Melissa Bachman and The Debate on Hunting

So, after Melissa Bachman posed with a picture of a dead lion, a massive social media uprising against her, and against hunting occurred.  And I feel like I need to put my two cents into the mix.  Now, unlike the majority of people, I am not making death threats, hating on the woman, or moaning about the South Africa government.

I lived in South Africa for over nine months in 2011, doing conservation work and working on a number of different game reserves, getting my guiding qualification as well as doing my dissertation over there. What I need to make perfectly clear, though, is that I am against the hunting industry purely for trophy hunting, and against animals being bred specifically for hunting. But here are my opinions.  I do not claim to be an expert in any way!

Hunting is big business in Africa, especially South Africa. People come from all over the world to hunt animals, and pay a lot of money to do so. A male lion can cost in the region of $25,000 US dollars.  And that doesn’t include any of the extra costs!  This industry creates jobs within a country where a good proportion of people are living below the line!  A good proportion of this money goes directly into conservation. Hunting is an extremely effective and low cost management tool. The wildlife areas in South Africa are primarily split into lots of small areas, and surrounded by fences – this is because of the historic farming background that this country has -and many of these farming areas have now been turned into private game reserves or conservation areas. This fencing has resulted in the natural dispersal routes of wildlife being disrupted, and as a result, overpopulation is a huge problem. And believe it or not, shooting these animals is one of the most humane ways of dealing with these issues.

If these animals are not removed from the ecosystems, over-competition becomes a huge problem. The results of this over competition include: animals starving to death due to lack of resource; being wounded and dying slowly of infection due to fights over resources and females; and in a country like South Africa, resources are extremely scarce during certain times of the year.

Certainly relocation is an option, but there are huge amounts of stress and cost involved in relocation..much of the time, entire family groups need to be relocated rather than random individuals to ensure acceptance of these animals into a new system, and there is a risk of death due to stress, anaesthetic, over heating during transport (which is often over long distances in order to put these animals on a reserve which can support them). You also have the costs of the team involved in the relocation, the huge amounts of time involved in finding the animals, bringing them all into a boma, sedating/anaesthetising them, loading them onto a vehicle, and transporting them..then you need to release them on the other side..but not before all your animals have had a basic health check, and certain species need to be kept in a separate boma (often purpose built) before they can be released into the main reserve. You need vets, managers and all sorts of people on this team, and not many of them are willing to give their time up for free…Costs are a huge consideration in relocation, and the conservation sector is well known to be lacking in funding..

Even in Kruger National Park, one of the most iconic, most loved and most visited conservation areas in South Africa allows hunting, and even now, they are still massively over capacity when it comes to animals such as elephants.

If these animals need to be removed from the ecosystem, and people are willing to pay a lot of money to do the hunting, it makes perfect sense to make the best out of a bad situation and make some well needed money for conservation work. Hunting is the lesser evil, and although not ideal, not much in the modern world is due to the increasing consumeristic attitude, and hunting needs to be considered for the benefits it is bringing the conservation sector, and we need to lay the attitude of ‘hunting is bad’ to rest…..


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