Part III- Humans and Animals: Big Game Hunting

By. Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Delving into the issues of big game hunting, I have found many protests against the killing of elephants for their ivory tusks and rhinos for their horns. Big game hunting involves hunting the “big five“: lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and Cape buffalo.I agree, this issue appears as though an especially major waste to kill an animal solely for its tusks or horns. Consequently, some animals have been hunted to extinction, while others are on the brink of becoming extinct. We, in the West, do not typically know what it is like to even have such large and majestic animals roaming about freely to the extent in African and Asian countries. However, we also do not know what it is like to constantly be starving, in need of clean water, constantly struggling to survive, etc., as much as they do.

Essentially, Westerners are judging the means in which certain people in African countries make a living by using animals for parts. Such judgments are oddly arrogant and naive. In Zimbabwe, for instance, where some of the big game hunting and poaching exists, the average annual income is around $909 USD as of 2016. The unemployment rate is soo volatile and measurements are insanely unreliable that organizations have ranged that rate anywhere from 4% to a whopping 95%. Before they ended their currency in 2009 and switching to USD by 2015, their inflation rate by mid-November, 2008, reached around 79,600,000,000% making $1 USD equal to around $2,621,984,228 ZWD.

Some other countries where big game hunting occurs are Namibia, Kenya, and South Africa. In Namibia, the average annual income hovers around $6,000 USD with a 34% unemployment rate. $1 USD is equal to about $13.75 NAD today. Namibia’s economy is said to be on a constant downward spiral with little hope in the near future. In Kenya the average annual income is around $1,143 USD with an 11% unemployment rate, and $1 USD is equal to about $101 KES today. Kenya’s economy is doing even worse than Namibia, and is on a perpetual downward slope. Lastly, in South Africa the average annual income is around $12,260 USD with an almost 27% unemployment rate, and $1 USD is equal to around $13.73 ZAR. Keeping in mind the struggling economic situations of this region of the world, it is easier to see how people can result to hunting and poaching, especially when the benefits far outweigh the losses.

The current market estimate for elephant tusks, which are made of ivory, is around $730 USD per kg, 1 kg is equal to a little over 2 lb, and the average African elephant tusk weighs anywhere from 23 to 45 kg, or 51 to 99 lbs; some alpha bull elephants known as “tuskers” can weigh around 100 kg, or 220 lbs. This means one elephant with two tusks, just counting the average market price in USD times the weight in pounds and times two, can bring in anywhere from $74,460 USD to $321,200 USD. If your average income is around $900 USD per year in Zimbabwe, that is over 8 years pay for you and 9 of your friends for the $74,460, and up to a little over 35 years of work for you and 9 of your friends for the $321,200.

You can do the math to continue the enormous positive impact this has on the families and the regions these are sold, and the incentive to kill elephants for their tusks. The elephant meat can fetch anywhere from $1 USD to around $5.55 USD per pound with an average of 1,000 pounds per elephant, equaling $1,000 USD to almost $6,000 USD per elephant in meat alone. In many of these kills, if the hunter came from a Western nation to hunt on these hunting reservations, they take little-to-none of the meat, and that meat is then either sold by the company running the operation or donated to local villages. This practice is standard across all of the animals killed on these big game hunting expeditions.

Many Westerners will then respond that this is still wrong to kill elephants, because these are glorious and majestic fauna who are kind and loving, and they see humans as cute puppies. Well, according to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), that is not entirely correct.

In fact, in most areas of Africa, elephants are seen as giant rats who destroy fences, destroy and eat crops around 200 to 600 lbs per day. They also threaten the lives of especially farmers, where around 200 people have been killed in the past 7 years in Kenya alone, and drink around 50 gallons of water per day. This has a detrimental impact on people living in these regions, threatening their livelihood almost daily. Due to constant drought in these African nations, elephants are often on the move for more water and food and will go into populated areas to get necessary sustenance. However, that comes at the expense of people within those areas, such as loss of precious clean water, food, crops, property damage, and at times the people’s lives. Thus, big game hunting is often in protection of much-needed natural resources.

Rhino horns are another thing people hunt for, and it is an ongoing issue in these regions and others. The price tag on rhino horns ranges from $60,000 USD per kg to $100,000 USD per kg, and the average weight of 1.5 to 3 kilograms, or 3 to almost 7 lbs; this means one horn can fetch from $90,000 USD to $300,000 USD. The drive for such an item is really found in Asian medicine, especially found in Vietnam where the idea is that if the horn is grounded into a powder and put into medicine it will help fight cancer.

The same is true for lions and tigers being killed for their bones, teeth, and claws. The bones are ground down to powder for alternative medicine, while the teeth and claws are used for jewelry. Of course the heads and skins of lions and tigers are also a prized possession for those in that market.

So, when there is severe drought, it is a cultural norm, it is difficult to leave or build fences strong enough, these animals are destroying crops along with the drought, people’s water is evaporating and being drank in large amounts by these animals, there is little-to-no work and the pay is low, these animals have plenty of edible meat, and the price tag on them is soo high, it is easy to understand that these people see far more pros than cons when it comes to big game hunting.

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