Melissa Bachman sparked outrage when she posted this photo of herself with the male lion she took in South Africa. It also prompted a balanced argument from one South African commentator who pointed out the facts.

Lion huntress outrage demonstrates high level of ignorance

A huge outcry over a Twitter photo showing Melissa Bachman with a male lion she took on a South African safari has prompted one commentator to provide the facts about game hunting in Africa that show popular attitude is wrong.

The story gained world-wide attention with Australia’s own media, including the Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on the condemnation of the kill and a petition to have her banned from South Africa that has gained more than 245,000 signatures.

Comedian Ricky Gervais joined in the sexist condemnation with his own opinion about hunting, along with others that commentator Ivo Vegter has described as the “chattering classes” in his piece “In defence of a lion killer” that appears on the Daily Maverick.

His article collates the facts behind conservation hunting in Africa that demonstrate those countries who banned hunting have lost significantly more of its wildlife than those that actively promote hunting.

“The notion that hunting harms the survival of species, or the environment more generally, happens to be false, and demonstrably so,” he writes.

Vegter refers to studies in Kenya that showed that the poaching problem had some species facing extinction.

“In Kenya, hunting was banned in the late 1970s, but it has since lost 85% of its wildlife. Go figure,” he writes.

His research reveals that species that are hunted benefit from breeding programs and conservation, while the game farm industry had done much to improve the lot of game animals and the economies of the countries that support the sport.

“In 1960, there were only three game farms in South Africa,” he writes. “There were only half a million head of game. Changes in the law to permit private ownership of game and commercialise big game hunting coincided with the sea change that we see today: 10,000 game farms, supporting 20 million head of game on as many hectares. By contrast, the government formally protects only 7.5 million hectares as national parks.

“The game farm industry employs 100,000 people, which is reportedly three times more than employment in ordinary livestock farms. Income from game breeding stock sold at auction rose almost 15-fold in just six years, from R60 million in 2006 to R864 million in 2012.”

He also referred to personal experience of visiting a game reserve where elephant damage was apparent.

“In the early 1990s, I was on a guided tour of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. I looked around me at the devastated landscape, with nary a tree taller than a man. The ranger told me the park had sixty elephants too many, but that nobody wanted them, because they all had their own elephant problems, and transport was too expensive.”

The solution, the ranger said, was that once a month they were hunted north of the park where there weren’t many tourists, who would be upset by the sight.

“The upshot of the misinformed anti-hunting and anti-culling sentiment of the dinner party set was that an entire park ecosystem was put at risk, just to “save” a few elephants, of which there were plenty,” writes Vegter.

“It is true that some lion populations in Africa are under pressure. However, a recent academic study undertaken by Peter Lindsey and others, finds that even in countries where the threat is severe, prohibiting hunting – instead of just issuing fewer permits – would prove counter-productive, by reducing habitat protection, reducing tolerance for lions among local populations, and reducing funds available to combat poaching.”

He goes on to point out other benefits to hunting, such as tribespeople receiving free meat and income where they would otherwise be scratching for food in failed crops and livestock farms, in what is a comprehensive debunking of the game hunting myth.

Well, worth a read.




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