Ethical Hunting Versus Poaching
Adding fuel to the anti-hunting lobbyists is the lack of distinction made in the non-hunting fraternity between hunters and poachers. I myself am not a hunter and I was ignorant in many ways about hunters, their values and their passion for wildlife and the outdoors.
Most of my ignorance was due to the fact that I, like so many others was unknowingly tarring hunters with the poachers' brush. A poacher, by definition, is someone who trespasses on private property in order to hunt or catch game illegally or hunts out of season. A poacher has no vested interest, no passion for the outdoors, no vision of sustainable or correct utilization of natural resources and no will to protect the environment for the next generation. No idea about conservation of a species and the need to build up numbers of animals to allow for the sustainable usage of the animals for hunting and Eco-tourism purposes. They are the individuals who have no knowledge of, or respect for, the law. They are, quite literally, wildlife thieves.
These poachers, who call themselves "hunters," are the same persons that will pay undisclosed amounts of cash to "hunt" animals protected by law, just for the ability to say, I have hunted that, or that was the last of its kind, or to boast that they killed (not hunted) 20 Kudu last weekend. This is the kind of sickening monologue we hear from immoral, selfish individuals whose egos are bigger than the world can handle and in whom the need to dominate and brag is paramount.
Alternatively, as is the sickening reality in South Africa, poachers are the people who run down terrified animals with packs of dogs, for gambling purposes. Usually without landowner permission, permits or licenses, just for money. The man who owns the dog, which brings down the animal first, wins the pot!
This is why the Oribi population in South Africa is at a critical level. Oribi will run up against a fence and not go over it, or through it; they are just trapped and are therefore easy targets for packs of dogs.
When a genuine hunter goes hunting, it is with the full knowledge of and complete abidance with the law, a healthy respect for the animal, an understanding of its habits and with the sole intention of killing the animal in a clean and quick way.
I listen to people who badger hunters, taking them to task, saying it is not a fair contest if the hunter has a rifle with a telescopic sight. I wonder if they really have thought that comment through? Would you really want to chase an animal for miles whilst it is terrorized, just so it can be hunted with a spear or knife, where you would have to stab it repeatedly and slash its throat to kill it, whilst the animal is paralyzed by fear and pain and completely bewildered? My answer to that is a definitive NO. I am happy for hunters to stalk an animal, get close to it and shoot it, using a rifle with a telescopic sight, if it means one shot and the animal is dead.
In South Africa, the rules and laws governing hunting are very tight. In order for an animal to be hunted a process has to be completed before the trigger is pulled. A landowner that has wild animals on his land and wishes to hunt them has to apply to the local conservation authority for a permit to hunt that animal. A game count is then done to ensure that the population of the animal is large enough to sustain the hunting. Only once the conservation authority is satisfied is the permit issued. The permit states what species may be hunted, what sex, and how many may be taken in that year.
The ordinary South African hunter then has to purchase a license for that animal. He/she then may then hunt the animal under the direct authority of the owner. Whilst transporting the animal once the hunt is concluded, the license must, at all times, be in the hunter's possession. A hunter not in possession of a license while carrying a dead animal is liable for theft of wildlife and subject to heavy fines.
In the case of international hunters the law is even tougher. The landowner still needs the permits. The overseas hunter is brought to hunt on the land by a licensed professional hunter and registered outfitter who has written, indisputable, hunting rights on that landowner's land, which he/she has submitted to the conservation authority.
The professional hunter and outfitter has to purchase a license for his client to hunt that animal. When the animal has been hunted and trophy preparation done, the professional hunter has to submit papers from his ledger to the conservation authorities. On this ledger is the client information, the animals taken, the names of the farms where the animals were hunted, the landowners permit number and the clients license number. Only when the cross references are done, all of the pieces of information match and the conservation authorities are satisfied, are the trophies cleared for exportation.
The poacher, on the other hand, has no permission from conservation authorities or landowners. He or she kills indiscriminately and often in a totally inhumane way.
Lets face it, if we are honest we will all admit that hunting is an ancient sport and is not going to go away just because some people say it should. It is an emotional issue and by its very nature will remain that way. We will all have our opinions about hunting and it is with this in mind that I close with the following comments:
Poachers by their nature, their need for bloodlust and lack of forward thinking, will hunt our wild animals into extinction.
The other extreme are the preservationists, who although definitely not lacking in passion and perhaps a little misguided in their approach, are seemingly unaware that they can preserve an animal into extinction.
I can only conclude that persons with radical natures, the poachers and preservationists will, if left to their own devices, leave no real wildlife legacy for the next generation. However, the ethical hunter, who maintains a balance between the extremes, is instrumental in continuing the existence of wildlife and our natural resources for generations to come.
We may rail against it and swear it should not be so, but all of us are aware of the fact that everything in our world, rightly or wrongly, boils down to finances. Where there is money there is continuation, where there is none, only the end. "If it pays, it stays." This rule applies indisputably, even in the case of majestic and unique animals.
About the author: Jacquie Geldart was born and raised in Zimbabwe and now lives in South Africa with her husband Graeme, a professional hunter and outfitter and owner of Mkhamba Safaris. For more information on hunting in South Africa and the species available, please visit the Mkhamba Safaris web site at www.africanhuntingsafaris.net or click on the Mkhamba Safaris banner at the bottom of this page.
Copyright 2006 by Jacquie Geldart. All rights reserved.