The thorny issue of trophy hunting

2009-03-11 00:00

HUNTING arouses strong emotions — the gap between the pro- and anti-lobbies appears impossible to bridge. One local professional hunter, Wayne Grant, who lives with his wife Margaret on their private game sanctuary south-west of Richmond when he is not hunting in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, Cameroon and South Africa, has written Into the Thorns, a book which details his exploits in taking trophy hunters to hunt leopard in Zimbabwe. The book, which is privately published, is available from the author at Nyalavalley@mweb.co.za

Wayne Grant answers questions from Margaret von Klemperer.

Can you explain why hunting an animal like a leopard is such a thrill for the hunter? Is it about power, adventure or danger?

Hunting any animal ethically is exciting for the hunter. When the animal is a dangerous one or one that is difficult to hunt due to its cunning or because of rough inhospitable terrain, then the hunt is savoured and appreciated more by the hunter. For the true hunter, power doesn’t come in to it.

Are all your clients men, or do women also want to hunt?

No, our hunting clients are not all men. Women from all over the world also enjoy hunting.

Have you ever felt regret when you look down on an animal that has been shot?

Yes, I have felt regret at the death of a hunted animal. Even though I understand and support the hunting of elephant where the populations of those animals must be controlled through hunting, culling or relocation, I personally feel regret or a kind of sadness when I see a dead elephant.

You claim you are not trying to persuade the anti-hunters, that Into the Thorns is a book for hunters. But how can you justify killing for sport (for the hunters) and money (for the professional hunter who arranges the hunt) an animal that is on the endangered list?

I justify the hunting of leopard — and other animals which are on the endangered list — as follows:

As long as we have a body that regulates the hunting of any animal, and I believe that body is carrying out its mandate, then we are justified in hunting any animal which that body gives us permission to hunt. This body is Cites — The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Its regulations filter down from Cites HQ, to, for example, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in Pietermaritzburg, where Ezemvelo will make available only 5 permits for the whole of KwaZulu-Natal. Our own ecologists and zoologists will identify areas in the province where leopard populations are strong enough to withstand a limited off-take. So, as long as these numbers are not skewed, as long as the off-take of any animal is not going to jeopardise the population of that species, then I’m happy to condone that regulated, limited off-take. It should also be noted that there are many different categories of endangered species. Cites calls them appendices. Many animals listed there cannot be hunted under any circumstances. Others, like the leopard and the elephant can be hunted in areas where they are doing well.

In the book, you express concern about the practice of hunting leopard with dogs, but you lure the leopard with bait, and then use a light so that the hunter can get a shot. Is this not weighting the odds enormously in favour of the hunter?

In my book I expressed concern about the hunting of leopard with dogs in certain areas in Zimbabwe because I believe that practice to be an influencing factor in overhunting and in faulty quota allocations. As regards hunting “educated” stock-killing leopard on private ranchland with a light, in my book I go into great detail explaining that this practice is not anywhere near as “easy” or successful as some people may think it is. Private-land leopard are purely nocturnal and apart from traps and poison, which thankfully have been largely phased out, these stock killers cannot be hunted any other way except with dogs in the day, or with a light and bait at night. Any experienced hunter will tell you that there are very, very few hunters who will achieve better than 50% success on leopard on private land, using baits, blinds and lights. So no, I don’t believe that these methods weight the odds enormously in favour of the hunter.

In the long run, is hunting sustainable in the face of diminishing habitats and dwindling numbers of animals?

There will always be hunting, of one species or another. It’s an integral part of sustainable utilisation. Where the population of some species becomes too low to enable this, due to human encroachment or other reasons, then that species will not be allowed to be hunted — like black rhino for example — but where a species can exist in healthy numbers, where that species can be managed effectively, then yes, there will always be hunting — it is a natural inherited instinct that not all people, but many people are born with.

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