For those trapped in a more literal state of mind, I’ll just go on record here at the beginning that my recommendations at the end are intended to be satirical, …at least to a degree.
There is a lot of news exposure these days regarding a Texas hunter who successfully bid on a permit to hunt and kill a black rhino in Namibia. The proceeds from the permit will go to help fund the conservation efforts and the fight against poachers who are threatening this endangered species. There has been a lot of controversy over the paradox of killing one animal in order to supposedly save others.
My first thought (and don’t judge too quickly) is that the reasoning behind this auction and calculated hunt is perfectly sound. Culling certain animals from a herd can promote the survival of the others, and in this case they are promising to target an older, non-breeding rhino, which are known to sometimes attack younger rhinos. From a purely rational point of view, it makes sense as the hunt will not really impact the overall survival of the species, could feasibly improve it and will supply funding for the conservation effort (or at least that’s what we’re told).
I’m familiar with the organization to which the winning hunter belongs in Texas, having had some contact with them here in Canada. Safari Club International is an organization which promotes hunting.
Now, there are two kinds of hunting. There are the deer, moose and turkey hunters that get their local tags and go out hunting during the right season. I have no difficulty with these hunters as long as they play by the rules, which they usually do. These hunters usually use the animals they bag, butchering the meat. There’s a great book called From Boys To Men of Heart, by R.L. Eaton, which talks about hunting as a rite of passage and which makes a compelling argument for hunting as a way to relate to and connect with nature. Anybody with a knee-jerk negative reaction to hunting really owes it to themselves to check this out before being too assertive in their opinion.
The second type of hunting is the big game, trophy hunting. These are the hunters who take the expensive trips to hunt more exotic animals, sometimes even top carnivores like wolves or big cats. This is a type of “sport” hunting that I’m more ambivalent about. I’m not sure where my ambivalence comes from and what rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it is the fact that the animal is killed primarily so that the head can be mounted on a wall. Perhaps it is the fact that I don’t see the challenge in shooting a rhino, for example, from a jeep with a high powered rifle and a telescopic sight.
The hunters of Safari Club International, and the Texas branch of that club, are heavily involved in both types of hunting. The brief video footage of their Texas conference or dinner shows dozens of works of taxidermy surrounding the hall in which the event and the auction took place. I attended one such function here in Toronto and saw the same thing. Trophies are important. The hunters in this club are fine people, some of whom were friends and acquaintances. There is no doubt that they have an attitude towards hunting and guns that a lot of people would have some trouble understanding. The pride in their sport and the sense of pleasure and achievement in hunting down a large animal, killing it, and then mounting it for display, is a passion. It is easy to criticize, and I was critical of some things, but they take their sport very seriously and approach it with a great deal of integrity in their own way. There is definitely a “hunting mind set” involved.
I think the criticism of the black rhino hunt is not primarily based on a reasonable analysis of the situation, but rather by other factors, which I can understand. It seems a poor example to others to hunt an endangered species. In fact I would be willing to bet that many of the critics would simply be opposed to big game hunting in general, whether or not it were an endangered species. It is not hard to understand why someone would be opposed to killing for sport.
But if one does enjoy killing for sport, and that seems to be the attitude of the big game hunters, perhaps that opens the door for an alternative solution to the black rhino problem. Instead of offering a permit to hunt old rhinos, perhaps the government of Namibia should be offering permits to hunt the poachers. What could be more exciting than hunting and bagging a human being, …although the trophy in your living room might be awkward. I am absolutely certain that such permits would go for a huge sum, yielding a nice financial boost for the conservation effort. Hunting prey that might actually shoot back at you would be electrifying and add to the hunting experience.
And it might solve the poaching problem.