What does Rory Young think about the Melissa Bachman lion hunting controversy?

Answer by Rory Young:

My grandfather was an oddball. He was seventy years old when my father was born and my father was thirty five when I was born, so of course I never met him. However, I was fascinated as a child by all the stories I would be told about him.

I was amazed to hear about him being assegaaied by Matabele warriors during the Matabele Rebellion and surviving by playing dead before fighting his way through the Matabele lines into Bulalwayo. I was proud to hear about how he kicked Lord Baden-Powell in the backside with his "carpet slippers" and called him a "coward and a murderer" for having three chiefs shot after promising not to hang them if they surrendered to my grandfather.

However, there was one story that has always interested me the most. It was how he had broken off an engagement to a beautiful and wealthy young woman after seeing her deliberately kill a moth.

When I saw the picture of Mellissa Bachman I thought about this story of my grandfather. Obviously grandpa wouldn't have been thinking about dating her if he had seen the picture. I was thinking more about the fact that my grandfather, after a lifetime of seeing death first hand and of dealing it out himself in four brutal wars, could not abide the thought of a woman killing a moth.

I know that in later life he could not abide any death unless absolutely necessary and referred to fox hunters as savages, but breaking off an engagement almost before the altar for the killing of a month seems a little excessive. Was it because he deemed it unfeminine or did he really have the best interests of moths at heart? I don't believe for one second that he would have blinked if a man had done it. I believe it was all about his view of what a woman should be.

When I look at the image of Melissa Bachman I ask myself  the same question. There are innumerable pictures of trophy hunters  with dead lions all over the internet and nobody gets that hit up about it. Therefore I ask myself is it really because they are so appalled at the death of the beautiful male lion or is it because it is a beautiful, feminine , smiling woman that did the killing of this animal that so epitomizes strength and bravery? I certainly don't see such heart-felt concern for lions or other endangered African wildlife generally, especially when it comes to people dipping into their pockets. I smell hypocrisy.

There is however, more hypocrisy amongst the trophy hunters. There is a loud claim that hunters plow back more money into conservation of endangered African animals than non-consumptive tourists. I recently started digging into how much really does go back into conservation.

After lion hunting was recently banned in Zambia I approached some of the professional hunters to find out how much money had been generated by lion hunting and how much would be lost . No one could answer. I asked various organizations and individuals who would be expected to know and no one had a clue, or they didn't want to tell me..

I looked further afield and discovered that the much hyped 65% of revenue generated by trophy hunting in Botswana that had supposedly been ploughed back into conserving vast wildlife areas for decades  was actually a load of baloney and had been a load of baloney for decades. The Botswana government estimates it was actually less than ten percent.

There are lions nearby where I am sitting right now in the Omay in Zimbabwe. One of them is a nice big male. Not too long ago a similar male who used to live around here was shot by trophy hunters literally on the boundary. They argued that it was legal and therefore they had done nothing wrong. They also shot a collared elephant and again claimed that because it was passing through their area they had done nothing wrong. In both cases they argued that these were paying customers and they had a right.

In other words there is no question of ethics or morality, it is all about law and economics. Sadly that is the long and short of it for African wildlife. It is not about what is right or wrong it is all about the money.

Sadly, although Botswana and Zambia have banned lion hunting there is little chance of other Southern/Central/East African countries doing the same. They need the money that is generated by hunters as they are not generating enough from photographic tourism and when it comes to paying for it out of the central coffers there is no way it will be given priority over education, health and other necessities.

Here is an example. Zimbabwe's wildlife areas are dependent on raising revenue from tourism to survive and protect themselves through the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. When the economic and political tragedy struck in 2001, the tourists dried up over night. The only revenue came from hunting and tiny support from NGOs. Without the trophy hunters there would be no animals left. People were hungry and they would have simply killed them all for food. Right now many African national wildlife agencies are dependent on money raised by trophy hunters

Therefore my view is that if people want to stop trophy hunting then they should start dipping into their pockets to support endangered species, start spreading the word, put pressure on their governments to do more for the world's wild places and stop wasting all this effort on this one woman.

Entire species are going extinct right now in an uncontrolled killing frenzy and no African nation is going to turn down the money from trophy hunting a few animals  which they need to maintain whole wildlife areas without much more incentive to do so. Not until it makes financial or political sense for them to do so.

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3 thoughts on “What does Rory Young think about the Melissa Bachman lion hunting controversy?

  1. This is one of very few balanced and informed opinions I have seen on this topic. When you say “uncontrolled killing frenzy” I assume you’re talking about poaching and not the regulated hunting industry, correct? Or are “legal” hunters contributing to the problem of species extinction in your opinion?

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