Killing in the Name of Conservation: How Big Game Hunting Prevents Extinction

A hunter bags a lion in the documentary, “Trophy.” See trailer below. (Photo: CNN)

It may seem counterintuitive to those outside the hunting community, but anyone on the inside knows that hunters care more about conservation than every pot-smoking tree-hugger on the planet.

“I care about all of wildlife in wild places, and I want it to be around for our future generations,” Corey Knowlton told CNN at this year’s Dallas Safari Club Convention. “I believe this is the best model that exists for it, if you like or you don’t like it.”

The model he’s referring to is known as “hunting-as-conservation.” It operates on the fact that hunters impart both emotional and economic value to animals that might otherwise be the victims of poaching. That value provides the incentive to ensure that endangered big-game animal species don’t become extinct.

“It’s about a value on wildlife, and the proof that it works is the fact that we are sitting here in this building, and all these people are marketing and supporting wildlife, and so there is a value on it beyond its value of meat,” Knowlton said.

Scientific conservation targets animals that no longer affect the preservation of the species. Often older males that are sometimes a detriment to the population. Countries where those animals are located charge thousands of dollars to hunters looking to take the prize of a lifetime. That money is, ideally, funneled back into conservation efforts.

“We have taken a conscious decision to sustainably harvest some of the older wildlife, some of the post mature bulls that are basically fighting with the young ones, sometimes killing the young ones or females,” Johnson Ndokosho, deputy director of Wildlife and National Parks with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism told CNN from the convention floor.

Namibia charged $350,000 for Knowlton’s recent hunt.  Money that was used to buy ten Land Cruisers, an air patrol boat, four amphibian eight-wheel vehicles, and gasoline, according to Frans Kamenye, the fund manager for Namibia’s Game Products Trust Fund.

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“In Namibia, hunting is something that we need. Otherwise, we have seen many countries where there is no hunting, it’s failing because there are no resources,” Kamenye told CNN.

Some people disagree, of course. CNN also interviewed Prashant Khetan, Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel at Born Free USA, an animal advocacy organization. He believes the hunting-as-conservation model has no merit, calling big-game hunting a “sport” and “horror show.”

Trophy hunting as a conservation strategy “is just a myth,” Khetan said. “I think it’s a mere contradiction to even think about killing animals is in some way going to help the survival of a species.”

Knowlton told CNN that he respects those who speak out against conservation hunting (they love the animals too, after all). But he also questions their “understanding of reality.”

“Every single one of (these animals) is going to die,” Knowlton said. “But if you have the power to put a value on it, and supply those communities that are very poor with money … I believe it’s a very good symbiotic relationship.”

What are your thoughts on big game hunting?

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Robert Smith January 15, 2018, 9:30 pm

    I watched “Trophy” on CNN. It was the worst piece of anti-hunting propaganda since CBS made “Guns of Autumn” back in the 1980s. The hunter in the photo was quoted as saying, “Anyone who believes in evolution is a fool”. He then goes into some bizzare story of how his father forced him to hunt as a child. Conclusion the viewer is supposed to have – he’s a nut. In another scene, a group hunting crocodiles in Africa is shown smoking, drinking beer and making obnocus comments. How many times have we seen that stereotype before? And if that’s not enough how about the scene where some professional hunters torture the wife of a suspected poacher. We all know hunters are really a bunch of sadists, right? The anti-hunting activists are given a chance to present their side, in the interest of “fairness”, you know. Well hunting is a sport, so would a documentary about say, golf present people who don’t like golf? Of course not. You get the picture. “Trophy” was just the kind of Fake News you would expect from Liberal Lamestream TV.

  • Mark N. January 12, 2018, 11:19 pm

    No one other than hunters are pouring millions and millions of dollars directly into wildlife conservation. If there is no money, there will be no no vehicles, planes, boats, guns or guards who are willing to risk their lives fighting the poachers who will kill any animal that they can find. If there is no money, ther will be no resources to set aside land that can be protected from poachers. When old bulls can no longer breed, removing them from the herd increases the number of births. When farmers make money raising wildlife, they will go out of their way to keep poachers from stealing their livelihood. This is simple. Those utopian thinkers who believe that banning big game hunting will protect endangered species haven’t been there and have no clue what they are talking about. Just where do they think the money is going to come from? The governments in the countries where these animals roam don’t have it, and I don’t see these folks pouring anywhere near the resources into the problem that hunters do. They pour their resources into stopping the hunt instead of actually protecting animals.
    P.S: I am not a big game hunter (way way too much for my meager earnings); heck I don’t even hunt in the U.S. But I know full well that hunters even here pay millions of dollars through taxes and tags that goes directly into wildlife conservation efforts. The only other group making a real impact are those cutting the horns off of rhinos (and/or transporting them to a secret game preserve where they can be protected).
    I plan to watch this show on CNN on Sunday, although I anticipate that it will be an anti-hunting screed.

  • Bobs yer uncle January 12, 2018, 9:31 pm

    Well said. Trophy hunting does more good. Think of it this way, if an animal has value to hunters someone is going to make sure there are plenty of them, also large animals like Elephants are valuable and require large areas, habitats which benefits other non-game plants and animals.

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