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Not so Great White Hunters
Address: Planet Earth
19 Dec 2001
Like Father, like son. The Bush legacy is all about a cowboy mentality more approprite for the 19th Century.
If you've ever wondered where the present occupant of the White House got his cornball macho cowboy personna from (other than from his acting coach), look no further than his gene pool. A somewhat bizarre, though hardly surprising story receiving little notice in the US media this past spring, concerned Dubya's dad, former President George Bush, Sr. and General "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf pressuring the government of Botswana to lift their ban on lion hunting. Apparently, these "real men", the two perpetrators of the Gulf War, along with former Veep Dan Quail and members of Safari Club International (SCI), are hot to get some trophy heads for their walnut paneled dens before the supply runs out. Indeed, the African lion is in serious trouble. Experts estimate that the number of lions in Botswana has dwindled by two-thirds in 10 years. This sorry situation also applies to the continent as a whole. According to the Guardian story, "there is broad consensus among conservationists and governments that the population in Africa has fallen from about 50,000 to less than 15,000 over the past decade. The surviving lions are largely confined to four viable populations in southern and east Africa."
It's said that old habitits die hard, but with numbers falling like that one might think that big game hunters who are quick to take on the mantle of "conservation" might have second thoughts about taking out the King of the Jungle. Not so. Big manly egos call for big trophies. With these retro great white hunters and their Victorian dreams of self-granduer, its damn the species viability.
Interestingly, and adding to the surreal nature of such endeavors here in the 21st Century, the lion population had been so decimated and mismanaged previously in Botswana that American safari hunters were allowed to take close to 50 prime alpha males with full manes each year. The shortage is now so bad accross the African continent that North American hunters have resorted to a mane-extension service back in the US where fake hair is weaved in to the lions mane to give the trophies their ...er..appropriate? appearance. Fake hair is, however, entirely appropriate for fake big game hunters. Canned hunts are not limited to here in the States. It's reported that on some African game reserves tourists can be shooting pictures of lions and other animals in one locale, while a few miles off hunt-tourits are being led by the nose to their targets. How terribly sporting, what?
Of course, we expect people like the Presidents Bush and Stormin' Norman (not to mention minions like Dan Quail) to do really dumb and harmful things like this. It's, dare i say, their nature? But when organizations of hunters like SCI , touting the "sustainable use of wildlife", knowingly seek to undermine the few existing protections for a rapidly disappearing keystone species (and in this case one of unparallelled renown), they prove themselves to be little better than the lowest of poachers, enemies of the planet.
Readers may wish to visit SCI's website: http://www.safariclub.org (WARNING - have a cyber-sickness bag close at hand) to see firsthand the degree of this groups' disingenuousness. As an example, here's an excerpt from SCI's notice on the ban:
"The Botswana government has announced the suspension of lion hunting in that country while they review the status of lions. SCI is in contact with the Wildlife Managersí Association in Botswana and will be looking into ways that SCI can assist."
Assist indeed! The Wildlife Managers Association gives every appearance of being more of a Chamber of Commerce (or is that Chamber of Horrors?), than a conservation group. They certainly haven't been doing their homework on lion populations as this statement from their protest of the ban indicates:
"No satisfactory justification has been forwarded concerning the need to introduce a moratorium on lion hunting. If the only justification pertains to a decrease in the lion population, surely data to that effect must have been collected over time to indicate the development of the declining trend". What HAVE these guys been reading? Spread sheets?
That kind of ignorance is supported by SCI in other African nations as well. Elswhere on their site they fall all over themselves praising local African groups (whom SCI and other "great white hunters" have over an economic barrell) for what, in another context ,SCI would surely label psuedo-science.
"Our main concern is with elephants and buffaloes because they are our primary source of income as sport hunting trophies. And to monitor them, we examine from year to year the quality of the safari hunting trophies taken- that is, how big are the elephant tusks and the buffalo horns. This way we never need to know how many animals there are but we have a mechanism for increasing and decreasing our hunting quotas as we see trends changing." Say what?
And, guess who helps SCI in this kind population survey? None other than the World Wide Fund for Nature. Surprize! "For the past four years, SCI together with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Zimbabwe Trust, CAMPFIRE Association, and the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wild Life Management have engaged in a project to help rural villagers conserve their wildlife, to count their animals, and to determine appropriate offtake quotas. These quotas are sold on license to safari hunters with the proceeds from these licenses and area fees going for rural development. It's a process and a project in which everyone involved wins- and which all of us can be proud! " One wonders how that "count" is performed! Does it take into account the radical drop in species population witnessed by the scientific community?
As to the CAMPFIRE Association, guess where THEIR bread is buttered: leasing trophy hunt concessions! Here's a page from their book:
"Over 90% of CAMPFIRE revenues earned by rural communities come from foreign hunters who come to Zimbabwe to hunt elephants, buffaloes, lions or other wild animals. Hunters are considered the 'ultimate ecotourists' in Zimbabwe, as they have a much lower impact on the environment than other tourists. "
If loss of the viability of the lion population in one's country constitutes "low impact" we shudder to imagine those high impact operations.
Needless to say, if you're an extremely poor African who doesn't know where your next meal is coming from, such matters can hardly be of great concern. SCI knows that. We know that. Everyone knows that. The question is: where does society place its priorities? Wealthy nations, the UN, and NGOs are in the best position to assist Africans in regaining the sustainability they once had long before proto-corporados chained them to the trappings of colonial export crops and all that entails. They also have the responsibility to protect what remains of the biosphere; not in the interest of psychologically crippled "great white hunters" lost in the colonial past who seek self-glorification and thrills (at the expense of other critical lifeforms), but in the interest of Africa as a whole and the Earth upon which it exists.
SA news story
REAL Lion conservation:
4800 West Gates Pass Road
Tucson, Arizona 85745
SCI's Government Affairs/Conservation Programs
krentfro (at) sci-dc.org