I grew up hunting birds and small game. The rule was “if you shoot it, you clean it and the family will eat it”. I don’t hunt anymore probably primarily because of where I live; however, I would be hypocritical if I felt no one has a right to hunt. I guess my problem with big game hunting is that a) it is killing just to say you did and b) the goal is to take down the biggest and best rather than to cull the weak or to overcome over-population of a species. In years past, maybe tracking and shooting big game was a risk to the hunter and the hunted and the field was level for both parties. History is filled with stories of adventure – even US Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and famed novelists like Ernest Hemmingway traveled to Africa to hunt big game. Times have changed. With today’s advanced tracking methods, better transportion to get to the game and advanced hunting weapons, I feel the day of the big game hunters is over.
With that background, I was not almost irratated when I read headlines of the article that follows …. but because I want to keep an open mind, I read the article. Wow, it turns out that the article really is only tangentially about hunting! What it is really about is photography – and over use of land buy visitors/tour groups.
Dr. Patterson makes points that should make us reflect. How many vehicles, facilities and people can we push into a fragile ecosystem before we set it back? Am I guilty of thinking I am an environmentalist when really I am mere another explorer recommending for many to visit an area where fewer vistors help the ecology and environment? Probably a little of yes to both, but I am hoping that the revenue that my visits and proper government and environmental group oversight will make my trips (and yours) create an positive ultimate result.
Now that I am finished with that little speech, here is the article written by Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe of Mmegi Online:
Banning Wildlife Hunting Is A Mistake – Expert
From Mmegi Online , 16 November 2009, Vol. 26, No. 171
By Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe, Staff Writer
An expert on Friday warned that the banning of hunting in preference to photographic safaris could have a devastating effect on the environment and the wildlife it is expected to preserve.
Wildlife management expert, Dr Larry Patterson said on Friday that the photographic safari model has high financial rewards but studies have shown that it can cause serious environmental degradation. “Although most ecologists would claim to be educationally sophisticated and environmentally concerned, they rarely understand the ecological consequences of their visits and how their day-to-day activities have physical impacts on the environment,” he said at the Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS) annual fundraising dinner, attended by among others President Ian Khama, cabinet ministers, Phandu Skelemani, Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Patterson has worked in Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia and conducted wildlife management consultancies for international organizations.
He said a survey conducted in 2002 among staff and clients at two facilities in the Okavango Delta asked questions about perceived environmental experiences such as number of animal sightings, encounters with other tourists, number of boats, vehicles, aircraft and tranquility.
“All were quite positive but…asked what they thought about doubling numbers in the next 10 years, they almost all said the experience and the environment would be degraded. Staff was more critical but understandably ‘unofficially’, being unwilling to bite the hand that feeds them,” he said.
Patterson added that a recent study at a tourists resort of Xakanaxa criticized the government for lack of a proper management plan, after finding that 6,000 hectares of land had three up-market lodges and accommodation for 50 employees, two public campsites, two group campsites for mobile safaris, a commercial marina with 30 licensed boats, an airstrip, as well as 250km of roads with 300 vehicles on a busy day.
He praised the hunting model because of its very low environmental impact. He said the model allows extensive areas of low scenic value to be used. He said the usual hunting quota off-take is 2-4 percent, which is insignificant in population dynamics.
“Properly administered hunting is not detrimental to wildlife populations. This is absolutely certain. Evidence is widespread and well-documented,” he stressed.
Patterson attributed the increasing number of wildlife population entirely to the hunting industry. The expert says in South Africa private ranches number 10,000, while Namibia has 1,000, compared to Botswana’s only 100.
He expressed hope that in future the majority of wildlife in Botswana will be on private land. He said recreational use of game ranches relieves congestion in parks and wildlife management areas. He said photographic and hunting models for wildlife management should be supported for their conservation value.
Dr. Patterson acknowledged that some hunters may be unbalanced fanatics and bad behavior by such unscrupulous elements hurts the image of the hunting industry. “Human emotions dictate that a majority of people are unable to divorce hunting ethics from conservation.
They see it as unfair that a hunter should use a high-powered rifle and modern technology to collect his animal and even worse that he should derive pleasure from it. The hunting industry needs to clean up its act and its image more so in this part of the world where it is saddled with the historical baggage of colonialism and the Boer image,” Patterson said.