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Jamaine Chiwaye
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A not so defensive defence of Melissa Bachman

21 November 2013, 07:03

South African news and social media was recently set alight after a hunter by the name of Melissa Bachman took a picture of one of her latest trophy kills – a lion. A male lion. A symbol of strength, pride and everything in between. She basically killed Mufasa and took a selfie of it. However, this letter is not to condone her even further or to protest her arrival into the country. Rather, it is to defend Bachman. Not for what she is or what she does, but because she is a symptom of  a chronic condition and not the cause.

Melissa Bachman did nothing wrong. She is an experienced and avid hunter. She researched South Africa, found a company that legally offers her a product she desired and so she bought it. She travelled here and paid for an experience. Surely this cannot be wrong. So why the uproar? Why the thousands of signatures trying to ban her from ever entering the country? Do these people signing the petitions know that there is another hunter with possibly more money for more kills currently searching on Google for the best package deal of hunting what we see as our natural resources? That this hunter will land on our shores and pay a few thousand Dollars to take the life of animals we think so highly of that we put them on our currency.

So I ask the question again: Why the uproar? Is it because Melissa Bachman is a woman? That she dared to take a picture of herself in a male dominated field and she must pay the price? I hate to bring it down to a feminist stance but that could be one of the root causes. She was simply a hunter that  did what she loved. There are many other hunters locally and from abroad that pay good money to hunt. If they pay enough, they can even get the chance of taking down a rhino which we all loudly claim to care about. She was a woman who was a hunter and she killed a lion. Simple, but this is not the end.

It is a wonder to me that the same people who would sign a petition to stop Bachman from returning did not sign a petition to stop the company from selling another hunting package. There is always another willing buyer because there will always be a willing and able seller. Therefore, I have to ask: What about the tour company? Who said anything to them? Why do we allow people, regardless of where they are from, to literally kill our natural resources? These tour operates will always argue that such packages of ‘canned hunting’ as it is also known bring much needed foreign currency into the country as well as providing jobs. They are paid large amounts of money for these large animals. The operators say that these fees help grow the country. How so? I have to ask.

If an individual pays almost ten thousand US Dollars to kill a lioness, which part of the country benefits? Our northern neighbours, Botswana constantly asked themselves this question and the answer they got contradicts the operators’ stance. Botswana recently banned hunting. They say a national park is a conservation park. Have they lost money? Not in the least. This is because the majority of the tourists that arrive in the country want to see the animals living in their habitat. More and more tourists can and will see the animals. In economic terms, these are what we call increasing marginal returns. The animal lives, more people see it, more money made, more jobs created, more happiness for all. Is that not what is supposed to be happening? Tour operators say that they bring in money to the country. But how much of that money is seen by the bottom level of their workforce? Once that guide allows a gunshot to pierce the calm silence of the wilderness, an animal life is lost, but so is a worker’s livelihood. No one else will see that animal again. No money will be earned. Does it make sense to build a build a house, spend money furnishing it, then someone offers you a bit more than it took to build it just to watch it burn to the ground? That is essentially what canned hunting can be compared to. These canned hunting farms spend time and money cultivating an asset in these animals, and they do not look at the long-term. The possibility of a consistent income in the future is sacrificed for the momentary pleasure of a bump in the bank account balance.

This, I believe is the source of the issue. Not Melissa Bachman. Bachman’s actions are the ugly symptoms of a rotting disease that is swiftly infecting the country. We shouldn’t be selling our futures for a few momentary pleasures. We need to collectively say that the kind of people that claim to be protecting the environment and those who rely on it for their livelihoods are actually robbing. Curing the symptoms do not sure the cause. This is what we should be angry about. Not with Melissa Bachman.

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