The argument in support of trophy hunting made in a March 2013 commentary on these pages is even more interesting in hindsight, given the newly discovered case of embattled Eden Prairie dentist Walter J. Palmer.
“Odd as it may sound, U.S. trophy hunters play a critical role in protecting wildlife in Tanzania,” wrote Alexander N. Songorwa, the director of wildlife for the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
“The millions of dollars hunters spend to go on safari here each year help finance the game reserves, wildlife management areas and conservation efforts in our rapidly growing country. This is why we are alarmed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the African lion as endangered.” (The agency proposed the listing last year, but it has not yet been made final.)
News of Palmer’s lion kill in Zimbabwe, of course, ignited a global controversy this week — in part because of the questionable circumstances of the hunt but also because so many people have a difficult time understanding what motivates big-game hunters.
That’s why Songorwa’s commentary is worth a read (tinyurl.com/Tanzania-lions). He argued that Tanzania closely regulates hunting and that the lion population in the country was healthy. He wrote that trophy hunting generated $75 million for the country’s economy from 2008 to 2011 and that the money supported 26 game reserves and increasing numbers of wildlife management areas.
You can see why wealthy trophy hunters are welcome in Africa — and how some of them might believe they are contributing to the greater good.
None of that is meant to make light of what Palmer and his guides allegedly did in the July killing of Cecil, a beloved African lion. The Telegraph newspaper in London said Cecil was lured from a park where it had protected status to a neighboring game farm where Palmer was hunting.
That’s deplorable, if true, and Palmer and others involved should pay a high price for their actions. Palmer, who said in a statement that he had all of the proper permits and was unknowingly following the lead of his guides, must now try to rescue his image and that of his dental practice.
That won’t be easy, but those who are attacking Palmer and trophy hunters in general need to recognize — like it or not — that one element of this story has largely been ignored: There is a case to be made that big-game hunting has economic and game management benefits like those described by Songorwa.