The Internet erupted with outrage last week over the killing of a Zimbabwe lion called Cecil.
But calls to ban all trophy hunting — killing wild animals to keep them as souvenirs rather than for their meat — may actually hurt conservation efforts.
The evidence suggests the way Cecil was killed was not only illegal but inhumane. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer allegedly lured the animal off of a wildlife sanctuary, then shot and wounded him with an arrow. The lion was finally shot and killed with a rifle almost two days later, and then skinned and beheaded.
But as conservation experts Niki Rust and Diogo Verissimo point out in a recent post in The Conversation, Cecil’s death should not make us rush to condemn all trophy hunting.
“All signs point toward the illegality of the killing of Cecil the Lion, and I can only hope those involved are brought to justice and there are consequences,” Verissimo, a conservation biologist at Georgia State University, told Business Insider. “But I dont think that single incident in itself is enough to dismiss the entire industry around trophy hunting.”
Money from trophy hunting can help fund conservation elsewhere
Particularly in lower-income countries like Zimbabwe, trophy hunting can be an important source of funding for conservation efforts. Trophy hunters typically pay tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars for the right to hunt these animals, and some of that money can be put back into wildlife management, Verissimo said.
The dentist that killed Cecil reportedly paid $US50,000 to a professional hunter for the privelege. Last year, a Texas hunter set off a similar controversy when he paid $US350,000 to kill an endangered black rhino.
Other sources of conservation funding, such as ecotourism, can’t really compete with the amounts from trophy hunting, Verissimo said.
David Shiffman, a graduate student at the University of Miami who studies shark ecology and animal conservation, echoed this sentiment. “There are many times where [trophy hunting is] not well-regulated or well-done,” he told Business Insider, “but right now, it can raise a lot of money that otherwise would not be there.”
Still, some people argue that hunting an animal purely for sport is always immoral, even if it’s generating money that can be used to keep other animals alive.
And certainly, many would consider Cecil’s death — being shot with arrow and allowed to bleed for two days before being shot — to be inhumane. “The method of death and circumstances around it are questionable as hell,” Shiffman said.
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