Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cecil redux: Trophy hunting does little to help endangered species

Our news stories are consumed with serious issues of the day, like whether America will sink into a Trumpian Authoritarian police state. Or why and how one deranged person can so easily buy firearms with which to murder dozens of people. Or why Congress has done nothing about that.

What gets lost in the stories of human carnage is the slaughter of other species, some endangered, for the sake of mounting another head on a wall in some rich folks' trophy room.

Trophy hunters, and I know some, have long defended what they do by pointing to the exorbitant fees they pay to African governments. Such fees, they claim, aid in the countries' conservation efforts. But this story in the NY Times takes issue with that claim. Snippets follow.

Advocates of trophy hunting, and even the United States government, have long justified the killing of protected wildlife in Africa by saying that taxes and fees from the hunts help pay for larger conservation efforts.

But a new report by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee challenges those claims, finding little evidence that the money is being used to help threatened species, mostly because of rampant corruption in some countries and poorly managed wildlife programs. It concludes that trophy hunting may be contributing to the extinction of certain animals.

It has been almost a year since an American hunter killed a beloved lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe, setting off an international debate over sport hunting and widespread anger on the internet. Since then, the Obama administration has placed lions in Africa under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, France has banned the import of lion trophies, and more than 40 airlines have said they will no longer transport hunting trophies.

The 25-page House report, called “Missing the Mark,” says that while poaching remains the gravest threat to animals like lions, rhinoceroses and leopards, “trophy hunting also removes a significant number of animals from these rapidly declining populations.”

... the report says, “In assessing the flow of trophy hunting revenue to conservation efforts, we found many troubling examples of funds’ either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation in the first place.”

The report faults the US Fish and Wildlife Service for lax enforcement of regulations on importing trophies.

... For the species covered in the House report, the Fish and Wildlife Service required only one import permit from 2010 to 2014, though more than 2,700 trophies eligible for permitting were imported during that time. For the 1,469 leopard trophies that could have required an import permit, the agency required none.

Because Americans bring home more trophies of protected species than hunters from any other country, some conservationists believe that the United States government has the responsibility and the leverage to force a change. The urgency for such change, however, can be largely credited to Cecil the lion.

FWS can start by enforcing the rules.

The logic spoke by trophy hunters, that killing for sport contributes to species survival, just does not hold up any longer. In my thinking, it never did.

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