|JAN AND CONSERVATION||
I am not a hunter. But I am a naturalist, and I am also a realist and pragmatist. I love wildlife and wild places. I want them to remain forever for future generations. I can see the forest for the trees.
What I have learned and know to be the
truth is that sustainable, regulated hunting is not the problem
- habitat lose, wildlife/human conflict and poaching are what
is the danger to wildlife, particularly in Africa. And in fact,
hunting, hunters, and hunting organizations are the only thing
that has any chance of saving Africas wildlife.
The one thing that everyone has to agree on is that there are too many human beings for our planet to keep supporting, and that number is growing at an alarming rate. But no one anywhere wants to talk about it. What it means is that there is now less and less area for wildlife. That is the reality. They do not have areas they use to so that they can disperse or migrate. There are few corridors that allow them to get from one wild area to another, and the areas of habitat set aside for wildlife is shrinking daily.
Animals breed. Habitats can only sustain a finite amount of animals. Do the math. So, what does this mean? Well, if the habitat is completely balanced as nature intended, and there is no interference from man, then natural predators will keep down the number of animals. But we are back to the last paragraph. Man has interfered already. We have built towns, villages, farms right up to the edges of animal habitats. So. . . unless we want animals to overgraze and destroy the ecosystems resulting in it supporting NOTHING then there has to be wildlife management.
Wildlife management takes many forms. And sustainable, regulated hunting is one of those forms.
The model of hunting for conservation is a sound one. It has been proven time and again as not only keeping animal numbers in check for the habitat to sustain them but in many cases increasing the populations of animals. In the United States animals were killed indiscriminately in the 1800s until many were near extinction. Finally people started to notice and began forming groups to push for and get enacting hunting laws and regulations.
When I was young my parents were neither outdoors people nor artists, but they allowed me to be who I was and encouraged me in both my art and my desire to understand natural history. There was an old curmudgeon who lived up the street. He was a retired zoology professor. My parents told me about him, and his odd collection of things, and so I would ring his doorbell constantly asking to see his collections. He finally let me in, and it opened the door of my imagination and has set me seeking answers to my constant questions about nature. He had bones. He had rocks. He had eggs. He had skins and whole skeletons. I dont think we talked much I dont remember anyway, but I remember the rooms full of the most fascinating objects I had ever seen that has stayed with me my whole life and has driven me in my thirst for knowledge about nature and wildlife and love of painting it.
Fast forward to me starting my career as a wildlife artist. I was set up at an outdoor art festival and a man and his wife came in. He purchased some work and then invited me to his house. I was instantly transported back to that time as young girl. His house was filled with mostly mounted ducks, but also many other things. He was a hunter.
And we talked. For hours and hours. He talked to me about hunting and conservation. He opened my eyes as his reasoning was rational and sound. We talked a lot about DUCKS UNLIMITED and what they had done to bring about the ducks and geese that were almost completely gone in the 1800s.
DU became instrumental in creating sound biology in which scientists watch yearly the number of specific species of ducks and geese that are hatched and set quotas for what can be killed. Most ducks and geese breed in Canada and then migrate through the U.S. Now hunters must purchase licenses for hunting, and special stamps and permits. These licenses and permits create billions of dollars in revenue yearly. This money goes into individual state wildlife departments for conservation.
And heres what really got me. The waterfowl breed in what are called potholes in Canada. These are bodies of water and, unfortunately, are found in areas where the soil is rich. Which means farming. Which means farmers were filling in the potholes. So even though the unregulated hunting had stopped the number of geese and ducks was still down. Well, DU through its membership and yearly fund raising events now PAYS the farmers not to fill in those potholes. The effect? The skies are filled with migrating waterfowl once again. Do I as a non hunter care that the purpose of DU is to have more ducks to hunt? No. Because what I care about is that there ARE ducks and geese. . . . oh . . . and lets not forgot the other wildlife that utilizes those potholes deer, eagles, egrets, herons, beavers etc. etc. etc. etc. SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES.
It opened my eyes to what hunters and
hunting do. I became a member of DU and went out for several
years with our DU chapter working with the Oklahoma Department
of Wildlife, capturing, banding and sexing Canada geese, so that
the biologists knew how the population was doing, so limits on
hunting could be set, and habitat preservation could be maintained.
I saw hunters, on the ground, working to help save wildlife.
And then I learned about other hunting organizations. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation and yes Dallas Safari Club and Safari Club international (these two groups are not affiliated as many people think). I learned these groups do the same kinds of things that DU does raising money through hunting and hunters to maintain and sustain wildlife around the world.
I have and do work with non hunting groups
Audubon Society, National Wildlife Foundation, African
Wildlife Foundation (I raised over $10,000 in one night at an
art exhibition in New York one year for them). I donated an original
painting last year to our local Audubon Society to raise money
for Prairie Chicken habitat.
But my husband James and I got really involved in the last several years working with hunters and hunting organizations because we saw literally and quite frankly their putting their money where their mouths are. What we PERSONALLY saw, both on the ground and at conventions, was hunters donating time, sweat equity and money to save wildlife. Its back to those facts of what I learned early hunters and hunting bring in more money for habitat and wildlife preservation than any other source. It is not only facts which are easily found on the internet if one wants to take the time to look but I HAVE PERSONALLY SEEN IT.
So, lets talk about Africa. The hot button.
First let me say that the illusion that multitudes of rich people jump on planes with their guns and come to Africa and just go wherever they want and indiscriminately kill whatever they want is completely untrue. And frankly ridiculous. Number one, it is VERY expensive, so there are limited numbers of hunters who can afford to come hunt Africa; in fact many save their whole life for one hunt to Africa. They hunt with a professional hunter (called a PH who goes through rigorous training) and game scouts that are assigned to them by the country they are hunting in. They have to buy tags for the species they want to hunt, and there can be stacks of paperwork that is done prior to coming depending on what they hunt. (Biologists in the country, plus international groups such as U.S. FISH AND GAME and CITES help make those decisions). The costs are sometimes astronomical.
Let me tell you a story. It is a bit long bear with me but you wanted to know why I support hunting, and this story of our conservation work in Zambia is extremely important.
The first thing we saw, as our bush plane
that was carrying us and four hunters, as we came into the remote
bush, was people coming from all directions, on foot or riding
bikes, carrying babies on their backs, children holding hands
all running to the airstrip where we were landing.
I have been to 5 countries in Africa a total of 18 times. I have
seen people meet bush planes, but they always had beads or baskets
to sell. These people had nothing. And there were at least 50
if not more people. As we stood waiting for our vehicle to arrive
to take us to camp, I asked the pilot why they were there. He
said, They have come to see the people that will bring
I was seeing what I had known and heard. That when a hunter comes to Africa, yes, he wants a trophy for his wall again FOREST FOR THE TREES but the meat from the animals he kills goes to the people in the area. This is a very important thing for these people. In many remote areas of Africa they can not raise goats or cattle for meat because of tsetse flies spreading African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness). The little protein that they get is from a few chickens and fish. They are not allowed to kill the game that is poaching (whether it is fair that a white man can pay to come kill an animal and a villager is not is fodder for another discussion). Any indiscriminate killing of animals that have not been paid for is poaching. This has to be enforced, or the wildlife would be decimated not just because of people taking a buck for the pot but killing in large numbers to sell on the black market.
What we were there for was that the rangers
were in desperate need of clean safe drinking water. They were
currently using water from the river which could be poisoned
either accidentally or on purpose by cholera outbreak upstream,
or more disturbingly by poachers trying to get to the black rhino.
I was going to paint a painting worth $30,000 and use it to raise
the money for the five ranger stations to be able to get boreholes
which are covered, mechanized water wells -- so the rangers
could have this safe water.
One of the reasons that the project has been so successful is the wildlife management areas (WMAs) that surround the park. These act as buffer zones, keeping the villages from forming against the park. There is hunting allowed in these areas but the owners/managers/and PHs routinely patrol the area watching for poachers. When James and I were there we saw poachers EVERY SINGLE DAY and caught many. Some were fishing illegally but the rangers told me they use it as a ruse to get into the park to set snares. I have had people question how hunting helps with poaching well this I what I saw MYSELF and am not just being a keyboard activist. I SAW it.
When we went to the park to meet with the manager Ed Sayer - for the FZSs North Luangwa Conservation Project, we took with us the hind part of a Cape Buffalo to give to the rangers. You would have thought it was Christmas, as they came out and cut meat off to take to their families for dinner that night. It was a completely eye opening experience.
When I talked to Ed about FZS a conservation group working with hunters he said this:
We work hand in hand with the safari companies who operate within the Game Management Areas surrounding NLNP. It is vital that these areas remain protected and functional as they act as a buffer to maintaining the integrity of the area and particularly the integrity of the black rhino population. The support and investment put into the GMAs by these organizations is invaluable and greatly contributes to both ZAWA and the Communitys ability to protect the area and maintain its prime area status as well as ensuring the benefit of the communities living in a wildlife area is realized.
When we returned to camp several days later, we were talking to the hunters that we flew in with about the project and what we had heard and seen while in the park.
Two immediately said, We will go in together to pay for one of the boreholes. (which cost $5000 each), and then one said, How else can I help?, and the manager of the camp said, "Well, there is a young man we have been working with that we think will make a wonderful ranger. But there are no ranger schools in Zambia only Tanzania. It is a two year course, and for the course and room and board for the two years it is about $25,000." And the hunter said, Ill sponsor him.
. . . . just like that. For no reason. He wasnt getting anything out of it; he just wanted to help do what he could to preserve wildlife. How can someone shoot something he loves and wants to preserve? I dont know. I dont care what is in his head. I just saw what was in his heart. FOREST FOR THE TREES, that is all that matters to me.
And then when I got home, I was talking on the phone to a board member I barely knew of Dallas Safari Club about the trip, and he said Ill pay for one of the boreholes. I literally burst into tears. It proved to me ONCE AGAIN how hunters will give to save wildlife.
The end of the story is that Dallas Safari
Club ended up giving a grant of $30,000 to pay for the boreholes.
Since two had already been drilled the rest went to equipment
and other needs for the rangers.
PHOTO TOURISM INSTEAD OF HUNTING
I lead photo safaris. I think a country can have both. Generally hunters go to more remote areas than photo tourists. But photo tourism has to be regulated too. The carbon footprint of hundreds of vehicles, tearing up the habitat, generating noise and air pollution, the garbage that is generated by all people and all the water utilized (which is at a premium in Africa) has to be controlled, which in many areas, including the Maasai Mara, in Kenya it is not.
HUNTING ENDANGERED SPECIES
Old lions no longer have lionesses hunting for them and their teeth are broken and worn. These are the ones that many times cross into human areas and kill livestock, causing human/wildlife conflict. In Kenya where there has been no hunting since the mid 70s, they have lost 80% of their wildlife, mostly due to human wildlife conflicts where the local people poison a cow carcass which then kills the whole pride of lions, as well as hyenas, jackals, vultures and more. To me it is obvious that their model of utilizing only photo tourism is not working.
To those people I saw in Zambia wildlife has a value. They get many jobs from the hunters when they come, and lots of meat. If wildlife has no value, then they do not think twice about killing them, cutting down trees for charcoal, or slash and burning areas for crop crowing.
A friend of mine who is a hunter and the CEO of a hunting and conservation group here said this to me:
People Preserve what has value
Think about that statement for a minute. It makes complete sense. If people didnt eat chickens (and their eggs) who would pay to raise them?
Economics 101. Wildlife has to have a value to those who exist with it for them to protect it.
For animals like elephants and rhinos they have no place to disperse. Elephants need wide areas to move to. They knock down entire trees to eat the sweet leaves on the top. When they cant move from place to place they decimate the areas they are in. When permits are given for old past prime breeding bulls, the number of elephants in an area can be controlled, and it also generates a great deal of money and meat.
And in the case of black rhinos for instance, they are extremely territorial and aggressive. They kill other breeding bulls, calves and cows. I know this for a fact based on my work in Zamiba.
So in the past in many game management plans the rangers simply killed the animals that were surplus.
They cant be moved there is no place to move them to. No one wants an aggressive past breeding bull. PLUS they are very particular about their food. When I was in Zambia, Ed told me that some animals had been lost because they would not adapt to the new browse.
So Namibia came up with a plan to auction a hunt in America that will likely raise close to a million dollars. The auction will be at Dallas Safari Club, and EVERY SINGLE CENT will go to the Conservation fund in Namibia to protect their rhinos.
One animal to help protect hundreds. FOREST FOR THE TREES.
And heres something surprising most conservation groups support hunting. Many will say they are neutral, but what that means is that they dont want their contributor base to know that they understand that in many instances the model of hunting for conservation works. The only two groups who are rapid anti-hunting are PETA and the Human Society of the United States and there are no records that anyone can find that they have given ANY money to conservation. And their animal shelters have the highest kill rates in the country
If we dont all come together and find a way to work with one another, as Frankfurt Zoological has done, our wildlife and wild places WILL be wiped out. Poaching is such a terrible threat right now that as we all wave arms around and stamp our feet and point fingers like little children, our enemies are walking past us behind our backs and killing all our animals. One day in the not very far future we will look up, and it will all be gone.
AND WHERE THEY STAND ON HUNTING
"LOVING WILDLIFE TO DEATH" PRESENTS
Recently a magnificent beloved tourist attraction in Zimbabwe - a black maned beauty of a senior lion - was poached. Unfortunately a trophy hunter was the one to kill him. At the time of this writing he has not been proven guilty - except on Social Media and other places. Whether he knew or not - it was without a doubt poaching. When I personally contacted the CEO of Safari Club International he informed me that the hunter, along with the hunting company have been suspended pending intense investigation by them.
It is heartbreaking that this incident did not do what it had the POTENTIAL to do - which was to focus on poaching. 30 - 60 elephants a day are being poached, and South Africa is loosing an average of 10 a day. Instead people have turned on "Trophy Hunting" as the culprit.
Here are two excellent articles that explain the situation very clearly - and both from respected sources. Please read to help educate yourself:
Lionizing Cecil Makes Us Feel Good, But a Trophy Hunting Ban Will Accelerate Slaughter
What Will Be Cecil the Lion's Legacy? And Who Should Decide?
Photo taken from internet: Photographer Andrew Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Unit
(January 16, 2014)
LINKS FOR THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE RHINO HUNT:
Union for Conservation of Nature) is part of the UN and is made
up of scientists, biologists and zoologists from around the world
SAVE THE RHINO -
International NGO based in England dedicated to saving all rhino
species throughout the world
NORTH AMERICAN HUNTING
WHAT DO HUNTERS
DO FOR CONSERVATION
THE ROLE AND VALUE
TROPHY HUNTING CAN
HUNTING AS A CONSERVATION
A MESSAGE OF CONSERVATION
Governance, Equity and Conservation Benefits
ECONOMIC AND CONSERVATION
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TROPHY HUNTING INDUSTRY IN SUB -SAHARAN AFRICA