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It is welcome news to conservationists that President Obama and former Secretary of State Clinton are stepping up efforts to combat poaching on the Dark Continent.
While no one has actual knowledge of the dollars funneled to terrorist groups due to the illegal trade in illegal ivory and other poached wildlife, as the Aug. 9 New York Times op-ed “Killing Lions, Buying Bombs” stated, what I do have is a lifetime of knowledge about real-world, hands-on, hunting boots-on-the-ground wildlife conservation, including those magnificent beasts of Africa.
Having hunted the Dark Continent many times over the past 40 years, numerous African natives, guides and outfitters and game department heads have repeatedly confirmed to me their concerns about poaching and the devastating effect it was having on elephants and other wildlife before legal hunting was properly promoted and instituted. Their concerns were always the same: There were too few resources available from their own governments and people to combat poachers.
The sophisticated monitoring and tracking technology available today should offer some welcome assistance and relief in combating poachers and the illegal ivory and wildlife trade. But technology will only go so far. What is needed are dollars and lots of them.
While this may sound oxymoronic to the uneducated masses out there, the irrefutably proven way to generate desperately needed dollars for African wildlife conservastion has always been provided by hunters willing to travel to Africa and hunt the very species the poachers were otherwise slaughtering. In fact, the vast majority of the anti-poaching efforts in Africa are funded with money derived from American and European hunters.
The ultimate model of wildlife management perfection through hunting dollars is the United States.
It was the American hunter who demanded that indiscriminate market hunting be halted, that regulated hunting seasons be established, hunting licenses, permits and fees be paid for by hunters and scientific sustain yield game limits be established. Hunters saved wildlife in America.
Thanks to hunters, there are more deer, bear, cougar, turkeys and wild geese than at any time in recorded American history.
After almost being wiped completely out during the 1880s and 1890s, the American Bison, elk, pronghorn, moose and grizzly bears have all rebounded in plentiful, thriving and huntable numbers across North America.
The budgets of federal and state wildlife departments are primarily generated through hunting, fishing and trapping licenses and habitat stamp fees and various required permits. These vast amounts of annual monies have also greatly benefited non-game species and ultimately the improvement of our air, soil and water quality.
In addition to funds generated by these conservation user fees, American sportsmen have paid a self-imposed 11 percent excise tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment for nearly 80 years. The Robertson-Pittman excise tax has been in effect since 1937. It is estimated the tax will generate over $500 million dollars again in 2013 that will be used for restoration efforts, wildlife research, habitat enhancement and protection, and hunter education programs.
Had it not been for the American hunter, the African Scimitar Oryx and other exotic species would already be extinct. Recognizing that hunters would be willing to pay premium dollars to hunt many of these otherwise threatened exotics, Texas ranchers imported many of them back in the early 1900s and since. These animals are now thriving in Texas.
The United States is the most successful wildlife-management story in the history of the world due to hunters’ awareness, demands and genuine respect for wildlife. The international community would be wise to study our system and replicate it all across Africa.
In those African countries that do so, elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and all wildlife is indeed thriving and paying its own way. Where hunting is legal, nobody allows poachers to steal such a valuable resource.
Regulated hunting works. It is the best conservation tool known to man. If you truly value and want to save a species, establish a hunting season for it, and we will make damn sure it is respected, valued and managed forever.
I love animals; they’re delicious.