One year ago, TV personality Melissa Bachman killed a male lion in South Africa then tweeted, “An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt!”
But after spending several weeks working beside nine lions in Mkhuze National Park in South Africa, I can attest that lion hunting requires no skill or courage. My team and I would track them, pull off the road, then watch them from distances of less than 60 yards. Most of the lions were not bothered by the presence of the truck or humans.
Experience tells me that Bachman would have been led by a professional guide, a requirement to hunt such game in South Africa legally. In the comfort of the safari vehicle, the guide would have pulled the truck to within 60 yards of the lion’s position. This allowed Bachman to take a controlled and simple shot.
From foxes to snipes and sharks to wolves, many species have fallen victim to the selfish desires of trophy hunters like Bachman. True hunters take the life of an animal for sustenance. Today’s trophy hunters are well-fed men and women desperate for the glory of traveling to far-away lands to destroy magnificent creatures for the purpose of mounting stuffed trophies on their inflated egos. Even the mighty lion cannot defend against this growing international “sport.”
Cowardice often joins historical and environmental ignorance in the blissful “sport” of lion hunting. College cheerleader Kendall Jones was recently criticized for shooting and killing a lion in South Africa. Jones’s Facebook defense hid behind the coattails of the Rough Rider: “Our 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, has been labeled by many as the Father of Conservation… But he was a hunter too, right? He killed the same species that hunters now chase today under a mound of anti-hunting pressure.”
What Jones and many other pro-big-game hunters fail to address are the differences in lion populations from the early 1900s to the present. According to National Geographic, upward of 600,000 lions were present during the early 1900s. Now, there are fewer than 30,000 left in the wild. Chased from their habitat by human expansion and poaching, the population of lions is on a steady decline. National Geographic writers and other lion specialists have predicted that lions could disappear from the wild by 2020.
Hunters before the 1940s hunted the big cats when they were plentiful. Often times, as in the case of Roosevelt, trophy hunters of the past also appropriated and donated large sums of public and private money to the preservation and conservation of land and animals. Today, hunters exterminate more and more of fewer and fewer lions. They pay the $50,000 or more required to complete a hunt, take their pelt, and flee back to the comforts of home. They claim that only hunting the cats helps with their conservation. If conservation were actually the goal of trophy hunters, the entire $50,000+ they spend to kill could go to conservation of the species of their choice without having to reduce the population by one. If these hunters cared about conservation more than their own pride, they would see the importance of not slaying these creatures at this critical stage of environmental history.
Trophy hunting of lions in today’s world is a cowardly and destructive activity, benefitting nothing other than the ego of the hunter. If hunters were truly concerned with the conservation of animals who are indisputably endangered, why must they kill what they purport to preserve and protect?