We talk about the blurring of lines in the media a lot on our podcast, and once again we see it here.
A high profile celebrity, speaking above their station about something they know next to nothing about.
Now don't get me wrong, I quite like Cara Delevigne, she is a surprisingly good actress for starting her career as a model - and she does have particularly good eyebrows. She is not, however, a knowledgeable conservationist.
She stated that her involvement with I'm Not A Trophy doesn't stop with this campaign. "I plan on being very hands-on with the organization and will do whatever I can to help create awareness for the tragic poaching and trophy hunting that is occurring in Africa," she said in an interview with Marie Claire.
And therein lies the problem. She has banded trophy hunting and poaching in the same sentence with clearly no concept of the benefits of hunting. In fact, there are entire species which owe their current state of existence to trophy hunting as a management practice. She is welcome to display art on her naked body, and indeed it is very good; I have no doubt it will be enjoyed by many. It does not however do anything to tackle the real on-the-ground issues, and if anything, her statement puts at risk far more game the world over than she or any of the anti-hunting brigade could possibly fathom.
Donate some time to clearing snares and iron work, as almost every hunting concession in Africa does. Understand a species and its lifecycle, and how best it can be benefited for the good of the animal and its long term survival. Put your feet in the dirt and understand the reality of life and death in the wild, and how we as hunters play guardians to this land, its animals and its people. Do that and then a real discussion can be had.
Below here is an extract from an article I wrote for Sporting Rifle Magazine:
It is impossible to argue against the direct positive correlation between hunting and population dynamics. The evidence speaks for itself.
White Rhino in South Africa: Pre-1968 there were less than 2,000 individuals. This was also the start date of limited trophy hunting. The population in the year 2000, and before the escalation of poaching, was estimated at around 190,000 individuals. In 1895 the species was all but extinct. It climbed slowly in the preceding years to 1965, but the rapid increase in population after hunting was re-introduced is obvious to see. The animals had an intrinsic value placed on them. They became an important economic asset, and with the correct management, surplus animals (primarily old) could be harvested for the greater good of the species. It comes down to cold hard facts. Hunters brought the white rhino back from extinction, not environmentalists. A similar story can be shown for the Black Rhino.
Lions in Bubye Conservancy Zimbabwe: Previously used only for agriculture, this is now a private hunting concession using limited trophy hunting to fund conservation and wildlife management. The result of this is clear. In 1999 there were only 13 lions on the concession. In 2012 there were more than 500 lions in the same conservancy. Incidentally, from 2009, these numbers were collected by the WildCRU team from Oxford University. The elephant populations shows similar trends, increasing from less than 50 to in excess of 700 individuals. Make no mistake, this area is managed for wildlife and hunting.
Markhor in Tajikistan: This is a species that most hunters, and even fewer non-hunters, will have even heard of. As recent as the 1990's this animal was on the brink of genetic viability. There were only 350 left in the southern half of Tajikistan. It was a serious concern that continued poaching was going to see the species disappear. In 2004, an initiative led by hunters put in place a plan for the conservation of the species, paying for protection and management through hunting. Today, four community based conservancies have led to the rapid recovery of Markhor, with an estimated 1,300 animals counted in 2014. The halt of what could very well have been an extinction was solely as a result of the funds made available by organised trophy hunting.
As hunters we need to be united and be at the forefront of providing information and education. It sometimes seems that we take one step forward and two back, but I do believe progress is being made, thanks largely to considerable work done behind the scenes. There is certainly a case for reasoned educational provision within our own ranks, and I urge everyone to debate these issues on a regular basis in order to facilitate an articulate argument.
As I finish the last words on this article I read the heart warming news that 80% of MEPs have rejected a written declaration to restrict trophy imports. This is obviously excellent news. I do however end with a cautionary note. As we gladly indulge ourselves in the positive recent outcomes, we must realise that at some point in the future the same organisations we are now holding up in our defence, may disagree with other aspects we feel strongly about ( Note: I was referring here to the IUCN report in support of trophy hunting) . For now we must continue to engage in discussion, and in the meantime gather the hard data required to protect not just our way of life, but also the management practices we know help protect wildlife globally.
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