conservation PHOTOGRAPHEr & Environmental writer
The Murky Truth Behind Elephant Trophy Hunting.
Divided social values have made wildlife a pawn on the political and conservational stage. Elephant trophy hunting has become the latest victim in their Machiavellian ruse.
Wildlife and conservation issues used to by a symbol of a socially advancing society; taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of our actions. Trump has now turned them into a political pawn with Trophy Hunting taking a central place.
In Connecticut, a lawsuit filed by The #nonhumanrightsproject is seeking to rescue 3 zoo #elephants caught in the wild, by claiming their sentient and intelligent nature entitles them to legal human rights. If successful, this would prevent us from using elephants as a commodity. We certainly could no longer get away with saying that we are killing, culling or controlling them. Elephants would have the dubious privilege of being murdered.
Conversely, the US Fish and Wildlife Service have reversed an #Obamapolicy that banned the import of elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe on 4th April 2014. Obama originally banned it because Zimbabwe’s two Elephant Management Plan documents were outdated (1996, 1997) and therefore ‘did not appear to sufficiently support the conservation work.’
For those not in the know, if you are wealthy enough, you can go to Africa and shoot even the most critically endangered animal. For a professional hunter to accompany you on your trophy hunt in #Zimbabwe it would cost you $1,500 per night. There is then the trophy fee for whichever animal you choose to kill. A buffalo is $12,250 or if things aren’t looking so rosy, you could pitch your sights at a warthog for $300.
The more endangered the species, the more it costs. Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 at the Dallas Safari Club in 2014 for a license to shoot a critically endangered black rhino. #Conservation is no longer based on the sentimental values of its architects. Its all about the dollar these days. Even the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( #CITES) states 'trophy hunting is an important conservation tool.'
I'm no fan of #Trump but, it should be stated at this point that, banning or allowing the import of hunting trophies won’t stop trophy hunting. Trophy hunters can still go out and get their power induced status fix. They just can’t adorn their walls like our colonial ancestors if they hunt elephants in Zimbabwe.
However, big game hunting is not just about the thrill of the chase. It’s about letting everyone know that you have done it. Not allowing hunters to bring home their trophies may, therefore, act as a disincentive.
However, without banning trophy imports from all countries it is likely to just redirect trophy hunters to a country whose conservational values align with this new rather distasteful #neoliberal conservation.
Of course, the economic implications for impoverished countries such as Zimbabwe are disastrous. They are presently ranked 133rd on The World Factbooks GDP country comparison and not having access to these "conservation" funds would significantly impact them.
So what reasons have Trump’s administration given for reversing this policy in such a short space of time. Some might say that the alacrity with which Trump has reversed Obama policies might stem from the infamous 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner where Obama repeatedly publicly ridiculed Trump in front of the world’s media.
Others might highlight more tangible motives such as two fanatical big game hunting sons exerting pressure on their father. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service state that Zimbabwe’s adoption of a national Elephant Management Plan (#EMP) and a more open and stringent regulatory system with data collection methods is the reason for this policy reversal.
Corruption has proved a significant problem with rhino trophy hunting in South Africa and the fact that Zimbabwe scored 22 on the Corruption Perception Index (0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean) does little to inspire confidence in their new EMP. Combine this with the knowledge that Zimbabwe pushed to restart the sale of ivory at the 2016 CITES Conference of the parties and the future looks bleak for Zimbabwe’s elephants.