Trophy Hunts and Conservation

It’s abundantly clear that commercial hunting (whether it be canned hunting or not) is, at best, a profitable business venture often promoted under the guise of wildlife conservation. But — what if, for specific species, it means that population will breed naturally and thrive? Can we justify the loss of some individuals if it means the population as a whole might flourish? What if the meat from an animal, when properly managed, could feed a local village? These are all questions the documentary Trophy brings to light and leaves you with.

Many argue that government corruption fuels the trade itself, results in an unfair redistribution of wealth, and that very little of the money received from trophy hunts ever finds its way to local communities or to well meaning organizations working to protect native species long term. The film didn’t explore this argument specifically (and I can’t help but question whether or not that was intentional) but it’s certainly a valid one and one I would encourage others to research on their own. It’s also worth noting that there are a growing number of alternative species specific conservation efforts – improvements in security protocol for black market trading, relocation, dehorning, painting, increased security via rangers/anti-poaching units, dogs, drones – but all of these cost money. A lot of it.

Although the criticism of trophy hunting as a viable solution to wildlife conservation is warranted, we often neglect to consider the people who live, quite literally, right next door to these wild animals. We’ve (in the United States specifically) all but completely extirpated our own apex predators. We don’t understand what it’s like to live with predators that rival our safety or our ability to make a living. The film Trophy explores the complex nuances of trophy hunts and human vs. wildlife conflict in places like South Africa. Many of the species highlighted in the film are celebrated in the West, but in order to move forward we have to recognize that we come from a place of privilege to suggest the way in which an impoverished community should deal with predators that pose great risk to the safety of their families and their livelihood.

Nobody – certainly not me – wants to see an animal be hunted and killed. Our gravest mistake however, one in which the only losers will be native fauna, will be in our inability to set aside our differences – however extreme – and work together to find a viable solution for each and every species that has been impacted due to our negligence.

We’ve already done enough damage.

Photo via The New York Times

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