Many people in this country get really spun up when it comes to African big game hunting. They see it as nothing but a pastime for reach jackwagons to go over to Africa, kill some precious species, then place the trophy on their mantle. Superficially, that does tend to be the case, yet there’s so much more that goes on under the surface.
For example, those hunters actually fund many African nations’ anti-poaching operations.
While Thurston Howell III is out there bagging his trophy, he’s paying a ton of money for the opportunity. He’s directed to which animals to bag as well, meaning any problematic animals or old ones who have reached near the end of their life anyway. Then, while he’s doing that, his money is paying for local game wardens to carry on a covert war with people who bag these animals outside of the law.
Yet a California bill wants to try and undo part of that and the Los Angeles Times is supporting that move.
Wildlife across the globe is imperiled by habitat destruction, climate change, war, wildfires and poaching. Yet even as populations of vulnerable animals dwindle, hunting them for trophies remains legal in a number of countries.
For instance, most conservation groups consider African elephants and lions to be threatened or endangered. The amount of protection afforded the animals, however, depends on the country they happen to be roaming in, and some continue to sell the rights to hunt and kill them.
That’s why a California man last year could legally kill an elephant in South Africa — shooting it repeatedly after the animal collapsed on its knees, injured but not dead. (A video of the shooting was obtained by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) And even though lions in southern and eastern Africa have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 2015 (after their numbers had plummeted 43% over the previous two decades), the Trump administration allowed a hunter’s lion trophy to be brought into the U.S. from Tanzania this year for the first time since 2016.
But hunters won’t be able to keep new trophies in their California homes if a bill winding its way through the state Legislature becomes law. Senate Bill 1175, authored by State Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), would prohibit possession of trophies — the taxidermist-stuffed heads or other body parts of dead animals — from any of 13 iconic African species, including African lions, African elephants, leopards, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, giraffes, two species of zebras and baboons.
In other words, the bill wants to remove a primary motivation for hunters to venture to Africa and hunt for these animals.
Now, let’s remember that these hunts are carried out in accordance with local game laws, laws that are designed to protect these species. They don’t just kill any old animal they find and then slide enough money to make it acceptable. While that might happen from time to time, it’s not as common as you might think.
Sure, a lot of people can’t afford to go on these African hunts, but many others do and they’re not all rich people. Some people scrimp and save for years to carry out their dream hunt and they simply want a memento of their trip.
The problem is that so many anti-hunting activists have presented it like these hunters are somehow bringing about the extinction of these species. What they miss is that the hunters have a vested interest in the exact opposite. Is taking a lion worth it if there are no lions to hunt down the road? Of course not, and hunters know that just like they know that the real threat to these animals are poachers.
Poachers don’t care about anything but the short term. They’ll kill as many animals as they can so they can sell whatever parts are profitable and keep on going. They’ll kill as many as they can as often as they can and they don’t care about whether the animals will be there tomorrow.
It’s why so many hunters actually support conservation efforts. They love the hunt, but they want to be able to hunt for generations to come.
By supporting a bill that removes a significant incentive for hunting these animals, California isn’t preserving these species. Instead, they’re likely creating a situation where these animals are even more imperiled. If African governments don’t get hunters, they don’t get money for anti-poaching operations, thus making it easier on the people who are the real problem.