For the first time since an asteroid wiped dinosaurs off the face of the earth, the planet is currently experiencing the sixth greatest mass extinction in its history, plants and animals becoming extinct faster than new species can evolve. As of 2013, 905 animal species are known to have become extinct, nearly 16,000 species have been listed as under threat or disappearing, with more than 200 of those described as “possibly extinct” and almost 3,000 as “critically endangered,” primarily due to human beings destroying natural habitats, the spread of introduced predators and diseases, climate change... and hunting. Lots and lots of hunting. We human beings just love to kill things.
Particularly this woman. But when American TV presenter, Melissa Bachman posted a photo of herself grinning over the body of a huge male lion she’d shot on safari in the northern Limpopo province of South Africa at a so-called Maroi “conservancy” (actually a legalized hunting reserve which even advertises all the animals you’re allowed to kill on their land, including rare giraffes and zebras), she set off a social media backlash.
“An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion … what a hunt!” she Tweeted. Ricky Gervaise nailed it in his Tweet in response: “Spot the typo.”
Unfortunately, she’s hardly unique in her bloodlust to kill endangered animals. Killing rare and endangered animals for sport is big, big business. Lourens Mostert, the game farm manager at the Maroi Conservancy, has defended hunting lions because it is legal in South Africa. “This is not the only lion that has been hunted in South Africa this year,” he said. “If it isn't right to hunt these lions, why does our government legally give us permission?” Um... for the money, would my guess.
According to their Facebook page, The Maroi Conservancy’s motto is “conservation through sustainable hunting,” and promote “ethical hunting” with all meat from the animals distributed to the local community, although I do find the idea of eating lion rather unlikely. All of the game on the 8500 hectare conservancy, they insist, is free-roaming and occur naturally... except for the lion Ms Bachman shot. Lions don’t live there. So they helpfully “faciltated” [sic] the hunt for Ms Bachman to fulfil her “wish list” to kill a lion. They justify the hunting of rare animals on the reserve as “protecting” the animals from starvation, poaching, and raising funds to pay for fencing of agricultural crops and domestic animals. “It is a fact, that due to the hunting industry and money generated out of this industry, there are more animals in South Africa than 100 years ago.” So they say.
The numbers, however, don’t add up. A hundred years ago, there was an estimated 200,000 South African lions. Today there are only about 23,000 left, already extinct in 26 countries. Only seven countries – Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are believed to have more than 1,000 lions each. The South African lion is listed as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, just below “endangered.” They are in steep decline due to Africa’s human population expanding into lion habitat and because lion bones and other body parts are in demand in the Asian black market as a substitute for tiger bones – since tigers have been hunted to the point they are now on the critically endangered list, one step away from being gone forever like the Western black rhino.
Trophy hunters like Melissa Bachman prefer to kill a male lion in his prime. The loss of an alpha male impacts heavily on a lion pride, as rival lions competing for dominance often kill all the cubs. Countries that allow trophy hunting have the worst drops in lion populations. Trophy hunters, again like Melissa Bachman, tend to be American, with two thirds of lions hunted for sport ending up imported to the United States in the form of skins, rugs, teeth, bones, claws and penises.
So it makes no sense whatsoever for anyone to be killing them for “sport.”