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.
“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?