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?

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over six years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Tyler. Got a hot tip? Send him an email at

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  • aydene Militello July 6, 2018, 8:12 am

    My son hunts deer in season, and fills the freezer with the meat. All the babble about trophy hunting keeping herds at reasonable levels is so much bunk. Lions, an example, inbreed and weaken the prides because of the encroachment on their territory. A Trophy kill doesn’t help, but relocation does! There might be a kill license issued for Poachers; now that would be a worthwhile hunt. Not sure one could legally have the heads mounted. If Nations need income then create products to sell rather than diminishing Nature.

    • Bad Penguin July 19, 2019, 12:55 pm

      Methinks you are speaking from emotion and not from reason. Everything this article says is true. I live in the middle of a large town in NJ and deer are constantly being hit and killed in front of my house. Why? because the gov’t doesnt want you to hunt them.

      The trophy hunters that pay all of the money to be able to shoot the old animals that are well past their prime are doing the pride/herd a favor.

  • Andrew N January 20, 2018, 1:33 am

    I am a “Non-Hunter” as opposed to a “Anti-Hunter”. I used to think Big Game hunting was twisted and sick. Then I got educated, and the proof is in the pudding. All African nations that banned hunting has seen their wildlife populations plummet, decimated by poaching with no regard to age or sex of the animals killed. They removed the “value” and turned these animals into “meat” only. The locals need the protein, and used to get it via the “Big Game hunts” that guaranteed them the meat from the kills. The money for the hunts brought much needed money into cash-poor regions, and provided jobs as well. Properly managed hunting is the ONLY way to save the wildlife. One more thing- Ask the tree-huggers how much money they have given to ANY conservation organization lately. Hunting and fishing products have an 11% tax that funds our Nat’l Parks, as well as securing more habitat for those same hunted animals. Same goes for the money from hunting / fishing licenses. The money goes to the parks and to acquire / protect more habitat. Anti’s are clueless, educate those who will listen.

  • Edward A. Sanchez January 19, 2018, 11:11 pm

    I agree. I will, however, suggest that you make your titles more “shareable” We absolutely must generate content that will reach the middle-ground. The folks that aren’t polarized against anything “gun.” I would’ve loved to have shared this article…for its content. The title kept me from doing so.

    I’m in the People’s Republik of Kalifornia…the knee-jerks run the place.

    Thanks, E

  • Al January 19, 2018, 9:15 am

    Oh I can’t wait for the non hunting ‘gunnies’ here to weigh in on this article.
    GA seems to have quite a few ‘snowflake’ readers that are often anti hunting, with several talking about how they’re against ‘Trophy” hunting but seemingly ok with ‘meat’ hunting.
    Of course, most are extraordinarily ignorant of the Laws in all 50 States, Canada and even Africa regarding ‘wanton waste’, as even meats we may not consider for consumption are eaten in remote areas.
    Those of that mindset should put their care and efforts into the Poaching arena against the stupid ideals of our Asian ‘friends’, whose pursuit of a better sex life often involves animal parts that drives the Poaching industry and is the number one cause of many species demise.

  • Dr Motown January 19, 2018, 8:05 am

    Got into an argument recently with an “anti-hunter” who was wailing against a deer cull that her city was sponsoring. Her profile pic on FaceBook shows her on a horse with LEATHER saddle, LEATHER bridle, and LEATHER chaps. I asked her why she wasn’t opposed to killing one animal for its skin, and using the product to subjugate another animal for her pleasure riding. Of course, she wouldn’t respond…

    • Bad Penguin July 19, 2019, 12:59 pm

      I use that same argument!

  • 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.

    • Dr Motown January 19, 2018, 8:03 am

      Given what we know about the MSM, why would anyone allow a CNN crew to show up to safari camp? It’s like Steve Bannon inviting Michael Wolff into the White House for a “fair” documentary! We also hurt ourselves with some of the hunting shows on commercial television, where the “hunter” goes crazy with every animal he drops: jumping, screaming, high-fiving, cart-wheeling, etc. Obviously, 90% of us are NOT like the MSM portrays, but let’s not make it easy for them to denigrate the sport either.

  • 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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