As a big cat lover, I am disgusted with the way Cecil the lion was killed. However, I am not sure what to think about trophy hunting. On the one hand I hate to see animals harmed for any reason besides survival necessity. I have also heard so much conflicting information about trophy hunting’s usefulness in big cat conservation that I can not tell if it is good, bad, or somewhere in between. Therefore I found this interview with Dr. Luke Hunter to be extremely helpful.
For those of you who do not know, Dr. Hunter is the real deal. He has been working to protect Africa’s wild felids for many years, and has extensively studied trophy hunting in African cats. In addition, he is the President of Panthera; one of the most effective big cat conservation organizations in the world. They are one of the few groups who excel at taking good, hard science and making it work for local people. So if anyone is qualified to speak on this topic, it is Dr. Hunter.
Please watch the interview at your convenience, then let me know what you think about Dr. Hunter’s comments. I would love to have a discussion about this contentious topic. Feel free to say whatever you like, as long as you do so respectfully. Since I have already seen the interview, I will start.
I think both Dr. Hunter and his interviewer made some good points. There is something profoundly wrong with killing an animal for sport. Moreover, we know that the loss of any wild cat can have profound impacts on their surviving offspring. But when managed meticulously trophy hunting can become the lesser of many evils. Many people who live with big cats will only tolerate them if they can make money off of them. This may seem greedy to westerners, but in order for conservation to work we have to meet people where they are. We cannot force our views on those who have grown up in vastly different cultural and economic situations.
But I hate having to resort to the lesser of a host of evils. I want to see trophy hunting ended in a way that upholds the autonomy of those who live with big cats. I believe there are two main ways to do this: provide alternatives to hunting that are just as profitable: and make local people the leaders in conservation projects that effect their lives.
Yes, this means they may choose strategies that we do not approve of. But it will help local people self-identify as conservationists. As this identity become ingrained, and as those of us from privileged backgrounds support them, they might come to value these animals irregardless of profit. Then maybe they will choose to end trophy hunting on their own.
Again, I would love it if you could watch this interview and let me know what you think.