Is Big Game “Trophy” Hunting Really A Sport?

Marc Elliott

PIE ISLAND… Unless you live in a cave or have been involved in some sort of inter-galactic travel over the past couple of weeks, you have no doubt heard of the story of the hunting and killing of Zimbabwe’s beloved male Lion, “Cecil”. This worldwide news story also came right into our backyards because the “hunter” in question turned out to be a Twin Cities based Doctor by the name of  Dr. Walter Palmer. The doctor traveled to the African continent and hired two local guides to assist him with this hunt. The animal in this matter was a relative star resident of the Hwange National Park there. Cecil was 13 years old at the time of his murder and had been collared, tracked and studied from around 2009 forward.
I’ll give you some qualifiers here up front, so you can figure out if my opinion is biased or not. First off, I am not a hunter. I didn’t grow up in a hunting family or around any who were. I am not a gun owner, never have had one, never will. They are simply of negative zero interest to me. I believe in my fellow Americans right to own one if that is their choice, and use it to hunt if they so desire. If game laws and regulations are respected and if the officials engaged in making wildlife decisions are making them for the right reasons, then have at it. I do not see any reason whatsoever why gun ownership cannot be monitored by the government. We regulate and monitor many different types of things that may be deemed dangerous to the operators or general public and these instruments fall into that category as far as I am concerned.
I am also fascinated by Big Cats. From the first time I saw one at St. Paul’s Como Zoo at  a pre-school age, I have been totally interested in these magnificent animals. They are beautiful, intelligent, have super-human strength and are very intriguing to me. I currently track the activities of two Big Cat programs, The National Tiger Sanctuary at Saddlebrooke, MO, where I have personally visited and have donated money to, and the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue near Rock Springs, WI. I am going to try to visit that facility this fall.
On to the matter at hand, the doctor pays a couple of guides $54k to help him bag a Lion. These 2 “guides” bait the target off of the Park property where he resides in a protected situation, the animal gravitates to a carcass (more bait) that had been pre-placed for the purpose of getting an easy kill shot (by compound bow) upon it, the doctor gets his shot, Cecil doesn’t succumb to the original wound and then the party tracks and finds him 40 hours later and finishes Cecil off. What is not to absolutely hate about this? This is a “sport”? Are you @#$%^*& kidding me?
This is NOT a sport, never has been and never will be. I feel the same way about the baiting of black bears for the hunt here in Minny. That’s sport? It’s not even hunting in my book. If you are such a great hunter why do you have to bait for an unsuspecting animal? If you were hungry enough, I could lure you to a table on the Bonneville Salt Flats with a Big Mac on it. Does that mean I should get to take a shot at you? Allow me to add two other items here for some thought, apparently the guides had procured the appropriate permits for Palmer. Contrary to some rumors that Cecil had been “poached”, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Lion hunting isn’t illegal.
In addition, Lion numbers have decreased from 200k to about 30k. The biggest threat to these Cats isn’t from hunting but from the loss of habitat. Humans are working on these issues critical to the Cats survival, but much more has to be done. I understand the history and background of Big Game trophy hunting and I know it has been around for a long time. Are we at a point whereby it is time to rethink that? I believe we are. Species extinction issues and eco-balance are critical to all life on the planet. Beyond that, I believe that our thoughts as the dominant species on the planet have changed relative to killing large mammals simply for the alleged sport of it so the hunter can display a head or a hide in his or her den.
In some cases and in some areas, the protein obtained from a trophy hunt is donated to locals for food, in other cases, such as Cecil’s it isn’t. After his head and hide were removed, his carcass was left to rot, or probably became food for hyenas and vultures. Good for them, not so good for Cecil. Let me be clear in this as well, there are parts of the continent over there where sources of food and water are so scarce that some poaching is almost necessary as a means of survival. Those people will not be displaying anything from the downed animals in the comfy homes and dens that they most likely do not have or own. In order to eliminate the need for poaching, food and water sources and distribution need to be exponentially increased there in critical mass.
Palmer has issued a statement, through some type of “PR” firm no less that says he; “relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt” and “deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion”. Responsibly? Sorry doctor, ignorance isn’t an alibi and that you paid someone to come up with this for you is sad. But you are a sad individual. A person that has to kill something magnificent, that really belongs to all of us, not just you because you had the means to pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to help you kill it to satisfy some personal inadequacies or an ego gone mad is pathetic. That’s where “trophy hunting” stands in my book today. Ever hear of a camera? PEACE