Killing elephants to save them? What an appalling oxymoron.
Big-game hunters pay thousands of dollars for the “privilege” of shooting elephants or other exotic animals – many of them threatened with extinction. The money, we’re told, goes into conservation funds that help the elephants survive on protected territories where they are guarded against vicious poachers who kill and butcher the gentle giants for their ivory tusks and other body parts, most of it sold on the black market.
Cecil the lion was supposedly protected on one of those animal reserves – that is, until Walter Palmer, a big-game hunter from the Twin Cities went and killed him in Zimbabwe. He first shot Cecil with an arrow from a bow. Then he tracked the lion down for many hours and shot the poor creature to death.
Two weeks ago, the ban on trophies was proposed to be lifted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a ban that was imposed during the Obama Administration.
The ban would be lifted for trophies from dead animals in the African countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. “Trophies” is a respectable-sounding euphemism for animal heads, animal horns, animal hides and even elephant feet.
President Donald Trump, to his credit, said he will put the decision about trophies on hold until he can review conservation facts in consultation with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who, by the way, is himself an avid big-game hunter, as are Eric and Donald Trump Jr.
In one year alone, 2014, before the ban on trophy imports, more than 3,000 exotic animals were killed by U.S. trophy hunters, their body parts shipped back to the United States to “adorn” walls and floors. They included 671 elephants, 741 lions, 311 leopards, 1,412 water buffalo and 32 rhinos. All of those animals are dwindling, drifting toward extinction.
The elephant population declined by 30 percent in just a seven-year period, from 2007-2014, according to the “Great Elephant Census,” a project started by Paul G. Allen, founder of Microsoft.
An estimated 30,000 African elephants are shot and butchered every year by poachers mainly but also by big-game hunters. Some claim legal hunting by permit and the funds that result for conservation efforts really does help in the fight against poachers, but the evidence is sketchy at best. What is needed is an international fund to create and maintain animal reserves and – most importantly – a total worldwide ban on trophies and “products” from such animals.
What in the world makes certain men and women want to go to Africa or anywhere else for that matter to kill exotic and/or endangered animals? That hankering to kill such magnificent creatures is so hard to fathom. There are few sadder sights than to see a once-wonderful elephant sprawled on the ground, dead, its tusks hacked off by machetes of poachers or trophy hunters.
Elephants are intelligent animals with strong family bonds that pass knowledge down generation to generation. When the elder members of an elephant clan are killed, it creates terrible havoc among other clan members and their bonds. Animals are known to mourn their dead in heartbreaking ritual behaviors.
The proposal to end the band has brought outrage from people on the left, on the right and everywhere in between. Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham of Fox News, visibly disgusted, said lifting the ban would probably increase—not decrease – “the gruesome poaching of elephants.” TV personality Ellen DeGeneres has begun an online site to raise money for conservation efforts for elephants. The hashtag is #BeKindToElephants. Check it out.
Meantime, Safari Club International’s president Paul Babaz said this: “The fight for the freedom to hunt is far from over. We will be more proactive and not back down.”
Freedom to hunt? Some freedom! What about the freedom of endangered animals to live free from butchery?
Let’s all call President Trump to thank him for delaying the ban-waiver and to urge him to keep the trophy ban in place. The White House phone number for comments is 202-456-1111. Or email by going to www.whitehouse.gov. Or you can write a letter and address it to President Donald Trump, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20500.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.