value be taken as gospel, everyone else be damned.
The one thing that you can’t help but notice on the website is the donate button with a cute little heart sign. This is the only motive for the AWF’s concern for “Xanda”. Their Facebook following stands at around 1.2 million, a substantial pool in which to trawl for funding. In the comments section below the article’s posting there is the normal hate speech towards hunters, how trophy hunting is fueling poaching, how they would like to hunt down the hunters etc. etc.
The name and address of the professional hunter is also publicized resulting in his wife receiving death threats. Social media is notorious for its lack of decorum, it is easy to insult and threaten from behind a keyboard, but one would have thought that the AWF would insist on a level of decency on their Facebook page to maintain some level of professionalism. Could it be that it is much easier to raise money when your subjects are all frothing at the mouth?
Kaddu Sebunya’s call to ban safari hunting is reckless and he probably knows it. He also knows that donations alone could never support the wilderness areas that are presently supported through safari hunting. This is irrelevant to him and the AWF. Raising money for the foundation is the goal. The real problem is that this no longer shocks us. We have become impervious; no-one is holding the anti-hunters accountable for their dangerous shenanigans.
It is perhaps ironic that the AWF, formally know as the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, was founded by hunters. One wonders what Russell Train, Nick Arundel, Kermit Roosevelt, James Bugg and Maurice Stans, all members of the Washington Safari Club, would have made of the Cecil and Xanda debacle.