Monday, 23 February 2015

Elephant Hunting - Is it ethical and is it conservation?

Glenn McGrath - posing with a dead elephant he had shot.

Background

Australian cricket legend Glenn McGrath has copped a media bashing recently over an elephant safari hunt he participated in nearly 7 years ago in 2008.

Glenn grew up in Dubbo, NSW and has been a keen hunter most of his life.  When his wife Jane was diagnosed with cancer, she bought him a rifle so that he could follow his dream to one day go on an African safari hunt.

In interviews with the SSAA (Sporting Shooters Association of Australia) Glenn has been quoted as saying:
"I'm keen to get into trophy hunting, no animal in particular, but a big safari in Africa would be great. I'd prefer to do the safari on foot, like they did in the old days and just take the camp with you, not driving around in 4WDs. That to me would be perfect. It's not about the quantity of trophies; although quality is important, it's not everything. Just being out there in that environment would be amazing"
Glenn also set-up the McGrath Foundation in 2005 to improve breast cancer awareness.

His wife Jane passed away from complications relating to her cancer in 2008.

The furor

Immediately after the release of the news that our great cricket legend, and Order of Australia medal recipient Glenn, had shot an elephant on safari in Africa, Twitter went abuzz with usual outrage and vitriolic commentary on the issue. Many berating the cricketer and others suggesting they'd refuse to support the McGrath foundation any longer.

Within hours, Glenn released an apology on Twitter, stating the following.......




















None of that mattered though.  The vitriol continued unabated, with the Human Headline (Derryn Hinch) chiming in to voice his disgust and disbelief that Glenn could do such a thing.  He didn't accept Glenn's apology and even threw the boot in further by using his sick wife as an excuse. Watch the video here...  

On the same day Hinch released his video, Australian cricketer Brett Lee was also implicated in the hunting scandal. But in this instance the disgust was not over an elephant, but over a deer they had legally shot.

An animal that is perfectly legal to hunt in Australia with a valid gun licence and permit.









Investigation

There are three things I intend to explore during my investigation surrounding the chain of events.
  1. Is Glenn McGrath genuinely sorry about his Elephant hunting safari.
  2. Can hunting exotic African wildlife be considered conservation and is it ethical.
  3. Was the social media backlash warranted. 

Is Glenn sorry?

This is a man who grew up in regional Australia. Has hunted most of his life and has always dreamed of going on an African safari hunt. He also has been quoted as saying some of his best friends are hunters.

If Glenn always dreamed about going an safari, one would think he would have done the research first. After all, he did seek out the permits and one of the better locations to hunt Elephants - Zimbabwe. He would have learned at school that Elephants were endangered and that there was an international ban on the ivory that took effect. He had hunting friends that he would have discussed the safari with. None of them talked him out of it.

Note: Elephants are not endangered, but we'll get to that later. 

I suspect Glenn knew exactly what he was getting in to and that his limp excuse to use the traumatic time of Jane's illness, as an excuse, was nothing but a desperate attempt to get the media off his back before the situation escalated. 

I can't say I blame him. But in his haste to get the twitterati off his back, he merely fueled the fire that was already raging. 

Conclusion: I don't believe Glenn is sorry. In fact I think he would have loved to have taken those tusks home.

Is it conservation and is it ethical?

Before we can answer that question, we need to put it into context and look at it from a scientific point of view.

Exotic

Lets first examine the word exotic. What is exotic? Broadly speaking something exotic is of foreign origin. By definition, something exotic is not majestic, spiritual, endangered or whatever else you might believe it to mean. 

Australia has been blessed by having some of the cutest fauna in the world. Our Kangaroos are exotic to foreigners - but some of those foreigners believe that our Kangaroos are endangered, majestic and / or even spiritual in some way.  Many are unaware that we eat them, let alone farm the meat and export it. They would be horrified if they found out. 

The Japanese eat horses. The Koreans eat dogs. Many Australians would be disgusted at the thought of knowing those this is the case in other parts of the world.

Well guess what, in Africa, it might not surprise you that they eat elephants. And one can't deny, there is a lot of meat on an elephant.  If every life is precious, it kind of makes sense that getting more bang for your buck or more steak for your kill, would have to be more ethical - providing the practice is sustainable of course. 

Conservation vs Preservation

Many people are confused about what the word 'Conservation' actually means.  Many wildlife groups purport to be 'conservationists', but in reality they are 'Preservationists'.

Conservationists believe resources can be managed with a sustainable outcome.

Preservationists want to protect anything and everything in nature from human interference. 

One methodology is realistic, the other is idealistic.

Preservation can work if there is a management plan to ensure there is no human interference. The problem with the preservation model in Africa, is that there are lots of people, there are lots of hungry people, there are lots of poachers and there are many conflicts occurring. And most importantly of all, there is not nearly enough funding going around to preserve the areas we want to preserve for future generations. 

So we're left with the conservation model and the challenge of creating an incentive for the local people of Africa to protect their species.  

Conservation

From a business model perspective, lets consider African wildlife a resource and develop a management and marketing plan. 

The market being the trophy hunter and the management plan being the funding of local rangers to protect their resources from poachers and ensure plenty of breeding stock available to create a sustainable business model.

Does conservation hunting work?

Yes.  Conservation hunting has been in place in many parts of the world for decades. And in these areas, animal numbers are flourishing despite being previously either vulnerable or endangered.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) manages the 'Red List' of every known species across the world.  It is the only credible international source to learn the true status of the threat level of a species. 

At the time I wrote this blog, the African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana) was considered "Vulnerable" 

However... if we delve into the population section of the report, it reads...
"Although elephant populations may at present be declining in parts of their range, major populations in Eastern and Southern Africa, accounting for over two thirds of all known elephants on the continent, have been surveyed,and are currently increasing at an average annual rate of 4.0% per annum (Blanc et al. 2005, 2007). As a result, more than 15,000 elephants are estimated to have been recruited into the population in 2006 and, if current rates of increase continue, the number of elephants born in these populations between 2005 and 2010 will be larger than the currently estimated total number of elephants in Central and West Africa combined. In other words, the magnitude of ongoing increases in Southern and Eastern Africa are likely to outweigh the magnitude of any likely declines in the other two regions."
Most, if not all, legal hunting opportunities are available in Eastern and Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe. That is where Glenn experienced his trophy hunt.

NOTE: 
The status of a species is an overall world-wide status. If you delve into the full report, it will provide a breakdown of the threat level by country. In Zimbabwe, elephants are rated as 'Least Concern'.





To hunt an elephant, the licence will cost in the range of $30,000 - $50,000.  This money goes to the Government, the hunting guide and the National Parks agency.

After the kill is made, word travels quickly to the local villagers, who then participate in the process of dividing up the resource to share with their local communities. No part of the animal is wasted. 





















Considerations - is hunting elephants ethical? 


Pros
The value the hunter brings to the local community. Money, education and experience.

Wildlife is sustainably managed and therefore protected from unethical poachers. Without blinking, a poachers will cut off a rhinos horn, an elephants tusks, a tigers penis and leave the carcass to rot. He will shoot as many animals as he can, with no Government oversight to understand population levels.

The meat is used to feed the community and it's always a huge celebration.

Cons
If you're a vegan or a vegetarian and believe killing animals is murder, then it will never feel ethical to you. However, I do encourage you to watch the 60 minutes video linked below to learn what happens to a species when it is managed under the preservation model.

Was the backlash against Glenn warranted

Well that's up to you to decide. I have provided more information on conservation hunting below.

Columnist Nicolle Flint of the Adelaide Advertiser put it best in her article when she said:
"we seem set to remain a nation where informed debate is rarer than an endangered rhino"
But here is my personal observation of what I have learned about the various demographics on twitter...

There are four types...
  1. The educated and willing to be further educated.
  2. The trolls
  3. The Twitterati
  4. The outraged.  
If you've read this far, congratulations, you're most likely in category 1. This group is exceptionally rare. Either that or they don't easily engage with strangers on social media.

Trolls

Trolls are there just to bait celebrities, politicians or any other little fish that swim in their path. It's the whole tall-poppy syndrome with a bit of "I was bullied at school, so i'll bully online" thrown in. Best to block this type of plankton without a second thought.

Twitterati

Twitterati are the arm-chair experts with thousands of followers. They know just enough to be dangerous and believe the number of their followers equates to their IQ.  They are not interested in facts or science - irrespective how plainly you provide them with any evidence.  They are usually wanna-be comedians and take pride in scoring cheap points. You'll find most of their twitter remarks published on ABC Q&A.  They are by far the most dangerous and annoying group of people. Their cocky satirical remarks appeal to the simpletons, misleading the vulnerable in society who then usually end up voting for the Greens. They will also do whatever it takes to get more followers in order to become more influential on social media. It's all a game to them.

Update: The morning after I posted my blog, I began to seek out disparaging comments against Glenn McGrath. It wasn't long before I came across this gem from Nikhil Parekh.  I linked him my blog and within 3 mins I had received a response. Check out his arrogant reply in the image on the left.

I got curious, so I decided to investigate further. It turns out Nikhil Parekh is an 'Internet Marketer', self proclaimed 'World Class Public Speaker' and currently mentors thousands of people.

He has over 100,000 followers on twitter and has been the director of his own company 'New Edition International' for over 16 years.

Wow - sounds impressive doesn't it!!

The problem is, his company doesn't appear to have a valid working web address, nor a physical address for that matter, however you can find his PO Box by looking up true local.

His résumé is also very impressive. Check it out here...

I can't help but worry, when Nikhil tweets to his 100,000 followers, how many are listening to his drivel. Maybe Hardy wines feels threatened and is considering pulling their sponsorship as he had suggested in another twitter comment to the company.

One thing is for sure. The twitterati are nothing but a toxic poison in our society.  Narcissists like Nikhil, need to be called out.

Why don't you send him a twitter message, telling him how you feel about his antics?



Outraged

The outraged are usually those with a Vitamin B12 deficiency. They've never been outside a large city, they own one to several cats and love to watch the x-factor. The following graph best illustrates how they think and operate.


More info...
Learn how some African animals that are extinct in the wild are thriving on ranches in Texas, thanks to conservation hunting. It also explains how the animal charities you might donate to will later be responsible for their extinction  -> 60 Minutes report on Conservation Hunting

A panel of experts (University of NSW professors) on the ABC Big Ideas program provide an in-depth analysis of wildlife management -> They shoot lions don't they? 

Scientific study examining the undesired conservation outcomes when wildlife trade bans are implemented -> Wildlife trade bans study

Side notes

'Conservation Hunting' is not 'Canned Hunting' - I do not condone canned hunting and believe it should be outlawed where possible. You can help ban this practice by never visiting a zoo or park that allows both trophy hunting as well as viewing exotic animals behind a wire net. 

The Greens are 'Preservationists' - which is why nobody with at least half a brain would vote for them.

14 comments:

  1. Very nice post. I used to think big-game African "safari" hunting was vain and little more than population control, until I learned about the additional benefits. Though I still have an oversion to those types of hunts, and I think it's probably "wasteful" to funnel that much money through central governments, MY concerns don't make those types of hunts unethical or on the balance "bad."

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  5. Since 3 out of the 4 comments are spam, I thought I'd comment. Very good post, I appreciate your logic and I too believe the conservation model can work. Conservation model hunting saved the black rhinos. Question: Many large African Private Reserves have trophy hunting and carefully choose the animal. They claim a good portion of funds go towards conservation and anti-poaching costs. Do you still consider this "canned" hunting?

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