* * *
Question: What is conservation to you?
“Conservation is very simple, it’s global support for the heroes on the front line to truly enable them to be effective.”
Question: Is trophy hunting conservation?
“Yes, it absolutely is. It’s not the act of actually hunting itself, however it’s the money that people will pay to do that. And that money goes to the front line of so many of these initiatives whether it’s anti-poaching, making sure there’s meat distribution to a village or simply giving the wildlife value. A huge amount of those hunters’ dollars go into different educational programs across Africa.”
Right now today we’re experiencing the loss of 15 million acres in western Tanzania. That’s 15 million acres that have lost all value to their wildlife, because the hunting community has left that area. It’s deemed not viable because of a decision by Fish and Game to not allow the import of lion trophies.
Here’s the truth, that’s 15 million acres that tribes people and their cattle have moved on to. The lions are now eating the cattle, the people are poisoning the lions and 10 times the number of lions are getting poisoned as would ever have been hunted. And the wildlife there has no value at all. It’s living proof of what a disaster it is when you close trophy hunting in an area.
Question: Why do you think there is such disdain for hunting and particularly trophy hunting?
“What I believe is it’s purely an emotional reaction to seeing the terrible way some hunters have portrayed themselves. Pictures all over social media with dead and bleeding animals We are a lot to blame for that. It’s very bad policing of the hunting community, it’s a misconception. It’s not an easy thing to understand how killing a lion can save a community of lions and so it requires a conversation, it’s not just a statement. And I think we’ve done a very bad job in doing that, we’ve got to make sure that the community understands the benefits of sustainable hunting. There are two things out there: hunting and sustainable hunting. Without the word sustainable in front of it, it’s absolutely part of the problem.”
Question: Poaching negatively affects wild game and gives the entire hunting community a black eye. You once said, “There is a feeling that is tough to describe as you watch a rhino get up after a dehorning. Part of you is relieved that it will no longer be attractive to poachers, part of you is horrified at the idea of taking away its identity and part of you is angry at the people who make this necessary!” Tell us more about the poaching crisis.
“Let me just start in the beginning and quantify the difference between hunting and poaching. Hunting is the sustainable use and off-take of a species. It’s always within the boundaries and limits of ethics. So, you’re taking a particular species and a particular sex in a way that is good for the wildlife. It’s just wildlife management.
Poaching, on the other hand, is basically the illegal stealing of wildlife with little or no regard to age, sex or species. You take the rhino war that is going on right now as a result of rhino horn being the most expensive commodity on the planet today. You can buy rhino horn on the streets of Beijing, illegally of course, at $60,000 an ounce. So, what that means as a trickle down effect, the guy who is going to pull the trigger who comes from a village next to Kruger National Park, is offered $5,000 which is several years of income to go in and risk his life in the hopes of killing a rhino. It means that about every 6 or 7 hours, a rhino is taken. They don’t care about the age of the rhino or sex of the rhino, they’re stealing that rhino. It’s the most despicable thing, it’s the greatest threat to our wildlife in modern times and it’s very easy to understand why it’s gotten that way.”
Question: So, what is the solution to this horrible problem?
“Rhinos regrow their horns. So, why would we not take the Chinese, which are the greatest threat to rhinos because they generate the market, and supply that market with rhino horn in a regulated manner. Then use the money that is generated to protect the rhinos. Communities around Africa could own groups of rhinos instead of cattle. We’ve got to solve a lot of issues because out of 30 rhinos, they could make half a million dollars a year with the dehorning and selling of their horn. That’s 10 times what they could make out of a herd of 1,000 cattle. Which means you would reduce the cattle problem, you’d increase the rhino population across Africa, and concurrently the communities today where the poachers are born will actually be where the protectors are born. So, you would eliminate poaching, you’d reduce the cattle problem, and you’d increase the range of rhinos. Those are the kind of initiatives we need to start thinking about.”
* * *
Hear more about Ivan’s take on conservation, trophy hunting, poaching and more, check it out here.