Changing Planet

OPINION: Slick “Hunter Proud” Video Uses Bad Ecology to Promote Elephant Culling, Trophy Hunting, and Ivory Trading

By Phyllis Lee, Keith Lindsay, and Katarzyna Nowak

The Elephant and the Pauper: The Ivory Debacle is a recently released 50-minute video by the Hunter Proud Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable public foundation and lobbying organization based in Houston, Texas.

The video was circulated in the first half of January 2015 to members of the IUCN Specialist Groups and to CITES membership, with the specific aim of lobbying for hunting and consumptive use of African wildlife.

The film—whose proposals for gaining revenue from ivory and sport hunting come at a time of unprecedented poaching and killing of elephants across their range, including in Zimbabwe—is risky to the point of irresponsibility.

The Hunter Proud Foundation has turned the clock back on decades of progress in conservation and wildlife management. With opinions unsupported by evidence, the “documentary” misrepresents the science of elephant population dynamics and their ecological roles—science that is indispensable to informing conservation and management approaches.

The outdated ideas about elephant ecology, along with the blinkered call for a return to agriculture-style intensive management and population control, are conflated with the legitimate, but entirely separate, aims of community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). Intervention in the form of elephant culling is said (incorrectly) to be dependent on the sale of elephant ivory, which is then mixed in with trophy hunting and (incorrectly) presented as a necessity for the financing of CBNRM and social development.

The biggest threat the video poses for public disinformation is in advancing the ivory trade Decision-Making Mechanism. This conceptually risky instrument, which would encourage increased sales of ivory and trigger even greater levels of illegal trade, is due to be discussed at the next CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP17), in September 2016.

The video’s major—and unacceptable—flaws follow:

Outdated Ideas of Elephant “Overpopulation Problems” and “Carrying Capacities”

The film rests on long dismissed ideas of elephant “carrying capacities” and “overpopulation,” which we’re surprised are being expressed and circulated to a 21st-century conservation audience.

Ecological researchers and, increasingly, wildlife managers have recognized that ecosystems are shaped by self-regulating processes, and that diversity across landscapes and change through time are essential features of natural landscapes, rather than “disruptions” to be beaten back. The continual processes of change—not rigid structural stability—taking place in these systems should be the primary focus of conservation action.

Much of the research community, and many managers, accept that ecosystem structure and function are not about elephant numbers but instead about elephant distribution across a landscape and in relation to plant communities. Elephants are architects of plant diversity rather than simply “management problems.”

Managers in sub-Saharan Africa, such as in Tanzania and in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, have taken this approach on board with their elephant management, replacing culling with water-point management, and fencing with promotion of animal dispersal, through corridors and protection of meta-populations.


A dedicated elephant underpass in Kenya. Credit: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
A dedicated elephant underpass in Kenya. Credit: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy


To illustrate its contention that parks need intensive intervention, the film makes unsubstantiated and disparaging claims about supposed mismanagement of elephants in the key populations of Tsavo National Park, in Kenya, and Chobe National Park, in Botswana, which it contrasts with the enlightened management of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

During the 1960s to 1970s, Tsavo East National Park experienced a prolonged increase in elephant numbers through reproduction and concentration to avoid hunting and incompatible land use in the surrounding region. The park warden at the time decided against interference, and elephant foraging during this period led to a change in the dominant vegetation cover from dense bushland to open bushed grassland. In the decades after a severe drought and die-off of elephants in the early 1970s, followed by intense poaching in the 1980s, Tsavo changed from grassland back to bushland.

These changes, attributed to variation in both elephant density and fire regime, were scientifically documented by Leuthold and illustrated by the filmmaker Simon Trevor in the 1995 documentary “Keepers of the Kingdom.” Trevor argued—with visual evidence—that culling is far less effective in sustaining natural long-term habitat dynamics than are elephants’ natural die-offs.

Studies of pollen cores in Tsavo from the past 1,400 years show that continual change has been the rule at local and landscape levels, with several shifts between high and low tree cover over periods of 250 to 500 years.

In Chobe, similar changes in tree cover under elephant browsing have been documented, with the observation that animal and plant communities are now returning to the state that existed before the extirpation of elephants during the intensive ivory trade in the 19th to early 20th century. The conclusion reached was that there were no ecological grounds for elephant reduction, although local reduction or redistribution was advocated to resolve land use clashes with farmers now occupying former areas of the natural ecosystem.

In Zimbabwe’s Hwange—offered in the film as a more enlightened alternative—the apparent ecological “problems” of elephant-induced habitat change were in fact caused by the early park managers, who created an extensive network of pumped water sources throughout the park. Meanwhile, boundary fences kept wildlife away from access to the few natural watercourses. Over time, densities of elephants and other herbivores became artificially high, leading to widespread vegetation change and an atmosphere of apparent crisis.

The Department of National Parks and Wild Life Management (DNPWLM) took the decision to reduce elephant densities by killing large numbers, but they could have achieved a more satisfactory solution by strategic closing of water points to create areas of high and low herbivore density, allowing natural mortality to bring populations in line with food supplies.

The argument advanced in the film is that it is more humane to cull elephants than to allow them to die from lack of food. This disingenuous concern for welfare is ironic in light of the DNPWLM’s current actions in forcibly removing scores of juvenile elephants from their families for export to a life of suffering in foreign zoos.

Depiction of Trophy Hunting and the Ivory Trade as Sole Revenue-Generating Mainstay for Communities

The video makes considerable, but selective, reference to Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE program. This pioneering initiative is not without its difficulties, but we (and many others) acknowledge it as a model for empowering rural people to make decisions about—and benefit from—natural resource use.

We argue strenuously, however, with the film’s strong emphasis on trophy hunting of elephants as if it is the only source of rural income, when there are many other species that can be hunted sustainably within conservative trophy quotas. The assertion that elephant hunting is a mainstay—and that without it, communities get no benefit at all (particularly in light of the relatively small contribution of trophy hunting overall to Zimbabwe’s economy)—lacks evidential support.

The film also ignores the value of living elephants and of the many diverse revenue streams other than hunting and ivory trade that can and should be shared and controlled by grass-roots communities in conservation landscapes. These income sources include ecotourism, forestry, fisheries, mining royalties, and payments for carbon storage and other ecosystem services.

The video accuses the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) of “eco-imperialism,” calling USFWS’s 2014 decision to ban the import of elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe unsubstantiated and a breach of treaty (which treaty is not entirely clear). The film’s protagonist, the Zimbabwean Rowan Martin, asks, “Why does the USFWS insist on having proof that money generated from trophy hunting contributes to conservation?” And he accuses the service of disrupting the “flow of money” by encouraging the establishment of conservation trust funds.

It is, however, a condition of the regulatory body, CITES, that funds generated from the consumptive use of controlled species go to promote the conservation of that species, and this use of funds be demonstrably and transparently clear.

It is implied, but not stated, that ivory sales themselves are important to the CAMPFIRE program and to local communities. In fact, any proceeds from ivory sales are relatively modest on an annual basis, and they are administered in a top-down fashion through centralized national government mechanisms rather than devolved to rural community participation.

Demonstrating that funds (either from hunting or ivory sales) contribute to conservation has been a challenge even for the regulatory body CITES, which has fallen back on statements as non-specific as “development programs within or adjacent to the elephant range.” Thus the major trade body itself fails to equate elephant deaths for ivory consumption with any genuine conservation activities.

Promoting Corruption-Prone Mining Models

The collapse of and lack of transparency in the multibillion-dollar diamond industry—and that industry’s failure to help alleviate poverty in Zimbabwe—should be a cautionary lesson for those who think the “mining” of declining African wildlife populations will reduce poverty in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is riddled with corruption and poor governance, which urgently need addressing before benefits can be transferred from the urban elite to the rural poor.

The proposal that the diamond model—using an international “Central Ivory Selling Organization,” which would control the storage and distribution of ivory from a centralized location—be used to establish a trade in African elephant ivory was made by Rowan Martin, hired by CITES in 2011 to lead author the initial “Decision-making mechanism for process of trade in ivory” (DMM).

This proposed mechanism has since been denounced as flawed, including in collective responses made by CITES member states and members of the African Elephant Specialist Group.

One criticism was that “the logic of the Central Ivory Selling Organization would be to promote demand for ivory, aiming to maximize prices, just as De Beers does for diamonds.”

It has recently been pointed out that the Kimberley process, established to bring an end to trade in conflict and blood diamonds, would also fail to regulate a legal wildlife trade, given that diamonds from countries banned from selling them still enter the market.

The modern paradigm in ecology and conservation—promoting spatial heterogeneity and temporal dynamics—would produce little ivory for the international trade. Conversely, a sustained trade in ivory requires a steady supply, which would depend on regular culling, justified by the narrative of old-fashioned ecology claiming elephant “overpopulation.”

This latest production starring Rowan Martin is as flawed and propagandist as his version of the DMM.

The Elephant and the Pauper: The Ivory Debacle is deeply misleading on key issues of ecology and conservation. The conservation community should reject its use as a source of “information” in any and all meetings, particularly those of the IUCN specialist groups and CITES Secretariat, and at the upcoming CoP17.

If the pronouncements of this film are heeded, we strongly believe it will be extremely dangerous for the future of African elephants.

Phyllis Lee and Keith Lindsay have been ecologists with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya, and have worked in research and conservation in Africa and Asia, for more than 30 years. Katarzyna Nowak is a roving conservation scientist with more than a decade of field research experience, including in Tanzania, South Africa, Costa Rica, and, recently, Chile.

Katarzyna Nowak is a conservation scientist affiliated with the Zoology Department at the University of the Free State, Qwaqwa, South Africa. She has spent fifteen years researching and writing about the behavior and conservation of wild monkeys and elephants, and human-wildlife interactions. She helped establish and advises the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program. She's currently based in Colorado's Front Range. Photo credit: Trevor Jones
  • JA Malone

    An excellent response to a self-serving, manipulative and vile film. The major conservation groups were founded by wealthy individuals who hunted, goal in large part then was to protect big spaces to ensure plentiful game. Seems today hunters have lost sight of something…at the rate they are going, and with efforts like this one, there will be no game left. And soon.

  • Carol

    Hunt something that’s worth hunting. Like bad people because when all the wildlife is gone so will you be.

  • Andrew

    Well I guess there will always be someone who knows more than Professor Rowan Martin, Professor Brian Child and other Phd’s who have access to all the information in Zimbabwe. “sigh”

    I guess we are going to claim Martin has some agenda – other than saving wildlife in Zimbabwe.

    People are so predictable – the moment someone says something that goes against their ideals – they try and discredit it.

  • Anne Grice

    Hunting is basically psychopathic killing to satisfy a sick pleasure which has no place in modern times in our changing climate etc! Every animal deserve to live peacefully as they are not here for us but to share the planet with us. Making money from them is ruthless, unconscionable and immoral with no sense of human decency. These so called hunters only care about today and have no interest for the longer term consequences when Africa would be depleted of their valuable assets and tourism declines! What then?

  • Jack Peal

    ‘To pretend that hunting somehow helps animal populations is as laughable as saying that killing people is a solution to world hunger.’

  • steve robinson

    I studied and worked with elephants and other African game in true wilderness areas for decades and the video though not politically correct is absolutely right. If the current policies worked, we’d have a healthy elephant population and we don’t. The only way to save the elephant and other keystone species is to manage them and part of that management must be to cull and trade legally harvested parts. The trade ban has proved to be no more successful than the ban of alcohol in the USA was.

  • Andrew Baldry

    My project in Zambia rejuvenates dormant and wildlife depleted lands and thus encourages new ecosystems. Hunting is now the base activity which provides the incomes for rural communities and for continued investments in land and wildlife. It is likened to farming.

  • Mike Jines

    Hunting and sustainable use are the only way to save wildlife like the elephant. One need look no further than examples like elk and wild turkey in the United States to see how conservation and hunting dollars have resulting in thriving populations among animals that were severely threatened. Trite and worn phrases like killing animals is to conservation like killing people is to world hunger grossly misstate and oversimplify a problem that seriously threatens many species of animals in Africa. The reality is that the preservation of animals and habitat requires money . . . and the dollars raised from hunting provide millions of dollars for habitat preservation, anti-poaching efforts and wildlife management. Strip those dollars away and the animals will be relegated to poaching, starvation and continued human habitat encroachment. The tragedy is that far more people are swayed by the trite and over-simplistic statements such as the one above equating hunting to world hunger than by a reasoned analysis of the facts.

  • Allan Whittaker

    As one of the +- 10000 Game Ranch owners in South Africa that has contributed to the increase in wild animals from +- 500000 in the late 1960’s to 18 million today, I have to say that this incredible conservation success story was only achieved thanks to the central role that hunting as played.
    To equate sustainable utilisation of game by means of hunting as provided for in CITES with destruction of our wildlife resource is just not sensible.
    As with all wildlife, once it becomes restricted in its movement due to fencing or population encroachment the Elephant numbers require to be managed. If they are not, they will die a most unpleasant dead from thirst and starvation and in their tens of thousands which I am sure nobody wishes to see.
    The solution to securing the long term survival of ALL wild animals in a shrinking world needs discussion, co-operation and understanding. Mud slinging will not solve any thing.

  • Professor Andy Dobson

    This film is an egregious ‘white-wash’ of the real situation that links hunting to conservation of wild animals in Southern Africa. It most strongly reflects the mentality of the same community of white settlers who felt that apartheid was such a good idea until dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era. Tragically, their level of ecological thinking remains stuck in 1950’s and 1960’s partly reflecting their lack of access to modern ecological methods in the years of the apartheid era, but largely reflecting the same arrogant philosophy that ‘South Africans’ are superior to all other forms of living creatures.

    The basic math is simple: hunting reduces the abundance of all species – that’s why the oceans are emptying of fish, and the dodo and the passenger pigeon went extinct. Hunting as undertaken in Southern Africa in the caged environments with drugged animals is as close to animal genocide as you can get. To mistake it with conservation, is to confuse Hitler’s invasion of Europe with cultural re-education.

    The best response to the film would be to call for the current US ban on the import of ivory from ‘hunted elephants’ to be expanded to a total ban on the import of hunting trophies from all African hunts.

  • Larry Shores

    This debate never ceases to amaze me. Many, particularly the anti-hunters, will not listen to any rational discussion of the issue. This is compounded by them thinking the entire world is like the USA. It is far from it.

    I have made 21 safaris to Africa. My views on Africa, its wildlife and hunting has changed drastically since I first went to Africa in 1988.

    If one has been over much of southern Africa as I have been, it is not hard to reach a conclusion about elephants there. They are indeed over populated in many areas. I have seen the total destruction cause by the elephants in many areas. When the elephants cause this destruction, it affects many other species, NOT just elephants.

    Does Africa have a serious elephant poaching problem? YES! ABSOLUTELY! Does Africa’s wildlife face serious survival issues due to the exploding human population in Africa? YES! ABSOLUTELY!

    The anti-hunting crowd fails to understand some basic things about Africa and her wildlife:

    1- Poaching is illegal. However, it still happens. The only 2 things that will stop poaching are (a) return to the shoot on sight policy of the past and (b) hunting. Why hunting one might ask? it is very simple. The hunting companies have anti-poaching efforts to stop the poaching in their areas.

    2- Most rural Africans have to feed themselves and their families. There aren’t grocery stores or restaurants. They often turn to poaching, including elephants to feed themselves.

    What will happen is the hunting is stopped? it is quite simple. The poachers will operate with impunity. They will kill EVERYTHING. what a rural African can do with wire is nothing short of amazing. The can kill virtually all mammals in short order.

    Trust me, I have seen the horrible aftermath of what a snare has done to animals including elephants. Actually horrible does not begin to describe it.

    Has stopping hunting worked in other parts of Africa? NO! It has not . Look at Kenya as a shining example of how to mis- manage wildlife. Since stopping hunting there many years ago, the animal populations are down by 70% . It didn’t do any good there. In fact, it was just the opposite.

    Whether one wants to live in the fantasy land shown by National Geographic, Animal Planet, Disney etc is an individual decision. However, if you believe this is the real world, you might as well write off all of Africa’s wildlife including elephants.

    If anyone really wants to make a difference to Africa’s wildlife, stopping hunting is not the answer. Contribute to the anti-poaching funds of which there are many. Without hunting and population control, Africa’s wildlife is doomed.

  • Noel Weidner

    The “wild” ecosystem is changing drastically as human populations increase and habitat diminishes, and as a consequence, the rules are changing.

    The encroachment of the local population on the ecosystem must be managed, and that takes money. There is no free lunch.

    When people are in charge – and they clearly are on this planet – there’s a new rule and it’s…”if it pays it stays.” To save wildlife, they must have value – that’s the reality.

    Wishful thinking will not save wildlife.

    Sports hunting puts real value on wildlife, and it becomes a positive economic venture to have abundant wildlife. South Africa is a classic example of how this concept works to become a WIN-WIN situation for wildlife and humans.

    With sports hunting you sacrifice a few animals to save many; with poachers you sacrifice the entire herd. Without sports hunting, these animals become only so-much protein or so-much commercial value. The choice is a no-brainer.

    Sporting hunters are conservationists first and hunters second. Without wildlife they have no hobby.

  • Noel Weidner

    The “wild” ecosystem is changing drastically as human populations increase and habitat diminishes, and as a consequence, the rules are changing. The encroachment of the local population on the ecosystem must be managed, and that takes money. There is no free lunch.
    When people are in charge – and they clearly are on this planet – there’s a new rule and it’s…”if it pays it stays.” To save wildlife, they must have value – that’s the reality. Wishful thinking will not save wildlife.
    Sports hunting puts real value on wildlife, and it becomes a positive economic venture to have abundant wildlife. South Africa is a classic example of how this concept works to become a WIN-WIN situation for wildlife and humans.
    With sports hunting you sacrifice a few animals to save many; with poachers you sacrifice the entire herd. Without sports hunting, these animals become only so-much protein or so-much commercial value. The choice is a no-brainer.
    Sporting hunters are conservationists first and hunters second. Without wildlife they have no hobby.

  • Noel Weidner

    I’d like to add these links to my comment. The sports hunting message seems to be getting out. Thanks.



  • Dr. J. Lane Easter, DVM

    With all due respect Nat Geo…the fellow who made that film lives in Africa, is a strong conservationist, and knows more about African Conservation and the African Elephant than the editors of Nat Geo ever will. It is an extremely accurrate film. Also…it does NOT promote ivory poaching…nothing could be further than the truth. For those who want to know the “REAL TRUTH”…please watch the film. Nat Geo…although I watch your wildlife programs…I see first hand that Nat Geo is nothing more than a left-wing talking head most of the time. If Nat Geo really CARED about Africa and her Fauna…they themselves would air Zig’s films. This comes from a Dr. of Veterinary Medicine who spends a fair amount of time in the wilds of Africa. Let’s see if you let this one make it to your comment page.

  • Mark Young

    It continues to baffle me that obviously intelligent people continue to not understand that if elephants and other game have no monetary value to the local indigenous people that eventually there will be no elephants except in the parks. Elephants are just giant size varmints to the locals. Elephant routinely trample crops, eat their food stores and occasionally kill them. The only reason these folks are not killing these huge pests is because they receive part of the money derived from elephant hunting and they get a huge portion of protein from the elephant meat everytime one of these elephants is killed. Elephant hunting is a win win for all parties involved including the elephants.

    Additionally I don’t think folks understand that the easiest way for the locals to get rid of the elephants is to poison them. If imagining that agonizing death for the elephant is not bad enough feature the following. Once the elephant dies it will be fed on by every living thing that eats meat and they in turn will die and their carcass will be fed on and poison other creatures. One poisoned elephant will kill everything from insects to snakes to the big carnivores and all the birds.

    I’ve personally been on the ground in 8 African countries multiple times and have seen how hunting effects the local populations. I assure these people love it.

    Wake up folks. Anybody that is anti elephant hunting ultimately is anti elephant..

  • Jim Wojciehowski

    I wish those leaving comments would volunteer whether that have ever been in Africa. The locals will tell straight up that if the wildlife offers them no value then it will disappear. Hunting does give the animals a value to the local populations. They get a majority of the much needed protein from the harvest, jobs in camp, and concede in most cases not to run their cattle as a competition to the indigenous wildlife. Hunting is not poaching, and hunting dollars provide the greatest incentive to combat poaching.

  • Carl Frederik Nagell

    With all due respect Nat Geo…the fellow who made that film lives in Africa, is a strong conservationist, and knows more about African Conservation and the African Elephant than the editors of Nat Geo ever will. It is an extremely accurrate film. Also…it does NOT promote ivory poaching…nothing could be further than the truth. For those who want to know the “REAL TRUTH”…please watch the film. Nat Geo…although I watch your wildlife programs…I see first hand that Nat Geo is nothing more than a left-wing talking head most of the time. If Nat Geo really CARED about Africa and her Fauna…they themselves would air Zig’s films. This comes from a Surgeon who spends a fair amount of time in the wilds of Africa.

  • Rowan Martin

    Rowan Martin

    All my life I have marvelled at how easy it is to be portrayed as a demon in the conservation world by simply stating a viewpoint that conflicts with a Western Hemisphere paradigm of how the world should be. Despite the millions of people that Iive in Africa, some western conservationists still see the continent as global holding area for elephants. And I have to hasten to add that although I speak in several places in the film, I am not the architect or designer of the film: all credit for that goes to Osprey Films.

    Lee, Lindsay & Nowak are happy to consign elephants to death by thirst and starvation by simply by removing their access to water. One wonders if anyone in the Western Hemisphere would do this to their own unwanted dogs. They paint a bogus picture of advances in elephant management that avoid them actually having to pull the trigger.

    The fact is that elephants are an extremely valuable natural resource that could transform land use in an otherwise impoverished continent. The alternative advanced by Lee et al is a recipe for the people of the continent to become slum-dog millionaires in a cattle economy. The few elephants that might survive would be cardboard cutouts in isolated State protected areas with an indeterminate lifetime.

    Lee, Lindsay & Nowak have the arrogance to state that –
    The film rests on long dismissed ideas of elephant “carrying capacities” and “overpopulation,” which we’re surprised are being expressed and circulated to a 21st-century conservation audience.
    Ecological researchers and, increasingly, wildlife managers have recognized that ecosystems are shaped by self-regulating processes, and that diversity across landscapes and change through time are essential features of natural landscapes, rather than “disruption” to be beaten back. The continual processes of change – not rigid structural stability – taking place in these systems should be the primary focus of conservation action.”
    Who do they think they are talking to? We are more aware than they are that we no longer live in an Africa that is a pristine wilderness. It is a messy complex system where people, economics and ecology are inextricably linked. It is not helped by the wistful dreaming of Lee et al that a non-interventionist approach will solve the problem.

  • Marty Vick

    The film in question is very well produced, and illustrative of the difference in outlook between preservationists and conservationists.

    Zimbabwe has a CITES quota allowing for the harvesting of up to 500 trophy elephant per year. The current elephant population of Zimbabwe is estimated to be 80,000. It does not seem likely that sport hunting of elephant would make a significant dent in the population of wild elephant, especially given that trophy animals are, generally speaking, old males.

    Each trophy animal taken injects tens of thousands of dollars into the local economy. If this revenue stream is denied, the animals will be regarded as protein at best, and dangerous nuisance animals at worst.

    The situation is undeniable. The notion that we should deny it because trophy hunting offends the sensibilities of the preservationists is foolish. Are we interested in conserving the species, or congratulating ourselves on our “enlightenment?”

  • Mark H. Young

    I can’t believe that seemingly intelligent people still think that stopping trophy hunting for elephant is good for elephants. Trophy hunting for elephant gives elephants value to the local indigenous people that are basically subsistence farmers. The elephants are nothing but huge dangerous varmints to these people. The elephants trample their crops, raid their food caches and occasionally kill them. These folks tolerate this because they receive a piece of the money from the hunts for the elephants and a giant portion of protein from every elephant taken as a trophy. Without this value there will only be elephants in the parks as the locals will just kill them. Where the locals have had enough of the elephants they poison them. When you poison an elephant and he dies every living thing that eats meat will also die when they feed on the elephant’s carcass. So one dead elephant can have a major impact on a huge portion of the insects, snakes, big carnivores and birds. Additionally if the elephant dies in a waterhole he poisons the waterhole. That one poisoned elephant is an ecological disaster all by itself. Imagine if they are poisoned in large numbers. It would be horrific!

    I’ve been on the ground in 8 different African countries that allow sport hunting multiple times. I’ve seen how all this works myself. Take my word for it the locals love trophy hunting for elephant. It is a win win for everyone involved including the elephants.

    Wake up people. If you are anti elephant hunting you are anti elephant.

  • Marty Vick

    Here is a link graphically showing what happened to the elephant population in Kenya after sport hunting was banned in 1977. It isn’t pretty, as there now is now NO game outside the parks. Compare it to what the elephant population has done in Zimbabwe, where sport hunting has been permitted.

    Come on, people, what is your real priority? Is it to conserve the elephant, and ensure its survival as a species, or is it to stop sport hunting because you find it disgusting?

  • Marty Vick
  • Marty Vick
  • John Cooper

    To think that animals deserve to “live peacefully” on earth is a bit naive. this is not disney, this is nature. animals are not cute and cuddly, and mother nature takes no pity on anyone. animals are generally food for bigger animals. if not eaten, they will live until disease kills them or until they starve to death. it is never a pleasant way to go.

    animals do not live forever, and like it or not, humans have altered the habitat of nearly every animal on the planet in some way. we now have to deal with that in the best way we can for the ultimate survival and longevity of the species. A simple example in the US is the whitetail deer. as humans build homes, shopping malls, schools, etc… we do not like bears, wolves, and cougars killing us, our children, or our pets. So we do a wonderful job of killing off nature’s balancing scale to the deer, the natural predators. what happens next? deer overpopulate, disease runs rampant, thousands are hit by cars every year as we continually encroach on their habitat, and lymes disease continually spreads. at some point, we have to manage the numbers, and the most effective way is hunting. not only does this provide protein to the hunters, their families, and whomever they donate the meat to, it also generates money to the states managing the wildlife. And it brings VALUE to the animals, that are otherwise thought of as a nuisance. with this value, they can then purchase back some of their habitat. in the US look at the millions of acres set aside from development from groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, SCI, etc…

    the elephant is no different. as humans encroach on their natural lands more and more and change the landscape, the numbers must be managed so that the long term sustainability is ensured. take a look at countries that have outlawed hunting, and check out their game populations. now look at countries that have hunting, and look at the vast differences in animal populations when the animals present a value to the local people. what may seem counter-intuitive to some, we, as hunters, as conservationists, have always known to be true: give an animal value, and it will survive.

    and yes, hunting will always have a place, modern times or no. hiring someone to slaughter your meat for you and package it nicely in a grocery store does not erase the fact that an animal gave its life for you. i would rather have an animal live free, graze freely, breed freely, run freely, and meet me and have a bad few seconds of its life…. as opposed to a cow or pig or chicken confined to a small feed lot, pumped full of grains and antibiotics, transported in trucks to large mechanical processors and have an entire bad existence. i’ll take the free ranging elk, deer, or elephant, any day.

  • Kevin Poynter

    There are many misguided and emotional replies here from people that simply do not understand the positive impact that Hunters/Conversationists have on both conservation and the communities around the Elephants. Magically, people do not connect the long long positive history in the last 100 years thats largely traces back to Theodore Roosevelt who established the National Parks by Executive Order ( you know…. What Obama now uses to usurp the Legislative branch by utilizing this precedent )
    Selective and well managed Elephant Hunting is the only sustainable way to both control the animals and territory financially and inject the resources (i.e. Money and also FOOD/MEAT) into the local communities and also support Anti-Poaching against the ILLEGAL and organized Criminal Poaching. People should never confuse the two.
    People who react emotionally likely have never been personally engaged in these areas and simply do not understand the realities of proper game management and conservation. The same conservation that in the U.S. Have led to the dramatic comeback of literally every species of large game ( and yes i read the mindless post about the Dodo and Carrier Pigeon that like others were unfortunately wiped out by a culture long since gone and thus completely irrelevant)
    Sustainable hunting is a completely healthy activity that gives tremendous benefits to both the Elephants and the surrounding communities. Anyone who doesn’t think so simply does not understand the issue…

  • Dr. John Salevurakis

    Where there are no hunters, there is no game….not the other way around. I think it was Peter Capstick who said that and it is just as true today.

  • Rebecca

    Why did two different people (Dr. J. Lane Easter, DVM and Carl Frederik Nagell) leave the same comment? Did the pro-hunting lobby that’s spamming the page with fake comments forget they’d already used that stock reply? Embarrassing.

  • Kevin Poynter

    Rebecca ,
    That was not the case. A couple of people tried to re-post the message because the messages were not posting in a timely manner as the moderators were blocking the messages so others tried to see if the message would go through. The moderators did indeed post the messages that were supportive of hunting as they should have. Would it shock you that sometimes moderators dont always allow viewpoints they don’t share to be shown?
    In this case they did thankfully.

  • Rebecca

    “All my life I have marveled at how easy it is to be portrayed as a demon in the conservation world…” Rowan, people have been portraying you as a demon all your life? And you’ve never taken the hint? Wake up, man, people who don’t consistently act in a horrible way, don’t get portrayed as a demon all their life. And also, you don’t just ‘state a conflicting opinion,’ you’re pro-ivory and you shoot elephants. I remember specifically reading about you culling large numbers of elephants more than once in Katy Payne’s book. It all pretty much sounds like something a demon would do, to be honest.

  • Rebecca

    Really, Kevin? A surgeon and a vet across the world in different time zones with the exact same sign-off (“This comes from a _____ who spends a fair amount of time in the wilds of Africa.”) got into cahoots to post the exact same, and frankly illiterate sounding for the levels of education allegedly involved, message because they were terrified Nat Geo was blocking them? And a third party, you, just happen to know the both of them and the story behind the double posting? Would it shock you to hear I find all that unbelievable? And if Nat Geo was taking a long time to moderate it was probably because they knew they were getting spammed by what is clearly one coordinated group of hunters. Your Facebook group got wind of this article and the alarm was sounded to come here and spam the article with pro-hunting nonsense. Still BS and still embarrassing.

  • Andrew Baldry

    I have often wondered why compassionate people like yourself do not invest in the physical protection of Africa’s wildlife. If there are better solutions then you are welcome to come here and implement them. I am partnered with a rural community in the protection of their natural resources and the base activity is hunting. You or others are more than welcome to take over the project and prove an alternate. I ask nothing in return.

  • Thor Kirchner

    Lets get a few things strait!
    The most curtain thing in life, both for humans but also for wildlife, is that we all are going to die at sooner or later. In the majority of cases it will be painful in one way or the other.
    The reason humans and wildlife survive is that both have an instinct that tells them that it is painful to die and that the success of the species will be threatened. Animals more so.

    For a wild animal here in Africa, that doesn’t live in captivity, there is a few ‘’most common ways to die’’ depending on its rank on the food chain.

    These are the most common reasons for a wild animal to die:

    1. Natural causes (old age or disease which is rarely painless in the wild)
    2. Killed by a predator (very painful and most often not very quick)
    3. Habitat loss (starvation and is not pleasant and not instant)
    4. Internal territorial fighting (mostly painful injuries and slow death)
    5. Poacher (wire snares, poison or gun. The poacher’s equipment is normally not very good or accurate. Poachers have no desire to follow up wounded animals. Poached animals often suffer for days before they die)
    6. Killed by hunter (Sport or for regulating or culling purpose. In most cases animals die in less than a minute and in some cases the animals doesn’t even realize it before it is dead) Mostly old animals selected.
    I’m not saying animals never feel pain when hunted but it is minimal. True hunters never intend to inflict pain on any animal. We do our best to insure a swift death of our prey. But one can never guarantee this and a hunter can make a mistake like any other human on this planet. But this is rare.

    Now of these methods to die, which do you think causes least pain to the animals?

    It is not document that animals have the same emotional trends as us humans. I will agree that some animals do have emotions though, but not to the same extent as humans.

    In my opinion human and animal emotions cannot be compared in any way. Animals and humans are so far from each other. Human emotion are so colossal that they make some of us commit suicide. You will never find an animal do the same.

    One of the major threats to wildlife in Africa is that western and developed world humans have started feeling the same emotions for wildlife as they feel for each other.

    The problem with this is that the people living with the animals have not got any feelings for the wildlife. In many cases the people that live with the animals actually feel animosity for the animals, because they are in direct competition for space and food in a place where the human population is growing faster than it is developing.

    Now how can you tell a person, that he must conserve an animal that causes him harm in some form without getting any benefits out of it? Don’t forget that this person is poor and desperate to feed his family!

    Conservation through hunting has proven that people living with wildlife in Africa have a higher interest in protecting their wildlife in areas where there is well-managed hunting operations. This is the only way that these people see a direct benefit.
    I would love to say that we could just change it all to eco-tourism. But the problem is that the vast majority of areas where wild animals live are not National parks. National parks only account for very small percentage. These areas outside National parks are far from suitable for eco-tourism for various reasons, low wildlife density, too high human populations or inaccessibility.
    Another major problem is that there is just not enough eco-tourist in our world who have the interest and who can afford to go on these photographic safaris. There are just not enough people to cover the costs of the lost hunting revenue.

    Zambia is a good example for this. Two years ago the anti-hunting community lobbied and put huge pressure on the government to stop hunting in the GMA’s that cover the majority of wildlife areas in Zambia. The anti-hunters succeeded and the government temporally closed hunting in these areas. So now I sat back and expected the eco-tourism operators to go in and take over the protection of these areas, now that they had kicked the hunters out. That’s what they said they would. They said that eco-tourism would do much better for the areas.

    But nothing happened! Not one operator attempted to do anything. NOT ONE!

    The fact is that eco-tourism isn’t doing very well. They are having a hard time getting enough clients. Even in the most game rich national parks the operators are struggling. So how do you expect anyone to expand and succeed the larger areas??????

    We need to make up our minds. What is our objective? Is it to show animals the same feelings and compassion as we show each other and not kill any animals intentionally but risk their extinction because of this? Or is it to improve wildlife populations, habitats and save them from extinction and to improve human livelihood in these poor countries?

    There is no win-win option here. Many organizations have tried but most of them failed. So we have to choose. Go with our emotions or sacrifice a few animals for the greater good?

    We have to include both humans and wildlife into the same equation and see how we achieve the greatest good where both can survive.

    In the past few years hunting and trade of both ivory and rhino horn has been increasingly restricted. And on the same time the population decline for the two species has increased. Can you not see the logic here?

    If the current method is not working then try something new. If no one is willing to allow change and adaption then there is no longer a point. Say goodbye to these two species!

  • William Rounds

    I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central African Republic in the 70’s and continued to work in development projects, living in 4 different African countries until 1993. I still spend one third of the year in Africa on development projects, including infrastructure for Meru National Park in Kenya. There is no doubt in my mind that the Campfire Program conceived and implemented in Zimbabwe is, so far, the most successful wildlife conservation program in Africa. If you don’t agree, show us one which has produced better results.

  • Katarzyna Nowak

    I am one of the authors of this piece, and my reply is aimed mainly at Mr. Rowan Martin.

    I am not “western” but “eastern” (as my first name would suggest). I happen to see my mother country— Poland—as the “global holding area” for species that naturally occur there, like European bison and wolves. As far as I know Africa is, has always been, and continues to be the “global holding area” for African elephants. This is a biogeographical fact, not “a viewpoint from the west.”

    The European bison is the heaviest surviving wild land animal in Europe, just like the elephant is the largest and heaviest surviving wild land animal in Africa (where I’ve lived for most of my adult life, in small rural villages and in the bush). Also like elephants, bison are considered to be umbrella species, whose population health and status attest to the well-being of other animals like lynx, wolves and moose. (See “empirical evaluation of the African elephant as a focal species for connectivity planning,” written by esteemed American and Tanzanian scientists.)

    Poland today has the largest bison herds outside Russia. All of them are descendants of 50-odd captive-bred bison. Why? Because they were hunted to extinction—in Europe—with Poland’s last ones shot in 1919 in Białowieża Forest, on Poland’s border with Belarus. They were used for their hides and horns.

    Reintroduction has been a slow, lengthy, expensive, and challenging process that continues today as part of the EU-wide decision to reinstate and protect natural heritage (under the European Commission’s Habitat Directive) and civil society’s larger effort, Rewilding Europe.

    European wildlife is being revived—with great effort—including carnivores like wolves and bears, which are now on the rise. Wolves are co-existing with people in areas of 37 people per square kilometer.

    As an aside: Poland is a country of over 38 million people (122 people per square kilometer); Zimbabwe is a country of 14 million people (33 people per square kilometer).

    The situation in Europe, according to Sweden-based scientist Guillaume Chapron, is “conflict between people about predators” rather than human-predator conflict (the language we use can shape our attitudes). Wolves can be difficult neighbors, but the “land-sharing” approach that’s being taken up means no fences are being erected between peopled landscapes and wild carnivores.

    Why is Rewilding Europe succeeding? The main reasons are political stability and non-lethal livestock protection.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of beehive fences that help deter elephants from farmers’ crops while providing income from honey harvests. A variety of other crop-defense methods exist that aren’t lethal for elephants (Elephant Pepper Development Trust—established in Zimbabwe in the late 90s).

    There are hundreds of thousands of community development projects around Africa that help foster people’s stewardship of wildlife without a need for hunting (trophy or subsistence); see the Lebialem Hunters’ Beekeeping Initiative, aimed at driving down people’s reliance on bushmeat.

    This said, if you scroll back up and actually read our essay, you will see that we acknowledge that safari hunting of African wildlife (e.g. impala, kudu)—including elephant in some countries—continues to be prevalent. However, it’s as much a sport as it is money-generating, and we would like to see evidence that it—and not community development projects and community based resource management—has done more to alleviate poverty. That is the crux of our argument about hunting: That elephant trophy hunting is not a mainstay, as the film would have its audiences believe.

    European bison are being hunted again in Poland (20-25 individuals per year), despite voiced concern from the country’s conservation biologists including Rafal Kowalczyk, Director of the Mammal Research Institute at the Polish Academy of Sciences. The basis of his concern is that artificial limits are being placed on the bison population (which currently numbers a mere 1300 in Poland) to justify hunts.

    So I’m no stranger to the “carrying capacity” controversy which I and many other scientists including Professor Kowalczyk (Poland), Professor Rudi van Aarde (South Africa), my colleague Dr. Trevor Jones (Southern Tanzania Elephant Project), and my co-authors and ecologists Professor Lee and Dr. Lindsay (working in Kenya), continue to attempt to shed light on. – Dr. Katarzyna Nowak

  • David Braun

    Thank you for the lively discussion. Two comments have been deleted because they violate National Geographic’s community rules. We remind you that our rules state that National Geographic encourages open and candid discussions and debates. However, all communications should be civil and respectful. Differences of opinion are okay; personal attacks are not.

  • Andrew Baldry

    Mr Davis Braun,
    Surely hunting and our communal responsibilities are worthy of film or document by NG? Poaching is the demise of wild Africa and yet this another gritty subject that has avoided.

    I really think it is about time you put a man and and a camera on the ground in rural Africa.

  • Ed Waters

    I would ask those who disapprove of hunting as a means to fund animal elephant conservation, why (in general) have elephant populations in countries where hunting was allowed seen greater population growth than those without hunting? Like it or not, the commoditization of game animals (in modern conservation efforts) has been a major factor in saving elephant. The elephant that were poisoned in Zimbabwe a few years ago by poachers contributed zero dollars to anti-poaching units. Conversely, the very few (in relation to the population) that were hunted legally provided not only funds, but also ancillary benefits such as employment of locals, rations (yes, ration as in food) for tribes, and not least, the mere presence of hunters in the field, which, unlike photographic safaris that generally travel the same route, creating in essence ‘safe-havens’ for illegal poaching activity, keeps poachers on the move. While the idea of saving the elephant is an admirable one, it is an idea nonetheless. It seems well meaning people have the idea that if an elephant is not hunted, it will not die. This of course is not true. An elephant that dies of old age does so out of starvation, after his 6th set of teeth are ground flat and he can no longer masticate his food well enough to extract nutrients. Hunting as a part of conservation is merely hastening an inevitability. Like it or not, elephant will die, and if not properly managed in regards to their natural territory, they will die in increasingly larger numbers.
    It is fashionable to talk about elephant in general, as if there were a single body; nothing could be further from the truth. There is no single elephant herd. It is a dispersed population with smaller herds separated often by thousands of miles. What may work in Tanzania is not applicable in Zimbabwe, and what works in Zimbabwe is not applicable in Botswana. There are too many natural barriers, and even more so, political barriers that prevent umbrella elephant management. Each country must maintain the policies that work locally, taking into consideration many more factors than whether hunting should be part of a viable conservation approach.
    A while back, NatGeo had a very shocking article on the insatiable appetite for ivory in Asian and south-seat Asian markets. This thirst is and will be (in conjunction with the increasing presence of Asian firms in Africa exploiting resources) the greatest threat (ok maybe behind habitat) to the African elephant. Unlimited funds dumping into economically starved countries tempting locals to indiscriminately kill elephant (no matter the age, or breeding status) for the sake of a few pounds of ivory to be turned into totems is a powerful force, and one (if one cares to actually read the data) that kills infinitely more elephant than modern elephant hunters ever will.
    Elephant exports are governed by CITES, and I would suggest that everyone please read the quotas on the African Elephant. Then, compare the number to the population of each country. Then, ala CAMPFIRE, learn how much money is generated for the countries by the death of a very small percentage of animals, animals that will die by some way or another. To capitalize on what is an inevitability, in my view, is much smarter than to eliminate this source of revenue (along with the other contributions safari operators make) and then try to recoup that lost revenue by encouraging people to donate money to bureaucracy-laden organizations in which millions go into the top, and only thousands come out of the bottom; the rest chewed up by high-paid salaries, adverts, and gala dinners. Money should be given as close to the people who do the work as possible, and like it or not, the safari operators are on the ground, day in, day out, walking the areas, picking up thousands of snares, arresting poachers, and providing a living (and sustenance) for many, many people.
    It is perhaps saddest of all that outsiders seem to cherish African animals than some of those in country. In 2014 a pride of lions was killed by Maasai (NatGeo posited this as a potential ‘good’ that might help conservation efforts), which was merely an echo of a similar event in 2012 in Kenya. The NatGeo article mentioned that government payments to herders who lost livestock might be a way to ameliorate the deaths of livestock and to help prevent Maasai from killing lions that prey on their herds. In short, the saving of the lion might turn out to be purely economic, as stated in the article, “It’s very sensible,” Packer said after the meeting. “You’re rewarding for conservation, rather than paying compensation for lost livestock.” Indeed, rewarding proper conservation; that which generates the most funds protects the animals. When animals have value, they win. Where they do not, they suffer.
    Make no mistake about it, the safari operators and hunters to not want to see the elimination of the animals they hunt. Hunting is a very complex thing, which all too often is denigrated as barbaric and cruel. And elephant hunting should never be conflated with poaching, although it is done so with knee-jerk regularity. Where the safari operator must operate within specific regulations determined by not only CITES, but local game departments as well, the poacher does not. Where the safari operator lives with, and gives back to the community, the poacher does not. Where the safari operator is instrumental in the reintroduction of species back to historical ranges to see them once again flourish, the poacher is not.
    I will leave you with the challenge to actually to the research. Read the CITES standards, see what safari operators are doing for on-the-ground conservation. Read the entire CAMPFIRE document and see just where the economic resources some from that help to sustain it. Research anti-poaching organizations such as DAPU. And, for the sake of elephant, try to look outside the box a little and use an imaginative and holistic approach to conservation. It is a new world, and in this day and age what might seem contradictory can actually be agreeable. It’s only a matter of whether we can be honest enough to see it.

  • Ashok Rajasingh

    Poaching is a crime – like any other violent crime. All criminals need to be prosecuted & made to pay retribution.

    Hunting on the other hand is a recreational legal activity that has its place in scientific conservation.

    We need to be factual and scientific in this understanding and avoid emotional over reaction.

    We can achieve effective conservation only if non-hunters and hunters work together against poachers.

    On the other hand I also see some so called conservation websites that post comments supporting violence against hunters. In my view such intolerant hatred has no place in any conservation initiative.

  • Ashok Rajasingh

    Let me highlight the complex issue of hunting as a conservation aide – example – the Botswana lion.

    Once trophy hunting of lions in Botswana was banned, the lion population outside the National Parks has been all but wiped out.

    Before the ban, trophy hunting concessions used to manage the area and the lion prides. Only mature males past breeding age (6 years & displaced from a pride) were hunted. Prides with females & cubs were protected OUTSIDE National Parks.

    Now after the ban on trophy hunting, all lions are in danger outside the parks. Hunting concessions have been shut down. No protection is available for those lions. Lions that kill livestock are now poisoned by the villages and the entire pride including cubs are killed.

    The end result is that in Botswana the lion population has plummeted after the ban on trophy hunting!

  • Dr Martinus van der Reyden

    A film based on bad ecology? Really?
    A trained ecologist I am not, but I have a keen interest in the natural world of my continent.

    Whether you are a hunter or a non-hunter you have a nearly equal role in the way the habitat and the animals animals are used and, yes, killed in this world.

    The human race consumes not only the animals themselves for their meat, hide, hooves and trophies but also their habitat. Farmers didn’t find their fields magically devoid of animals ready for planting, those animals were displaced and killed by humans.
    How many animals were displaced, killed, poisoned to provide you with your daily needs in the supermarket? Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and corn products are all on the shelves at a certain cost to the natural environment.

    I have seen the destructive effects and habitat modification of elephants first hand in my time. The population pressure in Kruger is pressing elephants westwards into private land. The elephants are welcome but in a couple of years the density has increased to the same level as Kruger. Last year 280 elephant was counted on 7500 acres, on this same 7500 acres I couldn’t find one Knobthorn acacia that wasn’t barked, I could only find 1 marula sapling.

    Elephants congregate on water and in an over populated area the riverine forest is destroyed. I have spent hundreds of days on the Elephants River in the South African Lowveld where there are no elephants and where there are. In the area where there are no to few elephants it is a veritable tropical paradise, one often sees Narina Trogon, Pel’s Fishing Owl and African Finfoot. Where the riverine forest is destroyed there are none! Their habitat, their homes have been destroyed by elephants. If you have an opinion about elephant management I hope you are familiar with those names….
    In Gona Rhe Zhou Benji Weir is an excellent example: descriptions before the Benji spring was dammed speaks of lush vegetation around the spring, today it is a dam surrounded by denuded land carpeted in elephant droppings that run INTO the water in the rains: by definition a slum existence!

    A responsible conservationists we have to take care of soil, plants and animals in that order. Soil take millions of years to form and the plant substrate on the soil is the product of the last 300 to 500 years climatic, animal and human effect.

    Rural Africa is a harsh place to survive: health care, clean water, income and education are nearly impossible to obtain.
    How many Africans have you seen that are starving after crops have failed or been destroyed?

    CAMPFIRE gives those people the edge to rise above their fickle circumstances and in that process lessen their consumptive and destructive use of their land, it also gives the animals that share their land a better lot than being killed to feed hungry stomachs. As conservationists that gives us a foothold for education about conservation and wise use of resources for the future, it is very difficult to convert a hungry stomach!

    The developed world should allow Africa to find its own solutions suitable for their circumstances and problems. In essence Zimbabwe a failed state and it is a tribute to the robustness of the CAMPFIRE concept that there are any wild animals left at all in the country.

    Humans are the major vector in changes in the natural environment, thus it is our responsibility to be custodians of all wild species and to manipulate the natural world to lessen our own impact and protect all species responsibly. As usual the right decision to make is not an easy or popular decision.

  • Graeme Pollock

    wow, to much to ingest but he immediate over riding impression here is a they and us ( anti versus pro utilization).
    As a past Chief Nature Conservator for the KwaZulu Natal Department of Nature Conservation Ezemvelo responsible for Eco-tourism planning management plans and a presenter at the World Congress on Tourism for the Environment and the Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas ( IUCN ) a few years ago we always had to bring our Game Wardens and Investors back to the key points in a Protected Area Management Plan : What is the Primary Objective = CONSERVATION , what were the Secondary Objectives = research , tourism , education , etc. (there are many sub categories) . So when ever there was a conflict or a resistance to change we consistently reminded
    the Planning groups that the Primary Objective could not be subservient to the Secondary goals – so if an opinion was not backed by Science we asked ourselves if it detracted from the primary objective which was to conserve biodiversity = we all shared the same goal but had different opinions and view points – this is symtomatic here – we have the same goals but have different paths – some believe theirs is the high ground and others are the low ground , basically a “my opinion counts more than the conservation of the species , and I am not prepared to look at the option to invest in conserving the species”.
    Sadly the only casualty here is going to be the elephant .
    Both sides can throw biased research at the argument and ad hoc observations with a foundation of core believes , and spend so much time and argument and resources its unbelievable – no wonder we humans battle to get along – its like religion – my God is better , more moral , and I will kill you to prove it !!!! In the meantime like religion the elephants suffer.

    That said there are two brief comments on posts – one as to the repeated posts from different people , I was reading the web page when I saw the discussion that Nat Geo were not posting certain threads , so people who had had theirs posted were cutting and pasting comments and submitting under their own names.

    Professor Dobson assumes all posts are from South Africans where as posts are from Zambia , Zimbabwe and South Africa among many other African countries , his post seems to be strongly anti South African and kind of insults many Biologists and their work during the 1970/80 and pre 94 , claiming they have not stayed with the times and lumps all the evil in AFRICA on the white settlers in South Africa , how can anybody take this person serious or constructive ?

    The main blog is so fueled with anti hunting – it starts off citing science but cant help itself and falls back to ad hoc non science based emotional rhetoric . Any reasonable person should quickly recognize the agenda and biased citation of floored research.

    Sadly the great achievements that could be realized by co-operation and joint forces is lost to ego and misinformed opinions.

  • P-A Åhlén, wildlife biologist

    I am quite confident that this essay would never been written if Lee et al had spent some time in a well functional CAMPFIRE area. A role model for elephant conservation throughout its distribution area (outside parks and fenced areas). A management system that actually increases both the numbers of elephants and their distribution area.

    Instead they promote starvation and thirst as management tools, very cruel for the animals and what a waste of protein in an area were local people struggle to feed their kids.

    Also, I always find it very interesting that ecotourism should step in instead of trophy hunting. This is so very contra productive if your goals is to protect the populations of the target species. Hunting tourism (trophy hunting) needs high populations of many thousands of elephants to be long term viable. Ecotourism is more profitable the more threatened the population of the target species is and gives no incitament to protect the species outside the ecotourism area.

    The human population in Africa will keep increasing. The only long term stable way to conserve African mega fauna is to find ways for people and animals to live alongside each other. CAMPFIRE has so far proven to be the best option for elephants. Conservation inside fenced parks will not work in the long run, the growing human population will need this areas also.

    I am quite shore that there never would be a doubt of the need for hunting as a management tool if there was 500 000 mammoths left in North America, or 80 000 here in Sweden if I would translate the Zim situation to Sweden…

    The IUCN guidelines for trophy hunting as a conservation tool should be interesting reading for Lee et al.

  • Noel Weidner

    Here is one of the articles I tried to post the URL for, but the URLs were corrupted. It is well worth reading.

    Trophy Hunting Can Help African Conservation, Study Says
    John Pickrell
    for National Geographic News
    March 15, 2007

    Trophy hunting can play an essential role in the conservation of African wildlife, according to a growing number of biologists.

    According to a recent study, in the 23 African countries that allow sport hunting, 18,500 tourists pay over $200 million (U.S.) a year to hunt lions, leopards, elephants, warthogs, water buffalo, impala, and rhinos. Private hunting operations in these countries control more than 540,000 square miles (1.4 million square kilometers) of land, the study also found. That’s 22 percent more land than is protected by national parks. As demand for land increases with swelling human populations, some conservationists are arguing that they can garner more effective results by working with hunters and taking a hand in regulating the industry. Sport hunting can be sustainable if carefully managed, said Peter Lindsey, a conservation biologist with the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, who led the recent study. “Trophy hunting is of key importance to conservation in Africa by creating [financial] incentives to promote and retain wildlife as a land use over vast areas,” he said. In an upcoming edition of the journal Conservation Biology Lindsey and an international team of colleagues call for a plan to increase the conservation benefits of sport hunting, including a certification program to more tightly regulate the industry. “To justify the continued existence of [protected] areas in the context of increasing demand for land, wildlife has to pay for itself and contribute to the economy, and hunting provides an important means of achieving this,” Lindsey said.
    Hunting’s Checkered Past
    In order to be certified under Lindsey’s proposed plan, hunting operations would have to prove their commitment to animal welfare, careful management of hunting quotas, wide-ranging conservation objectives, and the development of local communities. “The time has come for greater scrutiny from scientists to promote maximum conservation benefits from hunting,” Lindsey said. “There should also be a greater effort from the hunting industry to self-regulate and ensure that unscrupulous elements are weeded out.” Trophy hunting has a bad reputation in the developed world, due in part to indiscriminate hunting by early European settlers, Lindsey observed. Reckless hunting resulted in the extinction of species such as the quagga (a cousin of the zebra) and led to the massive decline of others, including the elephant and black rhinoceros. But hunting has also been credited with facilitating the recovery of species, Lindsey’s team argues in its paper. The southern white rhinoceros grew from just 50 animals a century ago to over 11,000 wild individuals today, because hunts gave game ranchers a financial incentive to reintroduce the animal, the authors write. Trophy hunting has also driven the reintroduction of cape mountain zebra and black wildebeest in South Africa, Lindsey said. Hunters typically take just 2 to 5 percent of males annually from hunted animal populations, he added, which has a negligible effect on the populations’ reproductive health.
    Opposition Remains
    Many animal rights groups remain fundamentally opposed to killing animals for sport. “The idea of trophy hunting as a conservation method is an extremely tricky and contentious issue that generates disparate views from people all of whom claim to want the best for animals,” said Marc Bekoff a behavioral ecologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder and author of The Emotional Lives of Animals. Bekoff said that while the certification program is a good idea, he has difficulty believing it could work well in practice, because the bureaucracies involved in such regulation would be complex. “It’s hard to believe that the situation has reached the point where killing is the best way to conserve,” he said. “There have to be more humane alternatives.” In late February South Africa announced long-awaited legislation against so-called canned hunting, in which animals are shot in cages or are tranquilized and released shortly before being gunned down. The ban will take effect June 1 under a law that also bans hunting with bows and arrows.

  • Keith Lindsay

    While I was not born in Africa, I have spent the past 40 years working in all parts of the continent and I feel that it is very important to discuss and understand the links between science and practice in African conservation. But I am disappointed by many of the comments on this page, which largely miss the key points we raised in our essay. They continue to perpetuate the mixing up of old-style command-and-control wildlife management with the supposedly critical role played by trophy hunting in rural development.

    Few acknowledge the point that ecosystem change through time is normal, not pathological, that the supposed “disasters” in Tsavo in Kenya or Chobe in Botswana were misrepresented. In reality, neither of these ecosystems have ever been impoverished deserts, despite the wild claims made in the film.

    At the same time, few apart from R Martin discuss the shift in approach towards working with ecological processes, instead of fighting against them with massive and continual intervention to try and keep things the same all the time. Encouraging ecological processes is the opposite of “arrogance”, and is increasingly accepted as best practice. As we noted, it includes active management to maximize habitat diversity and resilience through strategic siting of waterpoints and maintaining natural fire regimes, while protecting habitat corridors through land used by people, so that elephant (and all wildlife) populations can regulate their numbers through dispersal and maintain genetic linkages. The latter is achieved through prevention/ mitigation of conflicts, “conservation agriculture” and CBNRM.

    This non-equilibrium approach is replacing the old management that treats ecosystems like commercial farms or ornamental gardens, with blanket provision of water supplies, burning large areas of rangeland and regular killing of excess elephants or indeed other wildlife.

    No one is under the illusion that nature is pristine, or that human activities are not important components that must be acknowledged and incorporated into conservation planning. We are aware, unlike many of the commenters, that landscape-level conservation is espoused by major international conservation organizations that have worked for decades in partnership with African CBOs, NGOs and governments. National governments with landscape conservation policies include Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya, and international donors funding such activities include UNDP-GEF, USAID and the European Union.

    Rural communities should be assisted to develop their own income streams. As we said in our essay, income from trophy hunting has a place in CBNRM as one of several options available, but it is not the only option. IUCN guidelines for trophy hunting note that where poorly managed, trophy hunting can have negative ecological impacts including altered age/sex structures, social disruption, deleterious genetic effects, and even population declines. Elephant management guidelines from Namibia note that quotas for elephants should not exceed 0.5% of the population, consisting only of older males with average tusk weights of at least 19kg. These limits of sustainability mean that trophy hunting should kill very few animals and cannot be seen as any form of population control. The film and many of the comments on this page blur these distinctions.

    It can also be difficult to ensure that benefits from hunting accrue to those in the best position to help conservation, or that it does not contribute to poaching or illegal wildlife trade. Given that elephant killing for ivory is currently out of control across the continent of Africa, it is extremely risky to be promoting the killing of elephants in one country or region, while it is causing a crisis for many populations elsewhere.

  • Graeme Pollock

    Some issues pertaining to Botswana have been raised in this discussion :
    1. Ban on Lion hunting
    Before we comment we need to look at lessons learnt :
    Like the Lion one other apex predator followed a similar course – the Tiger , due to declining numbers a ban on hunting was implemented in the mid 70’s – since then the Tiger has accelerated its way towards extinction – clearly the lesson to be learn’t is that the banning of hunting put no value to the specie and no incentive for local communities to either tolerate the specie or integrate it into the holistic management of the communal areas.
    Kenya banned hunting and research now provides evidence that wildlife populations have declined by as much as 85% since the ban.
    Parallel to these events South Africa faced a White Rhino extinction knocking on the door – records from the Umfolozi Hluhluwe Game Reserve show as little as 25 individuals were left, Dr Ian Player and a group of legendary game rangers embarked on a save the White Rhino campaign – and recognized the vital role the private sector could play in distributing genetics and protecting the species – and it was realized all this could only be done on the backs of hunters dollars. The rest is History -White Rhino populations although under unprecedented poaching pressure recovered to stable numbers while the Tiger continues to battle with evading extinction. Simplistic but factual.
    Hunting is saving species from extinction while non use is accelerating species to extinction.

    After years of hunting being closed in the Kalahari in 2000 Botswana re-opened hunting in the southern Kalahari region , this decision followed on from years of consultation with the communities and government bodies. In excess of 15 000 000 acres of wilderness was converted from communal farming to Controlled Hunting Areas. Approx 6 community trusts were formed to benefit from the new land use change, more than 200 new jobs were created and benefits including transport for the aged , vegetable gardens , homes for the destitute , meat distribution from hunting operations were realized by the communities. This distracted the need to poach and the incidence’s of poaching dried up as known poachers were incorporated into the staff compliment and now played an important part of the development of the area.
    When asked where are the lions ? , the standard answer was they were killed to protect livestock and skins fetched money on the black market. This activity ( killing lion) also dried up and there was a visible increase in lion populations – evident in the growing success of the harvesting of older mature trophies through to 2005. Under extreme pressure from anti hunters including a well known film maker the government closed lion hunting in 2005 and leopard a few years later – all incentive to protect the wildlife was removed and the communities of the Kalahari had very few options to make a living . The people behind the closure walked away – mission accomplished – predator hunting was closed – but what were the 200 people , community trusts and villagers suppose to do now to replace their income and food ? , those 15 million acres are reconverting back to subsistent farming with low tolerance for predators – the lion population is facing drastic declines, the same for Leopard in the Ghanzi and Kalahari district . Hunting protected these animals from extermination and poaching , this protection is now in the hands of only the DWNP and BDF , who although doing an incredible job do not have the resources to patrol million of acres and is this really their core purpose.
    The same people behind misinforming government to close Lion hunting are largely behind the total ban of all hunting in Botswana and with this mission achieved we can only expect history to repeat itself ( Kenya ) , even though this was not the intent – The law of unintended consequence.
    3. Elephant populations have exploded in Botswana and the last DWNP survey revealed an upward estimate of over 220 000 elephant . Before the closure of hunting there was a quota of 400 elephant with most of this being allocated to community trusts who had persuaded their people to convert land use options to controlled hunting . A quota of less than 0.03 % had no impact on Elephant populations but contributed to economic upliftment of communities in the elephant ranges. The ecological impact of over 200 000 elephant can be compared to 200 000 bulldozers ploughing through the wilderness , this is no evolutionary change to the environment – it s ecological disaster in progress.

    Trophy Hunting has little to no impact in population control of elephant population growth , but a elephant management program with sustained elephant harvesting can benefit and contribute to the funding of conservation programs.

  • Zig Mackintosh

    Zig Mackintosh.

    Producer of The Elephant and the Poacher: The Ivory Debacle.

    There is much to discuss as evidenced by the number of posts so in order to keep the reader’s attention I shall keep my post as short as possible, in bullet form and try and not repeat what has already been said.

    • Carrying capacities and over-population are so 20th Century. Oh really? Well better get US Fish and Wildlife Service on the phone and tell them that not too worry they don’t have a white-tailed deer problem in the USA, and things will sort themselves out.
    • Here is the problem with your water-point management plan in Hwange National Park, one that Rudi Van Aarde is on record as supporting. It is an all or nothing deal. If you turn off say 10 water points the elephants from those pans simply move from them and create more congestion at others. All of the many smaller animals – warthogs and baboons etc. don’t know where the other waterholes are and probably wouldn’t be able to get to them if they did. So you are essentially punishing the animals that are not the problem. The waterholes closest to the tourism areas are the ones that would not be turned off, for obvious reasons. It is here that the elephants would congregate and then die there like flies from starvation. Tourism would collapse which would have a devastating effect on the local human communities that are dependent on tourism. So if we want to turn off the water it has to be all of the pumps which would cause the collapse of the biggest elephant population in Zimbabwe along with the tourism industry. The park could no longer justify its existence as a functioning protected area.
    • Your idea of a “corridor” through which the elephant could move to is an interesting one. Perhaps you could show us on a map where your corridor would lead to and how the inhabitants, both human and animal, of the “new” area would react?
    • I am sorry but it borders on the criminal to try and airbrush over the tragedy of Tsavo with: Quote “…this led to a change in the dominant vegetation cover from dense bushland to open bushed grassland. In the decades after a severe drought and die-off of elephants in the early 1970s, followed by intense poaching in the 1980s, Tsavo changed from grassland back to bushland.” Unquote. Thousands of elephant did die along with hundreds of black rhino and many other different animal species from the irresponsible decision to “let nature take its course”. Thousands of square miles of Commiphora canopy woodland, not merely bushland, was lost. To the uninformed Tsavo may look in good condition but this was not how it looked before the fiasco. Luckily Peter Beard was on hand to document the tragedy in his book, “The End of the Game” Click here to see some of the images from the book.
    • I think that one needs to read this before deciding whether the Chobe Park is returning to its original treeless state?
    • Quote: “We argue strenuously, however, with the film’s strong emphasis on trophy hunting of elephants as if it is the only source of rural income” Unquote. Charles Jonga, the Chairman of the CAMPFIRE program categorically states that CAMPFIRE protects about 50,000 sq km(12.7%) of land in Zimbabwe. Benefits from Wildlife and other incomes encompass: about 777,000 households (25%) in Zimbabwe benefited from CAMPFIRE directly or indirectly; one quarter of Zimbabwe’s people are receiving incentives to conserve wildlife and prevent anti-poaching through CAMPFIRE; between 1994 and 2012, CAMPFIRE generated US$39 million of which US$21.5 million was allocated to communities and used for resource management (22%), household benefits (26%), and community projects (52%). About 90% of CAMPFIRE revenue comes from hunting with elephant hunting contributing more than 70% of annual revenue. One wonders how many bottles of honey would have to be sold to make up that sort of revenue.
    • The US Fish and Wildlife Service knew before they made their announcement that it would have a serious impact on the hunting safari operators and the communities. In an internal memo one of their own wrote: Quote “early engagement with the sport-hunting community is needed to maintain positive relations and create opportunities for cooperative action to affect change” Unquote. They decided not to engage anyone before making their decision so yes it does smack of “eco-imperialism”
    • Whether Rowan Martin’s ivory trading model is floored or not is irrelevant, the fact of the matter is that the ivory trade ban is not working. Elephant poaching has reached unprecedented heights. More of the same will lead to more of the same. Militant protectionism does not work.

    The writers of this article suggest that the movie is deeply misleading on key issues of ecology and conservation and that if the pronouncements are heeded that it will be extremely dangerous for the future of African elephants. I contend that the opposite is true.

  • Graeme Pollock

    Mr. Lindsay, I am a bit confused with your proposal of non intervention management as quoted below :

    “At the same time, few apart from R Martin discuss the shift in approach towards working with ecological processes, instead of fighting against them with massive and continual intervention to try and keep things the same all the time. Encouraging ecological processes is the opposite of “arrogance”, and is increasingly accepted as best practice. As we noted, it includes active management to maximize habitat diversity and resilience through strategic siting of waterpoints and maintaining natural fire regimes, while protecting habitat corridors through land used by people, so that elephant (and all wildlife) populations can regulate their numbers through dispersal and maintain genetic linkages. The latter is achieved through prevention/ mitigation of conflicts, “conservation agriculture” and CBNRM.

    This non-equilibrium approach is replacing the old management that treats ecosystems like commercial farms or ornamental gardens, with blanket provision of water supplies, burning large areas of rangeland and regular killing of excess elephants or indeed other wildlife.”

    I am confused because on one hand you state that intervention management is outdated but then state ” strategically placed waterholes and fire management and putting in place corridors….. – these are intervention management practices, but ones you deem OK while rejecting other forms ( culling , hunting ) .

    The corridor concept is the bases of linking conservation islands and one where hunting concessions have been the most useful, some of the most recent studies have shown that one of the major reasons for declines in wildlife populations have been the cutting off of migration routes – Kruger National Park – run south north where as all historic movement of game was east west east. Similar patterns were interrupted in Botswana with devastating impacts on Wildebeest Hartebeest Zebra and Springbok .
    These corridors were starting to be to be re-opened from 1996 with the implementation of hunting concessions , here STRATEGIC water holes were established along the dispersal routes reducing biomass pressure on the permanent waters of the Chobe and Okavango,
    The ban on hunting caused all these water points to be closed and what did not die has moved back to the high pressure areas.
    All these water points were developed on the backs of hunting revenues and ran into the millions of dollars. Revenues from alternative sources such as photo based tourism cannot generate the funds required to run these water points so they are now closed ( second year) these areas are marginal but key dispersal areas for elephant , eland , roan and other threatened species. The closure of hunting has set these corridors back 15 years.

    What I struggle with is the single minded thinking of anti hunters ( anti utilization) , we can speak about animal welfare and hunting is much more humane than slaughtering cattle / chicken or duck liver pate .
    We can speak about ecological foot prints – hunting camps have a far lower foot print than a 24 bed tourism camp with its associated waste and consumption – think of the carbon print in just flying each person.
    We can speak about financial income per visitor generated or job created per visitor – again hunting provides by far the greatest benefits per bed night.
    Hunting companies fund anti poaching conservation and research far in excess of any any other nature based tourism activity.

    With all this evidence es. in regards to elephant management , there must be another agenda or reason for the anti use stand.

    The main point is that the evidence is overwhelming in support for hunting to be a tool of conservation

  • Peter Coppolillo

    I am a hunter, a conservationist, and an ecologist. Most of the time these three perspectives fit nicely together. As numerous comments point out, hunting CAN BE compatible with conservation. That assertion, particularly in North America, is unassailable.

    Where problems arise, however, is when wildlife become commercially valuable, where responsibly managed hunting is difficult or impossible, and where species face threats that are larger and more pervasive than legal hunting. All of these conditions are true for elephants.

    “Hunter Proud” and its advocates have slipped from a reasonable assertion (that hunting can be compatible), to a questionable one (that hunting is compatible), to an indefensible one (that hunting is essential). Hunting is categorically not essential to conserving elephants.

    The vast majority of hunters care deeply about wildlife and are reasonable enough to put the needs of individual species ahead of our own interests in trophies or meat or recreational opportunities. Unfortunately, the extreme and unqualified views of a few are being sold as the view of all hunters. This is not the case. Elephants do not need to be hunted to be conserved. “Hunter Pride” vastly overstates the utility and applicability of hunting, and it does so at the expense of elephants.

    Elephants need all the help we can provide them, and the existence of a legal hunt provides cover for a vastly larger illegal and unsustainable trade, one we can’t afford right now.

  • Keith Lindsay

    I must admit that I find it hard to believe that we are still hearing these same tired arguments being recycled over the decades. And it’s discouraging that people are not following the points we have made. At no point, did we argue for “no intervention”; instead we advocate intelligent, science-based intervention, with science that has moved on from earlier “certainties”.

    Some 25 years ago I attended a workshop in Hwange NP to debate the pros and cons of culling to maintain ecosystem integrity against perceived threats from elephants. “No need to cull” won the argument on that day. Twenty years later, the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism appointed an Elephant Science Roundtable of 10 ecologists, mostly from southern Africa, to resolve questions about elephant abundance and habitat interactions in Kruger NP, and to asses whether there was a need to reduce numbers. Among its many conclusions, the Roundtable noted that:
    1. Claimed disaster scenarios from elsewhere (Tsavo, Chobe, Hwange) have been greatly exaggerated. Research conducted in these parks has not revealed substantial consequences
    for either animal or plant diversity. Riparian and other woodlands have regenerated in Tsavo following the die-off of elephants (less than 20% of the population) and poaching, indicating that the changes wrought by elephants were not irreversible. The decline in browsing animals was counterbalanced by an increase in grazers; now browsers are now returning to the expanding woodlands.
    2. There is no benchmark against which to judge an ideal vegetation state for the KNP, and the previously maintained ceiling of around 7000 elephants in the KNP should not be construed as a carrying capacity. Big trees have declined – converted to shrubby growth form – despite the decades-long capping of elephant numbers.
    3. Manipulating elephant numbers alone may have ramifying consequences. Density feedbacks on survival and dispersal must ultimately curtail the growth in the elephant population. Establishing a heterogeneous spatial template is more effective than continually counteracting change (waterpoint and dispersal management rather than culling are key features of the current KNP management plan).

    The current dependence of some wildlife, and wildlife managers, on the widespread provision of artificial water in Hwange illustrates the point that intervention becomes a compulsion. In practice, a staged closing of waterpoints over a period of several years, a gradual “drying out” from the addiction, need not have apocalyptic effects on either wildlife populations or tourism. Despite the harrowing claims, wildlife is fully capable of shifting distributions in response to changing resource availability, and the whole western boundary of Hwange is a corridor to Botswana’s elephant range. At closed waterpoints, the vegetation will return to its previous condition, as will local animal communities, although monitoring should accompany any management changes to keep an eye on their effects.

    Despite the interpretation chosen by many respondents, we fully recognized the benefits of the CAMPFIRE programme in promoting rural development, governance and natural resource management through incentives for wildlife conservation. However, it is important to maintain perspective. Zig Macintosh provides some figures, but without a source that can be verified. If his numbers are accurate, a total revenue of $21.5m over 18 years, of which 78% went to household benefits and community projects, comes to $931,667 per annum. This may seem like a significant amount, but if 777,000 households must share this funding, it works out to an average of $1.20 per household per year. These benefits may be unevenly distributed, but the amounts are hardly a significant boost to household incomes; at best a psychological incentive might be ascribed. Agriculture and livestock husbandry remain the dominant income-generating activities, so wildlife friendly rural development will have to go beyond trophy hunting of elephants to include landscape-scale approaches, such as conservation agriculture and harmonization of all natural resource benefit streams, and not just honey production, if habitat conversion is to be avoided.

    The fact that the ivory trade ban is not sufficient on its own to protect elephants does not mean that more trading will somehow work better. An open trade in ivory, with a centralized licensing system, has already been tried during the 1970s-80s and it clearly did not work then, as the previous surge in poaching showed. The 1989 trade ban brought poaching to an abrupt halt, but over the intervening decades, illegal trade has grown up alongside other criminal supply chains. Unlicensed trade in weapons and human trafficking are both illegal and current efforts to control them are not working, but no one is suggesting that these trades should be opened up to a market solution.

    In summary, the film revives old arguments over culling, seemingly resolved but apparently not yet dead, and makes claims for consumptive use of wildlife in general, and trophy hunting of elephants in particular that are seductive but not well-grounded with evidence. Encouraging ivory sales at a time of continental crisis is simply wrong.

  • Jo

    Zimbabwe’s own Rowan Martin! The one who enticed the officials there, with the help of the ex-CITES official Hank Jenkins, to rip baby elephants from their mothers and families to feed the wildlife trade. Who could possibly now take him seriously? Martin and Jenkins were seen together in Zimbabwe last year making these devious and highly unethical plans that today have the world in uproar. If Rowan Martin ever had any credibility, he doesn’t now.


    I sincerely hope this film is seen what for what it is . It’s a horrific way to promote hunting of the elephants in Africa by hunters who are desperately trying to turn the tide in their favor . How can they possibly dispute the facts that our world elephant population is dying to the point of extinction and hunting them would only make this tragic event worse. Hunters are worried they will soon no longer be able to get their trophies so they have concocted this sham ie the “con” in conservation . Even CITES , who have been of no help in stopping our elephants from hurdling towards extinction, see this ridiculous notion of hunting them as a way of saving them as non-justifiable though not for lack of trying as they are to tied people who are directly responsible for the horrible situation the world is reeling from in the abduction of baby elephants in Zimbsbwe 🙁

  • Graeme Pollock

    Keith Lindsay refers to the decision to stop culling in the KNP as if it was based on research , as best I know this was a political decision against the wishes of the Parks biologists and when I say political I mean it was a decision required in order to secure a very substantial donation/sponsorship and a condition precedent to the donation was that the culling was to be stopped , KNP biologists rue this decision to this day and Dr. John Hanks has written often on this thorny issue as best I recall.

    KL states “Claimed disaster scenarios from elsewhere (Tsavo, Chobe, Hwange) have been greatly exaggerated. Research conducted in these parks has not revealed substantial consequences for either animal or plant diversity”
    I have never read any published papers reflecting this view , please supply the link otherwise this is just another loose statement made to distract readers from the reality of the damage.

    Keith Lindsay states :” 2. There is no benchmark against which to judge an ideal vegetation state for the KNP, and the previously maintained ceiling of around 7000 elephants in the KNP should not be construed as a carrying capacity. Big trees have declined – converted to shrubby growth form – despite the decades-long capping of elephant number.”

    The capping arose after the very obvious decline in large tree biomes, in an attempt to halt the unacceptable decline.
    The recolonization of shrub and other stunted trees was not due to only the elephant but drought and fire management played a part ( Tinley et al )

    KL states “At closed waterpoints, the vegetation will return to its previous condition, as will local animal communities,” KL deems this intervention management will manage dispersal and limit subsequent ecological damage, is very misleading – key habitat damage by elephants are often irreversible as is species diversity change , these changes may requires decades to return to their prev ecological evolution stage.

    KL’s attempt to undermine the value of income generated from sustainable wildlife utilization in the CAMPFIRE program by distributing every last cent to a household is simply illogical and a blatant attempt to undermine the revenue to discredit hunting. All known CBNRM initiatives attempt to fund community projects that uplift communities – such as community schools and community halls , vegetable gardens , funds for the destitute etc they are never with the intent to make each and every family dependent on cash hand outs per household. That defies the entire concept of community empowerment , we want to make communities sustainable through project development not cash handouts , handouts are the death of africa and in my opinion one of the ways the west likes to control africa and by the sounds of it anti hunters as well.

    I am often astounded at how anti hunters will extract facts and manipulate them to make a new completely different looking story from the original intent . I have cut and re-pasted a few crackers from KL –
    “The fact that the ivory trade ban is not sufficient on its own to protect elephants does not mean that more trading will somehow work better. ”
    NON TRADE has not worked , neither has the no trade in rhino horn, in fact since the ban the demand and black market value has skyrocketed on the back of the ban – so this is definetly not working ! ,
    “An open trade in ivory, with a centralized licensing system, has already been tried during the 1970s-80s and it clearly did not work then, as the previous surge in poaching showed.”
    This is the cracker – the surge in poaching was due to the closure of hunting during this same time frame – all the hunting areas closed and with it the outfitters pulled out of areas leaving them open to poachers and the wildlife unprotected – the decline in wildlife had very little to do with the trade in ivory – ivory values were low and unsustainable in the 1970’s.

    KL go’s on to state ” The 1989 trade ban brought poaching to an abrupt halt, but over the intervening decades, illegal trade has grown up alongside other criminal supply chains.” what ???? The greatest decline in elephant numbers in areas that closed hunting has occurred from 1989 , only countries that continued to hunt ( use of ivory ) show increased elephant populations from 1989 onwards – eg Zimbabwe, Namibia , Botswana , Zambia . Countries that closed hunting : Angola , Zaire , Ethiopia , Uganda, etc experienced horrific declines from 1989.

    “Unlicensed trade in weapons and human trafficking are both illegal and current efforts to control them are not working, but no one is suggesting that these trades should be opened up to a market solution.”
    hey ???
    The comparison eludes me ! Uncontrolled trade in military weapons and human trafficking has never been legal
    Why not use proabition as the example rather , this was a legal trade much like ivory and horn, no need to regurgitate this old story we all know the history . But the point is the ban is making ivory and horn more valuable than gold diamonds and human lives , whereas common sense dictates that make it a common commodity it looses value.

    The underlying point however is that anti hunters do not care about options at the expense of our wildlife.

  • Keith Lindsay

    It is understandable that some safari hunting operators may feel that their enterprises are threatened by international restrictions on elephant killing. However, it would show some sense of proportion, and humanity, if they were able to recognise the widespread international concern over the destruction of elephant populations and look beyond their narrow commercial interests.

    There is little point in my continuing to post information here if people won’t read it and then think about its meaning before recycling the same old arguments. For example, the quotes about the changing understanding of elephant/ ecosystem ecology, attributed to me by G Pollock in his most recent intervention, came in fact from a paper by five eminent South African ecologists (not politicians) who participated in the Elephant Science Roundtable that I mentioned. A simple web search would lead to source material, but here is a link:

    The successes and challenges of CBNRM in southern Africa, and of the wisdom (or otherwise) of trading in endangered species in the middle of a crisis, have been discussed at length elsewhere. This material is also readily available to anyone who cares to invest the time in understanding the issues properly.

  • Zig Mackintosh

    Mr. Pollock, I believe that you are wasting your time trying to engage with Mr. Lindsay because, you see, he is tired of hearing the other side of the story and he has already told you all that you need to know about wildlife management. He is right and that is that.

    His silly, but dangerous, idea of “water-point management” will not be implemented in Zimbabwe for the reasons that I have outlined in my earlier comment. Unfortunately culling will not be implemented either because of the costs involved and the absence of legal trade in ivory.

    So, despite what Lindsay might say, the Hwange and Chobe National parks will be trashed and there will be an uncontrolled die-off of elephant and other game species. And 20 years from now people will say, “how could we have let this happen especially after what happened in Tsavo?”

    The Lindsays of this world will no doubt be on hand to say,” well it’s like this…”

  • Ron Thomson

    The film “The elephant and the Pauper” was NOT produced “with the specific aim of lobbying for hunting and the consumptive use of African wildlife”. Its purpose was to provide responsible background and ecological information – enough for responsible people everywhere to start to understand the complex management needs of the African elephant in the interests both of the elephant and the entire natural ecosystems which they share with other plants and animals which ALL suffer the consequences when elephant numbers become excessive.

    Those who don’t WANT to read this message into the film – like Messrs Lee, Lindsay and Nowak – of course, will never understand this point of view.

    Ivory and rhino horn are natural renewable resources of Africa which are very valuable on the world market – and they can be produced sustainably for ANY size market. To do this all Africa has to do it to set up the necessary infrastructure and “go into production”. Elephants and rhinos are WILD “products of the land”, just as cattle, sheep and goats are TAME “products of the land”, both of which CAN and SHOULD be “used” wisely and sustainably for the benefit of Africa’s people.

    What these authors don’t seem to understand is that POVERTY and UNEMPLOYMENT are the principal “drivers” of commercial elephant (and rhino) poaching in Africa’s protected areas – NOT “the mafia” – and that the ONLY way to stop the poaching of elephants in our national parks is to remove poverty and unemployment in those rural African communities that live on the park boundaries. And the best way to achieve THAT is by using Africa’s valuable wild natural resources, in a sustainable manner, and in the best interests of THESE PEOPLE (for THEY are the ones who pull the triggers). There is no other solution that can remove these “causes” of the poaching in our national parks.

    I have been in the game of “African Wildlife Management” for 55 years. I worked for the Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) National Parks for 24 years (and ended up as the Provincial Game Warden-in-charge of Hwange National Park – and in other spheres in South Africa). I have vast experience with the management elephants and my personal interests are solely directed towards what is BEST for Africa’s elephants (and black rhinos), AND (my priority) what is best for the maintenance of the biological diversities of Africa’s National Parks. I would like, therefore, to endorse the film “The Elephant and the Pauper” because it hits the nail (with regards the elephant poaching problem) right on the head.

    When it comes to the stopping the poaching of privately owned rhinos, the ONLY thing that can be done to save THEM, is to beef up security on the private game ranches; and THAT is going to cost a whole lot of money. And the ONLY place that money can come from is through the sale of rhino horn on an open world market – and the horn can be harvested bi-annually from living rhinos. So I am 100 percent in favour of South Africa opening up a transparent and controlled international market in rhino horn, too.

    What Africa needs right now is the freedom to act in its own best wishes; to manage its elephants & rhinos as AFRICA itself sees fit; and to open, manage and control free international markets (herself) in both ivory and rhino horn as AFRICA sees fit.

    To do THAT we we need to be “FREE” of that corrupt (polluted) organisation called CITES – because CITES is now controlled by its accredited animal rightist NGOs.

    What Africa does NOT need at this time is a bunch of First World people (who call themselves “conservationists” or “scientists”) telling it what to do. Africa also does not need First World Animal Rights NGO’s “buying” the support of leading academicians (professors and the like) in Africa with Million-Rand sponsorships – in order to get them to stand up in public and to sprout animal rights propaganda. Nobody parts with a million Rands without demanding his pound of flesh!

    The world is rapidly coming to a cross-roads. Either good wildlife management practices and common sense will prevail – and Africa’s wildlife will be saved forever; OR the animal rightist NGOs – whose purpose is to ABOLISH all animal “uses” by man, will win – whereafter we will see Africa’s wildlife disappear into oblivion as the 21st century draws to an end.

  • Keith Lindsay

    Well “Zig”, it’s like this…

    IF you, G Pollock and all the other professional hunters would BOTHER yourselves to read my postings and the links I’ve provided, you would see that it is not just my opinion that there are better ways to manage nature than wading in with guns (and fences and artificial water). Professors Owen-Smith, van Aarde, Kerley, Slotow and Page have all done plenty of research into the ecology of elephants and their ecosystems. And they, among many others, have concluded that the disaster scenario is the result of narrow-minded thinking, looking only at the short term and the small picture. They have recognised that ecosystems with even moderately intact trophic levels are resilient and dynamic, not the constant gardens that managers used to hold as a stone-written certainty — and sadly, it seems, hunters and some film makers still cling to.

    So yes, I’m tired of listening to the same old “other side of the story” that provides no new information and goes back again and again to the “fight nature to save it” mentality. If you have something useful to say, chaps, let’s hear it.

  • Zig Mackintosh

    There, there “Keith”, I have read your postings and your links and I don’t agree, but time will tell, won’t it?

  • Graeme Pollock

    Keith Lindsay – you state we are not reading your theory nor trying to understand it , which is incorrect, we have hence the very articulate and lengthy replies , you may not like the replies nor the overwhelming rejection of your THEORY .
    But lets make it clear why we do not accept your theory of allowing the destruction to carry on ( or evolve according to you) .
    1. Evolution and change in nature take place over millions of years not 50 years which you are proposing , anything accelerated due to human intervention – which is very much the case in regards to elephant and elephant range, is not evolution but adaption , adaption can take place a far greater rate than evolution. So adaption or quick change is due to man and must therefore be remedied by man – hence the recommendation of controlled reduction involving best use practices.
    2. Water point management is – intervention – but requires enormous amounts of manpower and resources which most state conservation bodies do not have – only the private sector can drive this – in marginal low value areas the only viable and sustainable land use is hunting.
    3. The greatest threat to elephant and other african wildlife is loss of habitat ( or in this case change of habitat ) both create a threat to biodiversity . Healthy Wildlife ecosystems need contiguous viable areas – such as Transfrontier Parks or interleading conservation areas. Islands of conservation found in most of Africa are neither viable or sustainable hence the rapid declines in wildlife populations throughout the continent .

    4. The summary and motivation – the leading successful model for creating extended wildlife areas and joining millions of acres of land dedicated to wildlife management is hunting based land use. The leading CBNRM projects benefiting wildlife and communities is hunting based.
    Lindsay and partners are trying to sell an outdated theory on elephant management ( evolutionary biodiversity change) which has failed elephants across africa where they are safe and breeding beyond their habitat capacity , all under the hidden agenda of trying to stop elephant hunting .
    They want the unsuspecting well meaning uninformed public to buy into something that has failed and is a model taught at all Academic institutions under the heading – Carrying Capacity – managing animals that have exceeded the environments ability to sustainably support a wildlife population.
    The key point is this failed theory will destroy hundreds of thousands of key wildlife areas and wildlife populations and the very sad reality is when this fails – THEY DO NOT HAVE A PLAN “B” . after all it was just a theory .

  • Graeme Pollock

    In continuation of the fact elephants need land and a lot of it and Africa actually has the land to sustain ever increasing elephant populations – the problem however is that most of Africa does not have the capacity to finance nor manpower the available land. For that reason pro-utilization bodies have long identified that the land surface increase can be funded on the back of hunting dollars.
    A good example is Botswana – most of Botswana is uninhabited , there is vast land lying vacant adjacent to formal conservation areas – but there is no water – if areas where put out to private hunting companies , the hunting companies would drill boreholes and create water holes to where elephants could migrate – taking away the pressure on the permanent waters of the Okavango and Chobe . Water point establishment and running requires enormous financial investment . By creating millions of additional hectares for elephant the pressure to cull or manage would be removed as would the destruction currently happening , this will never be achieved because rather than support a best land use option ( hunting ) Mr. Lindsay and partners would rather the elephants die from starvation disease etc than one be harvested as part of a sustainable and community uplifting program.
    As Zig has stated , history will identify that anti hunters were African Wildlife’s greatest threat and cause of extinction.

  • Stanley Garland

    Elephants? Really, really, do you have to hunt one of the worlds most majestic creatures? I can understand if it is endangering a population center or if it is rogue but in general there are far too many other things to hunt that are available. What sport is there is shooting an elephant anyway? They are not generally a food animal. We can find you plenty of invasive species here to hunt to your heart’s content.

  • Steve Larsson

    Anne Grace
    To your comment “Every animal deserve to live peacefully as they are not here for us but to share the planet with us” I can only assume that when you have an excessive and increasing population of cockroaches, beyond the carrying capacity of your kitchen, you simply let nature take it’s course? Or do you intervene and “control” the population of cockroaches using by adaptive management principles?

  • Graeme Pollock

    Once again Mr. R Thompson has soundly identified the principle issues affecting CONSERVATION in Africa .

    1. The number one resource Africa has its wildlife and it should be allowed to trade freely without western arrogant intervention.

    2. Poverty and unemployment drive most crime in Africa – including poaching – rural communities are the most impoverished but reside with wildlife. In other publications Mr. Thomson has pointed out that by the turn of the century Africa’s human population increase and the subsequent fight to survive will make all our arguments null and void is the true reality.

    3. CITIES have been highjacked by anti use and extreme animal welfare NGO’s , they can no longer be trusted to make unbiased wildlife decisions that affect African states.
    The sooner African states resign the sooner Africa can harness it wildlife resources to full potential

    4. Wildlife protection , development and management requires enormous amounts of financial and manpower investment . The only way this can be realized is for Africa to sustainably utilize its natural resources on a free and open market .

  • Graeme Pollock

    Mr. Lindsay , in continuance with your many incorrect statements – eg

    “It is understandable that some safari hunting operators may feel that their enterprises are threatened by international restrictions on elephant killing. However, it would show some sense of proportion, and humanity, if they were able to recognise the widespread international concern over the destruction of elephant populations and look beyond their narrow commercial interests. ”

    If you took the time to heed your own advise and actually read and understand our science based point of view , you would have observed that we do in fact recognise the wide spread destruction of elephant populations and are not only concerned but putting in the time and money to try combat the decline. However you are failing to do this very thing by ignoring the fact that the elephants of Zimbabwe and Botswana are about to not only implode their own populations but are damaging other key species .

    You pretend on one hand to care about the decline in elephant populations but then seem OK with the scientificaly predicted mass die off of elephant by disease or hunger due to the elephants over population in specific geographic locations.

    You further ignore or explain why elephant populations are only stable and increasing in areas where Elephant hunting is an integral part of elephant management ( Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana ) – the reason for the stable elephant populations is because they are protected outside of national parks by the hunting companies presence on the ground and by the hunting companies own Anti Poaching units funded on the backs of hunting revenues.
    In countries where anti hunting organizations have succeeded in closing elephant hunting – such as Kenya – the elephant populations which were viable and vibrant under hunting management have plummeted and are facing local extinction – what part of this eludes you !!!.

    The real truth is you state we don’t read or understand your point of view but the fact that your comment in response to my post regarding “political” interference in stopping culling in the KNP , demonstrates you neither read nor try to understand our science based opinion – the “political ” side of my comments refers to politically correct – not actual politicians interfering . But hey why mess up a good story with the truth .

  • Graeme Pollock

    Mr. Lindsay – not only have I read your comments but I have taken the trouble to read your suggested links , and low and behold I once again discover that the usual tactic of the anti hunting fraternity to not be liberal with the truth is on display. The Round Table of Biologists convened for the issue of elephant management in the KNP released the below , cut and pasted , which is not quiet what you were saying they were saying – is it – ????? please look at the second point

    “Nevertheless, a panel of scientists most
    knowledgeable about elephants and the
    consequences of their impacts for ecosys-
    tems reached general agreement on their
    recommendations to the Minister of Envi-
    ronmental Affairs and Tourism at the
    conclusion of the recent (18 January 2006)
    ‘Elephant Science Roundtable’ that he
    convened for this purpose. To quote from
    the consensus statement released:
    1. There is no compelling evidence for the
    need for immediate, large-scale reduction
    of elephant numbers in the Kruger National
    Park (KNP).
    2. Nevertheless, in some protected areas
    including the KNP, elephant density, distri
    bution and population structure may need
    to be managed locally to meet biodiversity
    and other objectives”

    I would say the paper is more of a thought provoking one on OPTIONS and THOUGHTS on elephant management , than one which categorically states elephant numbers SHOULD NOT be controlled to avoid ecological change , in fact they dont close that door as per number 2 above. Which is not what Mr. Lindsay was attempting to mislead us into believing.

  • Paula

    First, I would like to ask, why is Africa so financially poor in the first place? Didn’t Europe and America have something to do with that? And second aren’t human animals the most destructive force on the planet? Given what we know of elephant ethology, what’s the difference between ‘culling’ elderly or other elephants and culling elderly and other humans? Can you imagine members of another species barging into your house and taking the lives of your family members to raise money to fix the conservation problems that their species have caused in the first place? That would be considered highly unethical, even if by culling half the human population and controlling human breeding and eating less factory farmed meat would result in overwhelmingly massive improvements in the environment and along with other things reduce climate change. So why would that be unethical? Because we are humans, and they are not? They are sentient beings with the capacity to feel pain fear and emotions, and many argue that they are indeed better than us. If you were an elephant you’d be a much better person. And how does capitalism play into all of this? Well, isn’t it at the very centre of this? Given that our species are stuck in a circle of violence, that is now spilling over on to our streets, and that we seem to be traumatized as a species, and that our history is steeped in war, then why not choose the obvious path, to free ourselves of this misery once and for all. Selling Rhino horns in an international market, legally or illegally, still gives the impression that violence is the acceptable answer to problems, problems that humans have caused in the first place, when given the state that we’re in, it appears that greed for money in a capitalist system and the violence that arises from it is certainly not the answer, it’s digging ourselves into an even deeper hole. I believe similar arguments are used in the UK about culling town and city based seagulls, a problem created by human greed and waste, but councils have taken more humane options to solve the problem, which I understand is not as complex as conservation in Africa of course. However, ultimately we have to face a choice, deal with this mess we’ve made without using violence and without advocating for it in any way, including selling parts of precious animals bodies, animals who loved their lives as much as we love ours, who want to live as much as we want to live, who will run and fight for their lives as we will run and fight for ours, and who have the right to their lives as we have the right to ours, and who should never have to die for problems caused by the irresponsibility of our species who are stuck in a never ending circle of violence and misguided dominant anthropocentrism.

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