Do you consider it morally wrong to kill elephants?

Answer by Rory Young:

Speaking as someone who has killed elephants my answer is yes.

In “normal” circumstances in today’s world it is ethically wrong.

I must point out that I am not against ethical hunting and in fact find it preferable to eat meat from an animal that has lived a wild life with the ability to raise its young to adulthood rather than meat from a farm-raised animal killed in an abattoir.

Normal circumstances do not include starvation, problem animal control (animals that are destroying lives and property outside of wildlife areas) and population control necessary to sustain biodiversity.

The reason I believe it is unethical to kill elephants is because they are so intelligent, possibly self aware as you have indicated and also because they are now believed to be able to empathize.

Whilst all species need to be protected to ensure biodiversity is maintained and whilst I have enormous respect of Arne Naess’ philosophy of deep ecology, the reality is that there is a difference, when it comes to the individual animal, between killing a jelly-fish and an elephant. We do need to respect the fact that elephants areunusually special creatures.

However, despite the fact that I believe it is repugnant to destroy such a magnificent creature, if it will save the species and ensure the survival of many through the revenue raised then I will not only keep silent on the issue of trophy-hunting elephants but will actively support it.

That does not mean I swallow all the bullshit from hunting organizations about all the money that is going from hunting into conservation. I have been investigating the numbers and I know it’s bullshit.

Having said that, I must now say that the most terrible thing I have ever had to do, no matter how necessary, is kill elephants. It is soul destroying and I have never felt anything other than deep sadness, bitter anger and depression after shooting any elephant , even when it was unquestionably mercy killing.

Following is an account I wrote about an elephant bull I had to track and shoot that had been wounded by poachers. Perhaps it can give some people a glimpse of what it means to kill an elephant and the tragedy of wasting their lives.

Just a Few More Seconds Old Chap

I squatted down to get a better look, the pack on my back swaying me slightly off-balance. I placed the butt of my rifle down on the ground to steady myself and a large drop of sweat plopped into the red, powdery dust. The elephant tracks were several days old. It didn’t really matter that much that they weren’t fresh enough to follow  because I wasn’t really looking to find their owner.

I had been looking for fresher spoor when something odd had caught my eye. It was a drag mark.

This was neither the usual scuff mark that was made just before the foot was placed, rather than after or as it was lifted in the case of men for example. Nor was it the often seen, playful doodling of a trunk in the dust such as a laid back chap might make as he wandered down to the water to drink. This showed a harsh, continuous line on the ground from the last track left by the front right foot to the current track left by the same foot.

It was obviously a front foot because the track was round in shape, rather than oblong which would have indicated a rear foot. I could tell which direction the elephant was travelling because of the five toe-nail marks left by the front feet and the four toe-nail marks left by the rear ones. Actually, the left front had for toe-nails. The elephant had lost one, which is not at all an uncommon find with older bulls. I noted this along with other individual “labels” in case I needed to follow him or recognize his tracks at a later time.

I knew it was his right foot for a reason which also told of the direction he was travelling; wearing on the sole. The “pad” of an elephant’s foot is covered in a network of fissures, which show in the track as raised lines. The thick pad expands as the elephant places his foot, putting his weight onto it, and contracts as he lifts his foot, taking his weight off it. This sole wears with age just like one of our shoes does. However, whilst humans can be both over and under pronators, elephants are strictly under pronators, so the pad always wears on the outer side and, just like a human, at the rear of the foot.

The wearing was on the outside, taking into account the direction of travel, so it was his right foot. Judging by the amount of wear and the depth of the fissures in his feet, it was obvious that the bull was relatively old; the older the animal, the more the wearing of the pad at the rear. I say old bull because the same fissures were very raised on the large track; females have finer and shallower fissures in their smaller feet, so they were not raised in the track.

Sometimes it is necessary to compare the depth of the fissures at hand with a mental image of a male and females tracks of the same size but in this case it was obviously male as the tracks were simply too large for a female.

Next I turned my attention to the size. The bull was roughly two point seven five metres at the shoulder. Easier to determine than one might imagine because the height of an elephant at the shoulder is around two and a half times the circumference of the front track.. In this case the track of this bull’s front foot was around a hundred and ten centimetres. This was not huge, but relatively large for the Mutusadona or the Omay, where I was now squatting.

The bulls here were on average thirty centimetres shorter at the shoulder than those in Hwange in the West of Zimbabwe and even shorter still than the incredibly tall elephants from the deserts of Namibia.

However, although they are small, they have proportionally long, thin tusks. Beautiful to see but weight-wise disappointing for trophy hunters as, although they look impressive they tend to weigh as much as a relatively short but chunky tusk from the West. Many an apprentice professional hunter, from the Hwange area, had come short by over-estimating the weight of these elephants’ tusks.

The size was another indicator of age and combining the size, wearing and fissure on the feet I reckoned he was about thirty-five to forty years old.

Then I noticed something strange. The bull had been running. There was distance between the front and rear tracks. When an elephant walks normally, his rear foot will be placed roughly half-way over the front track. In other words, the put their back foot down where their front foot was, the back one going down as the front one is lifted away; on the left and right side respectively.

When an elephant speeds up the gait changes incrementally up to a fast amble, and this is reflected in the tracks by a spacing between the front and rear tracks; from overlapping to just touching to a small gap and eventually a large gap when at full speed.

An elephant walks at around seven kilometres per hour and reaches a top speed, doing the fast amble I mentioned before, as they can’t trot, canter or gallop due to their incredible weight.
This was a strange combination because the bull was both moving relatively fast and dragging his front foot; sort of a fast limping-run. Dragging his foot either meant an old disability, such as some healed wound, at best or some recent injury at worst, and if he was trying to get away fast whilst in pain then he was very frightened and this would be for reason.

There were no other elephant tracks anywhere nearby. I thought about my recent walk to this point. Not only had I seen no other elephant tracks but I had seen no predator’s tracks from the time of the bull’s tracks either. Other than the usual plains game such as impala and water buck the only other tracks from around the same time were from local fishermen who had stopped and eaten on the shoreline. I thought about it, his tracks were about the same age. The bull’s tracks had the same contrast with the drizzle marks around it as the fishermen’s, so had been created at the time of the light rain we had had three days earlier.

I had another look round; the bull had been feeding in the thick Mopani and had rushed away from the direction of the lake, where the fishermen had disembarked from their boat. This was very unusual because the bulls in this area tended to hang around the same location and were used to people, so why did he bolt when he came across people? It was starting to look like his bad leg and people were connected. I suspected his injury had recently been caused by man.

There was no blood. In the case of elephants this is nothing unusual. Their skin is so thick that it will seal a wound quickly and completely. This unfortunately means that the wound doesn’t drain and hence infection is rapid.

I re-assessed. A 2.75m tall bull, probably in his late thirties or early forties, moving as fast as he could go, away from fishermen who had stopped on the lake-shore; I strongly suspected he had been wounded either by poachers or bad news hunters who had not reported the incident. It was time to call it in.

I headed back to Musango where I was freelancing at the time. Iwas mostly doing walking safaris in the Matusadona National Park on the other side of the Ume River from where I had just found the elephant tracks.

The area where the bull had been was part of Gache-Gache Rural Council’s CAMPFIRE Project.

CAMPFIRE, or Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources,was an initiative to reintroduce and develop wildlife in the traditional or communal farming areas. Concessions were allocated and tendered out for both photographic and hunting safaris. Musango, Bumi Hills and Katete Lodges were all within the photographic safaris area.

Hunting areas were not far to the South from where we were but the operators were professionals and I found it hard to imagine them not reporting a wounded bull.

Steve,the owner of Musungo, radioed the National Parks Warden at Tashinga, the headquarters of Matusadona National Park.

At that time the warden was Zef, an older, experienced and no-bullshit officer with many years under his belt. I got along well with him, especially since my proficiency exam a couple of years earlier, when I had had an interesting time running into the middle of a heard of buffalos with him, on his say so, to shoot an old “dagga boy”. It turned out we both had the same attitude towards dealing with difficult situations with dangerous game, but that is another story.

Zef told Steve over the radio, “Wellensky or Young can shoot it in the Park if they find it has crossed over. Otherwise let me know if council are a problem and I will contact them”.

Colin Wellensky was an ex-Parks Professional Hunter with many years experience and was doing freelance walking safaris at Musango as well.

Steve then radioed Gache-Gache Rural Council based at Siakobvu. They advised that they would send the scout who was responsible for the immediate area to join us and that Colin and I should “check it out” and determine whether or not it needed to be shot, and if so, report back tothem for thego ahead.

A full day went by before the scout turned up. He was nervous and cocky and wouldn’t look us in the eye. Although his behaviour was a bit odd, we didn’t think much of it as we were more interested in getting going as the spoor was now four days old. Furthermore, more the most part the scouts were hand-working and dedicated as a rule and so deserved the benefit of the doubt.

Colin and I grabbed plenty of water and set off for the spot I had last seen the elephant’s spoor. Although the tracks were now four days old we followed them on the principle that he was probably not going to be able to move far and we would probably cut fresher tracks sooner or later.

After tracking him till the end of the day it clear that he was slowing down rapidly. Even more serious was the drops of stinking liquid that rayon the tracks. Clearly a very infected wound was suppurating. When an elephant’s wound reached that stage it was almost certain that sepsis would also have spread throughout his system.

Something else I noticed at this point was that his droppings contained hardly anything other than the Mopani we were moving through, not the normal healthy variety of foods needed to supply him with the nutrients necessary to sustain him. The outside of the dung was almost black with a varnish-like quality. This indicated very high levels of tannin. Mopani and other trees pump tannin into their leaves when browsed upon, and also message other trees downwind to do the same. For this reason an animal has to keep moving or the leaves will become bitter. Grasses do something similar with arsenic.

So, an elephant unable to move is going to get very high levels of tannin and arsenic in what he eats, in addition to a lack of necessary variety. Together with the infected wound this would ultimately cause a slow and painful death.

As the point we had reached was close to the Kariba Lake shore we decided to head back to Musango via a boat pick-up rather than sleep on the tracks.

On the boat trip back to camp we discussed the situation. We had no doubt that he was deteriorating extremely fast. He was also heading towards a fishing village. We couldn’t let him near people as he was now potentially deadly to man.

We had noticed this bull didn’t have anything wrong with the base of his foot because where he did put his foot down, obviously gingerly, it looked normal. We both suspected some other problem with his leg, and that was a bullet wound.

That evening Colin heard that he had to head out for some reason or other. There was a Learner Professional Hunter in camp, apprenticed to Steve who needed dangerous game experience, so I agreed that I would let him shoot or back up.

That evening a concerned couple asked me if we couldn’t bring in a vet to help. They even offered to pay for this.

We explained that infection spread so fast in such situations that a vet would be able to do nothing for him.

Just as importantly the amount of money that would be necessary to bring in a vet and dart and treat the elephant could be used to save many more elephants and rhinos through anti-poaching and other activities.

They immediately offered to donate the equivalent amount to anti-poaching and other activities.I was very impressed with their generosity and concern for our wildlife. They were Americans and I have had further occasion to admire many Americans for these selfless traits.

Lastly,the wildlife shared the area with people and had been reintroduced for mutual benefit; the locals benefited financially from photographic and hunting safaris and the animals would be free to roam where they once had before. That meant people lived and worked in the same area and no chances could be taken with the communities’ lives and property. In this case it was not only a kindness to the elephant to euthanize him, it was also a duty to the local people.

We set out the next morning whilst it was still dark and arrived on the shoreline where we had departed the day before.

Our council scout was waiting. He had fallen behind often the day before and we had not waited for him. He contributed nothing and still seemed jumpy. There was no love lost between us. He had his radio with him and a .458 but I made it clear he was to keep the radio off and the weapon unloaded. When embarking on a serious and dangerous task  it is necessary  to be focused, calm and aware.Some fellow constantly fidgeting and fussing behind you doesn’t help in any way and is more of a nuisance than a help.

We set off and very soon crossed fresher spoor from the same bull. We followed for most of the morning. By midday the spoor was as fresh as could be. He was now hardly covering any ground at all. We needed to end his suffering as quickly and efficiently as possible. We were very close to a fishing village and a person could easily bumble into him by accident. They wouldn’t stand a chance.
Even though the bull couldn’t walk properly because of pain and was so weak he was hardly moving,the sight of a person would trigger a surge of adrenalin through his body that would cover the pain and give him the energy to kill.

At this point we crossed the road dirt road that went from near Musango to Bumi Hills. I decided to stop and rest, as I knew we would be doing the final approach very soon.

I looked at Craig and realised that he was wound up as tight as a spring. The excitement was buzzing through him. This was the first dangerous game he had shot and I realised he was a likely candidate for a bout of buck-fever, so I told myself to keep this in mind and instructed him to get ready.

We chatted briefly about dos and don’ts and other bits and pieces and I checked his weapon and ammunition carefully. Then I told the game scout to stay well back and we got back on the tracks.

Within a couple of minutes we were in short but dense Mopani and couldn’t see further than our noses but I heard the bull rumble. We were next to a tree much larger than the rest, so I handed my rifle to Craig and started climbing. Half way up I had a good view of the bull who was only sixty metres away. He was upwind from us standing next to a large Mopani with one foot off the ground. Even from that distance I could see how his leg was grotesquely swollen. The tree he was under stood in a small clearing and I could see that we would have a clear shot from the edge of the clearing but that it was only twenty meters from the bull.

I climbed back down and headed back to the road, used the scout’s radio to speak to HQ and confirmed we were putting him down.
We began the approach carefully and about 40m from the bull I stopped and checked on Craig. He was so tense he was shaking and was breathing way too fast.

I told him we were going back. He asked why and I answered, “I need a smoke”. His jaw dropped and he went red in the face, then he followed me back to the road.

By the time we got there he had cooled down. Getting his mind off the hunt and getting him pissed off with me instead had worked and he was now pretty calm. I decided we should go back and get it done and that this time he would probably be okay.

Just then, a game drive vehicle from another concession came along at high speed and pulled up next to us in a cloud of dust. Two Learners climbed out with weapons, all talking at the top of their voices, as is polite among Mashonas.

They had heard from our scout’s radio chatter that we had found the bull and had requested permission from Council to also back-up. They announced this as though it were an instruction for me. So, of course, I answered no.

There was silence. I explained to them that I was conducting the hunt and therefore if was my decision. Furthermore, I was the only man present with a full license and I would not sign the letters they would need if they wanted the experience to count towards their exams so they could all f-off.

Without a letter they could not claim an animal hunted, backed-up or even accompanied. Then I got onto the radio to Council and let fly.

Council apologised and explained that one of the learners had over five years’ experience and had been chosen by a Pro Guide based at the concession who was known to me.

By this stage the learners attitude had changed remarkably and they were standing humbly, hat in hand, so I agreed that one could back up. But first I laid down the law and explained exactly how the approach would be done, making clear that they were not to shoot unless I gave the go-ahead.

We moved out and approached the point we had reached previously. There was no clear shot from there so we would have to move quite a bit closer.

I checked on Craig and saw that he was breathing smoothly and was focused rather than tense. Then I signaled to the other chap to join us. He did well and I relaxed somewhat.

I whispered to them that we would move up another twenty metres to the edge of the clearing and that when I gave the signal Craig should shoot. Once he had fired, the other chap should fire the back-up shot. Then I made clear that if the bull did not go down, because of the close proximity that I would deal with it. It would be too close to take any chances. He could easily kill us all from that close in a matter of a few seconds.

We approached to the point twenty metres further on. The bull was dozing. His misery was obvious. Yet despite the agony of his condition, I knew his will to live would be a deadly force if treated lightly.

Just a few more seconds old chap and your suffering will be over, I thought to myself.

I turned to Craig, slipping my own weapon off safety as I did so, and signaled to him to shoot when he was ready.

Craig fired, slightly too far back to be a heart shot, but not a bad shot. It was a common mistake with an elephant exactly side-on.

However, I had no doubt the bull would drop soon but soon would not be good enough.

The other chap’s back-up shot was terrible, straight through the guts.

These two shots had both happened within a second of each other.
Within another second the bull screamed and turned on us, immediately veering from the tree into a full speed charge at us.

A head shot on elephant is best described as “between the ears”. If you imagine a stick between the ear-holes then you are spot on.

Even better is to have a “3D” knowledge of where the brain is situated. Most importantly at short distance, aside from shot placement is focusing on nothing but getting it done.

At about fifteen metres as he was lifting his trunk to smash us, just a few steps for an elephant,I shot him through the brain.

The bull crashed to the ground as only as brain-shot can make happen. Then I walked back to Craig who was clearly wondering what had happened.

I explained that his shot was slightly too far back but still a kill-shot. However, not enough for us to have been safe waiting for the full effect of his shot to work!

Then I looked around for the other learner. He was nowhere to be seen. We eventually found him up the same tree I had earlier climbed looking for the bull.

Then, out of nowhere, people started appearing. In no time there were dozens of people armed with knives, axes and machetes ready to get stuck into the elephant. These situations can get nasty as people got out of hand and start fighting over more protein that they usually see in a year. People get hurt,so we organised leaders who would portion out the meat and clobber anyone who stepped out of line.

Finally I had a look at the elephant’s leg. The knee and most of the leg was badly swollen and full of pus. There was a small entry-wound in the knee.

Obviously, some bastard had shot him in the leg and not finished the job. The question was whether it was a poacher or hunter. There was no exit wound so Craig and I got to work extracting the bullet. At the same time we noticed the scout pacing around us, clearly a bag of nerves.

We located the bullet and it turned out to be a .458. The scout carried a .458 and was responsible for this area. However, so did most hunters. Then he snatched the bullet out of my hand, insisting that it had to go to Council who would in turn hand it over to the police.

Now I was really suspicious. I tried to insist that I hand it to the police directly but knew that I was wasting my time; I had no legal authority, whilst he was on his turf.

That evening, when we returned to camp, we immediately got hold of council on the radio. They explained that unfortunately the bullet had been “lost” whilst being transported to Siakobvu by the same scout.

I ground my teeth with the sheer frustration.

That evening I thought over the day’s events whilst sipping a Scotch by the campfire. The bull’s tusks were both over sixty pounds apiece. Not only had a magnificent animal’s life been wasted but if it had to die then his would have brought in a lot of sorely needed funds into the area for both the local people and the wildlife if he had been hunted by a paying trophy hunter.

I was glad to have ended the bull’s suffering and was pleased that Craig was a step closer to his full license and now had an elephant under his belt.

I kept my face and body calm and still for the clients also enjoying the campfire but inside I was boiling with anger at the attitude of a man who could wound an animal and then callously condemn it to a lingering and painful death.

I looked down at my clenched fist and sighed.


 

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Do gorillas have spiritual or religious beliefs?

Answer by Rory Young:

File:Male gorilla in SF zoo.jpg

GREAT question!!!

Firstly, we need to clarify both “religious” and “spiritual”.

According to wiktionary the word comes from relegō (“I bind back or behind”) and from re + legō (“I choose, select; collect, gather”).

There are four meanings for the noun “religion:

1. “The belief in and worship of a supernatural controlling power, especially a personal god or gods”. I think we can exclude gorillas from this form of religion.

2. “A particular system of faith and worship“. I think this can also be excluded for gorillas.

3. “The way of life committed to by monks and nuns“. Nope, not really gorilla behaviour.

4. Any practice that someone or some group is seriously devoted to. Ah! Here we loop back to the origins of the word religion. Yes, I do believe then that this could fit with gorilla behaviour. Let’s examine this further.

I recently read a review (see story) of a new book written by primatologist Frans de Waal. (sorry it will take me a while to get hold of a copy of the book itself).

The book’s title is, “The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates“. As the article explains, Frans de Waal argues that we believe in God because we are moral rather than we are moral because we believe in God. In other words morality has evolved over time as we have.

De Waal says, “there is little evidence that other animals judge the appropriateness of actions that do not directly affect themselves, yet, in their behavior, we recognize the same values we pursue ourselves.

“I take these hints of community concern as a sign that the building blocks of morality are older than humanity, and we don’t need God to explain how we got to where we are today,” he writes.

As you can see, we keep getting back to that raw definition (number 4) of what religion is. So, morality, community, binding… Being “religious” is not dependent on a belief in God.

Now let’s leap forward to today and look at a new and extremely interesting religion called Syntheism. (See http://syntheism.org/).

Syntheism also fits this definition number four. Furthermore, it does NOT meet the requirements of 1, 2 or 3! So, if Syntheists are religious then so are gorillas! There are other ancient religions that also do not fit into the mainstream  expectation for religiosity. Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ath…

Now let’s look at “spiritual”.Spirituality lacks a definition but here is what wikipedia says:”social scientists have defined spirituality as the search for “the sacred,” where “the sacred” is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration”.

To answer this question let’s return to the article reviewing de Waal’s new book; “Some say animals are what they are, whereas our own species follows ideals, but this is easily proven wrong,” de Waals writes. “Not because we don’t have ideals, but because other species have them too.”

I don’t want to steal the well-deserved thunder of either de Waal or Lee Dye (who wrote the article) so will stop there as the point is made. For further evidence, read the article or the book.

Lastly, the question clearly says “belief”. I believe gorillas are true monists. They are not dualists which many would argue is purely an invention of the ancient Egyptians. I would also like to point out that the term “moral” is pretty much accepted as a “religious” term itself denoting good and evil. I prefer the pragmatic “what works and doesn’t work’ of ethics. In this too the gorillas are true.

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HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

EVERY GUIDE Should Read This..

Thank you to Dick Pitman for kindly allowing me to post the following Excellent article.

 

HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

 We’re pottering around – say – Mana Pools in our Land Cruiser, and someone coming the other way pulls up beside us, brandishing a hugely expensive camera. We exchange greetings. Then –
“Have you seen anything?” the driver says.I ponder for a moment. “Yes, indeed. There’s an ele mum back there with a really tiny calf. A group of absolutely superb kudu bulls. A civet, a bit earlier. Couple of impala rams sparring, really interesting to watch. Lovely light through the albidas.”My interlocutor looks a bit uncomfortable. “Yes, but have you seen…umm…something?

Something

I’m determined to drag it out of him. “What do you mean by something?”

“Well…er…you know, lions. The Dogs”.

As a matter of fact we did see ‘something’, yesterday. I give him some inspired misdirection and off he goes, wheels virtually spinning, until he vanishes in a cloud of dust.

This happens to us all the time. Our National Parks are full of vehicles hurtling around in search of this something. To them, everything else isnothing. Well, to me, this nothing is in fact everything. The wild dogs and lions – good though it is to see them – are just one part of the richly-textured tapestry of our wild places. We have ourselves had enquiries asking for “guaranteed” predator sightings. There’s only one answer to this: if you want is to see lions and wild dogs on demand, matey, go to a zoo.

Nothing?

You have to take wilderness as it comes and, if experience in recent years is anything to go by, fewer and fewer people are happy to do that.

Why?

Is the current ‘sensational predator photography cult’ a reflection of a society that has in itself become predatory? Is it the fault of an increasingly sensationalist media? Or is it the paradigm of instant gratification, ceaseless motion and search for novelty prevalent in today’s world?

A combination of all three, maybe, but I favour the latter – and probably simplest – explanation.This is borne out by what happens when one does actually put people in front of  a pride of lions.

Excitement turns to boredom in about ten minutes flat, when, as is their wont during daytime – the lions just lie around doing nothing at all or – the worst-case scenario! – all go to sleep. It takes on average about ten  minutes before boredom – signified by an insidious outbreak of foot-shuffling andsotto voce conversation – sets in. Finally, some bold spirit pipes up – “Well. Nothing much happening, then.” And so resting lions and wild dogs also get consigned to the great vacuum of nothingness with which the Park is apparently filled.

Mana lions, doing what they like most. Let them sleep!

Well, sorry for that, everyone, but this variety of “nothing” is what most predators do, most of the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough for the hordes of so-called “wildlife photographers”, that have invaded Parks like Mana Pools recently. Wild dogs must be persuaded to come trotting up and shove their noses into the business end of the telephoto lens. Lions that would far rather lie around sleeping must be provoked into making mock charges instead.

While writing this post, my attention was drawn to an excellent piece by Gerry van der Walt at http://photography.wild-eye.co.za/ethics-in-wildlife-photography/. Really, he says it all, but I’ll add my 0.05cents-worth while I’m at it.

At a purely personal level I couldn’t give a damn if some lunatic macho-man (or woman) gets themselves killed by a  deliberately-provoked “mock charge” that turns nasty. Unfortunately, though, there could be other outcomes as well.

For starters, a lot more visitors with little or no bush experience who see these photos all over the web may be infected by the “zoo mentality” and try the same thing, with disastrous results. Furthermore, guides and operators may be faced with immense pressure from guests to create similarly artificial photo opportunities, and risk getting labelled as cissies or worse if they refuse.

Worst of all, intrusive behaviour can have a profound impact on wildlife. Wild dog packs may be forced to move away from denning sites by constant, close-quarters intrusion. We’ve also seen tragedies that almost certainly resulted from lion becoming over-habituated to humans. And where potentially dangerous species are involved, something’s quite likely to get shot, either by a guide or by the Parks Authority, and sadly it’s not usually the offending visitor.

Meanwhile, for many, the idea of actually sitting still beside a pan for a day, just waiting and observing what goes on, what comes to drink, listening to the chorus of birdsong, absorbing the immutable peace of wilderness – in other words just being –  has become an absurdity. It seems that wild nature must increasingly be viewed through the lens of sensationalism.

 Dick Pitman Dick’s Blog: http://zim4x4.blogspot.com/

12 DECEMBER 2012

Ethical Conduct Considerations for Hunters

 

Here is an article on ethics I wrote recently for African Hunter Magazine:

Ethical Conduct Considerations for Hunters
By Rory Young

There is much misconception about what ethics is and how it can benefit us. Many Hunters view it with suspicion and imagine it will just add to their long list of things to worry about.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The question of right and wrong is a part of everything we think, say and do throughout the day and cannot be avoided. It is a simple fact that every human knows that there is a right way and a wrong way to do anything. Understanding ethics makes identifying the right from the wrong easier and having a code of ethics, either as an individual or an organization, makes the decision a simple process.

So what exactly are ethics?
The term comes from the Greek word Ethos, which means “character”.
Ethics are what an individual or organization determines to be right or wrong for that individual or organization and reflect their values and standards. They are the principles, values, standards and rules of behaviour that guide our decisions and behaviour in our work.

What is a code of ethics?

Ethical codes are adopted by organizations to assist members in understanding the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and in applying that understanding to their decisions. Any individual can also at any time adopt his own ethical code.
An ethical code generally implies codes of business ethics, codes of conduct for employees, and codes of professional practice.

Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers and every other profession on the planet have codes of conduct governing what is considered to be ethically sound behaviour. This is usually known as a Code of Professional Practice.

Even pirates had codes of conduct known either Codes of Brethren or Articles.
The reason all these professions, from Lawyers to Pirates (hehehe) have codes of ethics is because there is a need within any society to have common standards and values which the group as a whole and the individuals that make up that group practice, promote and defend.

It is wrong for people to assume that ethics equates to idealism and high mindedness. That is not the case at all; take the pirate codes for example. No one would describe pirates as idealists! Yet nearly every pirate crew had a code of conduct. The reason is that a group needs to understand what the entirety of its values is in order to work towards a common goal. What is right and wrong for a group can even be extremely self-serving. There is nothing wrong with that, assuming we have other rules and standards for the other aspects of our lives.

When you say you are a hunter you immediately identify yourself as part of that whole group who call themselves Hunters. Many countries have very good laws in place to govern hunting. Still, that does not mean that there are not still many questions of right and wrong left to decide for ourselves. These fall in to the category of ethics.

As hunters how do we determine what is right and wrong behaviour?
Right and wrong behaviour for the people of a state as a whole is determined by the constitution and laws enacted by parliament and enforced by the officers of the law.
On the other hand religion is the realm of the soul and its precepts and commandments deal with good and evil.

In the case of hunting good ethics can be determined by whatever is good or bad for hunting and hunters, as well as the country and all those affected by hunting. By extension it includes those areas that directly or indirectly benefit or hinder hunting and hunters and all those who are affected in any way by the activity.

From a purely egoistic viewpoint it boils down to that behaviour that benefits hunters and hunting is good and behaviour that hinders hunters and hunting is bad. However, when you think of it, upsetting or benefiting the State and all those who are affected by hunting and hunters will impact hunting and hunters positively or negatively. Therefore even from the most selfish viewpoint it is necessary to have and adhere to good ethics.

A code of ethics should also contribute to the welfare of its key stakeholders and also respect the rights of all those affected by its operations. Even from an egoistic viewpoint this makes sense because we don’t operate-in a vacuum; our behaviour is noted by others who are affected by it and by those who feel it is important. All of those people can and do work with or r against our interests. Whether they work for or against our interests depends on how we portray ourselves and our profession to them. So, perceptions are important.
So how does a code of ethics benefit us?
Codes of ethics benefit us in many ways, chiefly:
By defining acceptable behaviours.
By helping to avoid conflicts of interest.
By providing a yardstick against which we can judge our own ethics and the ethics of others.
By promoting high standards of practice and professionalism.
By codifying, enhancing and promoting group identity.
Most importantly they protect and promote our image via transparent standards and values.

So what would be worth including in a code of ethics?
It should cover all aspects of hunting and fields affected by the activity.
It should oppose all prejudice with respect to sex, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sexual preference, colour, or physical or mental disability;
If should promote peaceful resolution of conflict.

Furthermore it should promote a positive image to outsiders and in this regard it is important to bear in mind is that the future of hunting is always in the hands of the non-hunting majority. That non-hunting majority is for the most part meat-eaters yet unbelievably they are for the most part against hunting.  This strange contradiction didn’t happen by chance. It is a direct result of the bad attitude and resulting bad behaviour of hunters without ethics. The biggest threat to the continuation of hunting as a legal pursuit worldwide is the bad behaviour of unethical hunters.

The negative perception can be broken down into three areas. Those are waste, suffering and conservation. These three issues dovetail with other areas directly affecting hunting. From these and the other issues previously mentioned it is possible to build a code of ethics.

Here is an example I have created and try to adhere to myself. . Any hunter or hunting organisation can create a code of ethics to follow as a guideline or as an established code of conduct:

Breaking the law is the first, most obvious negative. If someone breaks the law, not only do they become criminals but they also cast all hunters in a bad light. Hunters must always uphold and defend the law, especially law relating to hunting, firearms and conservation.

Because hunting is dependent on the environment, not caring for our environment is unacceptable. We have an ethical obligation to ourselves, our fellow hunters and to all future generations of hunters to conserve, protect and nurture the natural environment in which we liveline, work and play.
We should never waste anything. We should honour an animal hunted by utilizing as much of it as possible.

A hunter should never deliberately wound an animal or allow an animal to be deliberately wounded. We are hunters, not torturers. Anyone who takes pleasure in causing suffering belongs in an institution.

Hunting is a dangerous activity. We should endeavour to make if as safe as possible through adherence to firearms and other safety procedures and golden rules. We should never attempt or do anything that could conceivably result in injury or death of anyone on anything other than the quarry. Furthermore, a hunter should always respect public and private property. He should never hunt on any property without the knowledge and approval of the appropriate authority even if not required by law. If someone knows you are shooting in an area they can take any necessary precautions.

Because the future of hunting depends on its acceptance by the public, it is only right that we protect it and defend and promote its reputation whenever and wherever necessary. The slandering of other hunters and hunting itself is unacceptable. In fact we should defend ethical hunting whenever and wherever necessary.

When under the guidance of a professional a hunter should treat them with the respect they deserve. They are not servants and are there not only to ensure you get your trophy, but that you do so without loss of life or limb. They may be called upon to save your life or vice-versa. The same applies to trackers, skinners and all other staff. They are professionals. Treat them as such.
We must treat the communities we encounter with the same respect and courtesy that we would expect to be treated ourselves.

One could go into much more detail of course. However, a code of ethics is probably better as a broad set of guideliness gridlines nattier that than a narrow set of rules. In the end it is the hunter himself who will follow these standards and judge himself by them..

My intention here is to plant seeds that hopefully will someday grow and bear fruit.

It is a subject that sorely needs discussing and I sincerely hope that this short article stimulates discussion. If it results in just even one person changing one bad habits thenm I will consider having written it time well spent.

This is how I believe we should view ethics. It is an attempt to do the right thing and better ourselves and better our image in the eyes of the world.. Even if it only results in a small improvement over a long period it is still worth it. At the very least we will all sleep better and be able to look at our children and say, “I tried to do the RIGHT thing even when I didn’t have to”.

Rory J. A. Young
14th March 2013

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Is it unethical to eat animals if you aren’t willing to kill them yourself?

Answer by Rory Young:

Good question. Here is a little story I wrote about issue from past experience:

Ying and Yang

I lay there, immobilized with fear, as the dentist approached me, instruments of pain and suffering in her hands and a look of the utmost contempt on her face. I tried to speak and failed horribly. The clamps, pads and other foreign objects stuffed into my mouth prevented anything but an incoherent gurgle.

Desperately, I tried to gesture to wait and ended up banging the tray of instruments that hovered over me, earning a sharp rebuke from the enormous Zimbabwean nurse, together with a vice-like grip on my wrist. I was close to panic, I could only imagine what this gargantuan helper would do to me if she felt she needed to or in fact she wanted to. Then I noticed the voice in the background. It was ACDC’s Brian Johnson singing “highway to hell”. No doubt about it now, I was in a living nightmare. My shoulders slumped as I realized the terrifying reality of my horrifying situation. There was only one option left. I began to scream shamelessly

A short time earlier, my pretty little dentist had been smiling, Cliff Richard had been singing “Summer Holiday” in the background and the nurse had been half the size. It had been like a little sanctuary of peace in a timeless paradise.
Then, the stunning reason for my wanting my teeth checked out said, with her sexy Polish accent, “you not from here, why you in town: special to see me?” (The last said with a look that could drive men mad).
“Sort of“, I replied innocently giving her my best smile in return. I had been brushing my teeth 12 times a day to prepare for this. ”I have been in the bush for so long and unable to get back to see you; but I had to pass through town so thought I’d seize the opportunity”.

Then I made my fatal mistake. “I have to shoot a buffalo not too far from here tomorrow” I said, naively wondering to myself when I should ask her out for dinner.

She passed out of sight and I assumed the silence was due to concentration as she picked up the mouth thingies.

As her gorgeous face reappeared over me and she began to insert the hardware into my mouth, I began to notice that her previously sweet, sparkling eyes had changed from those of an angel to those of a hound from hell. Then a now demonic-sounding Slavic voice emanated from her, saying, “you kill nice animals. I not like people who kill nice animals”.

I wanted to tell her that it was a wounded animal that was suffering and needed to be put out of its misery and how ethical hunting was a natural thing to do that help support the Parks, and so on and so forth, but it was too late!
Then I heard a clunk as the hypodermic containing the anaesthetic I was pinning my fading hopes on was dropped into the bin. I was doomed, doomed, doomed. . .

Seriously now; this may come as a surprise but I have a great respect for vegetarians. I’m a bit nervous of militant former Soviet-bloc vegans, but all in all I appreciate the fact that vegetarians are people who practise what they preach.
To be frank, what I really find intriguing is the position of people who do eat meat… and are against hunting.

When asked what they feel about hunting most people in the Western world will come out in opposition to it. Yet, strangely the vast majority of these same people will happily sit down and eat a steak. Pretty weird some would day, or even hypocritical…

It is quite obvious that the vegetarians would be against it, but meat-eaters?
Is it really hypocrisy? Could it be ignorance maybe? Or even something else entirely, such as hunters behaving badly? How about a combination these?
Well it’s easy enough to find out. Next time you are sitting with a group of non-hunters, ask them. I do it all the time and invariably receive the very similar answers.

The first thing point to come up will usually be the perception that hunting is destructive to the environment and in particular certain species, especially endangered ones. This sometimes comes as a shock to responsible hunters.
However, perhaps they are just ignorant rather than deliberately hypocritical, so let’s be open-minded. Put yourself in the shoes of these non-hunters for a second. Assuming, that you are just an average person who lives in an urban area and doesn’t actively seek out very controversial subjects. what would you pick up in the media to lead you to form such an opinion?

Picture this scene. A television journalist, shaking with outrage, tears streaming down her cheeks, points to piles of migratory birds of prey littering the ground on the small Mediterranean island she is investigating. Next a series of loud reports interrupts her choked words and the camera turns to a small cinder block bunker-like construction from which shotgun barrels protrude. Then, more shots are heard. This time, accompanying recoils and fumes from the shotguns are clearly seen.

We jump forward in time. Now our heroine is bravely confronting the “hunters”. She is insulted, threatened and the camera-man is assaulted. It all ends with the accused racing off in a battered sedan, rude gestures showing clearly out the windows and leaving their kills to rot. Mostly endangered or threatened species of course…

Never mind the average non-hunting, European town-dweller; I too was outraged by this barbarity. In fact I was shaking with anger and ranting and raving about how these maniacs should be hunted down themselves. They weren’t hunters of course. They were poachers, the lowest of the low as far as I am concerned.
Sadly the same behaviour continues in many countries quite legally, thereby making them not poachers but legal “hunters”. Quite obviously what these morons were doing is bad for the environment and that is unethical and therefore unacceptable. Personally, I believe that only ethical hunters should be called hunters, full stop. The rest should be referred to as poachers, regardless of whether what they are doing is legal or not. Poaching should refer to both illegal AND unethical hunting.

Let’s get back to our non-hunter question and answer sessions.
The second thing that usually comes up is cruelty or suffering caused to animals hunted.

Now the deliberate wounding of or cruelty to animals is usually covered by the law. Well it is in civilized countries anyway. I think any hunter with a normal upbringing, living in a normal community and not currently institutionalized will agree that anyone who is deliberately cruel to animals should get help before they move on to mass murder or serial killing. However, the non-hunters see hunting as often cruel and the cause of suffering.

On this point, aside from the bad behaviour of medical hunters, I believe the television and film industries are partly responsible for perpetuating the myth that wild animals in the wild live an idyllic existence without any pain or suffering. Obviously that’s nonsense and only the ignorant and out of touch with reality wander around believing that. Unfortunately though, there are plenty of people who really are that ignorant and out of touch with reality wandering around!
At this stage I usually ask the non-hunters if they prefer “free-range” meat or battery-farmed” meat. Of course the answer is always “free-range” (even if they secretly buy the cheaper stuff). Why? Because it’s a nicer more natural environment for the animals to live in and invariably the meat will be healthier to eat too.

For some reason our non-hunters don’t usually notice the obvious; that wild animals are the most “free-range” animals under the sun. This point usually makes a big impression when pointed and is often accompanied by remarks such as “‘I never thought of it that way” and “wow” (accompanied by distant look).

After a while they will usually return to the point about suffering in this vein, “but farm animals die a more peaceful death than animals that are hunted.”
After explaining that an animal that is shot correctly by hunter using the correct calibre endures a lot less suffering than one that endures the small and sounds of an abattoir or one that dies a more natural death by predator, disease or old age.

That also makes an impact but very often the response is only too true, “that’s all very well as long as the hunters do actually use the right weapon for the quarry and kill  cleanly”.

Yes, back to ethics. Again we are embarrassed by those fools who can’t behave or who don’t educate themselves. Someone who is not competent simply shouldn’t go near game or firearms.

Let’s move on to the third point that comes up. The story of those fools slaughtering migratory birds over the Med also falls into this category: Waste.
Many people feel hunters are only interested in hunting only so that they can mount a trophy on the wall. Well it’s true in some cases in many places and in many cases in some places. Furthermore, although some countries have laws that require a hunter to remove the entire carcass from the hunting area, I have yet to come across a law that says that nothing if possible, should be wasted.
It may not be a law but it should certainly be standard good conduct for all hunters anyway. Surely the animal deserves to be honoured and respected by all hunters?

The last point that usually arises is image, or the perceived psychology of the hunter may be a better way of putting it.

People who have never hunted often view the killing of an animal as a necessary evil and therefore the thought of enjoying it is somehow very wrong. I believe most Europeans fall into this category. This I believe is a result of a total disconnecting with their natural environment whereby they do not have any experience of the entirely natural thrill of hunting that is a built-in part of us.
I am sure you will agree that the combination of challenge, outdoors, thrill, danger , objective and more is impossible to describe to someone who has absolutely no experience of anything like it.

This is the toughest of all to change. How does one convince someone that a hunter has more right to hunt than a non-hunter has to eat meat? How do you explain to them that they have lost the innate understanding that all men once had; that life is about struggle and death as much as it is about beauty and peace – Ying and Yang?

I guess the conclusion to these musings is that hunters need to think about what they do and how they do it and make sure they do what is right. At the same time non-hunters need to be educated and a few, who really are hypocrites, like the bad hunters, should be exposed for what they are. I do however strongly feel that these dishonest people are, for the most part, a minority. The real problem is ignorance.

As for me, I need to brush my teeth at least twice a day and keep my mouth firmly shut around vegetarians.

Rory J. A Young
22nd March 2013

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How do you track a leopard, or any other wild animal?

Answer by Rory Young:

I’ll focus on leopard specifically..
All cats have three “lobes” on the base of the “Pad”.
Four toes show in the tracks of the front and back feet.
Aside from Cheetah, all cats keep their claws sheathed when walking.
So, three lobes on pad + no claw marks = cat.
Next, the size of an animal’s footprint is proportional to the size of the animal. Big track=big animal and of course big cat track = big cat.
What big cats are there aside from leopards sharing the same habitats?
Well, in Sub-Saharan Africa where the largest populations exist, lions are also found.
We have already established that big cat track = big cat so how big are leopards compared to lions?
Lions are a lot bigger! The average leopard in the Cape area of South Africa is only (male) 28kgs and 58kg in the Hwange National Park area of South Africa. The average male lion on the other hand ways around 200kg, depending on the area.
An average large male leopard of around 50kg will have a track length (the track being the paw impression not the stride length!) of around 90mm whilst a a lion of around 225kg will have a track length of around 180mm.
The fact that the tracks are so different different doesn’t mean the two species can’t be confused. For example a lion cub track can be the same size as a leopard track. The difference is that front lion tracks especially are “messy” and more elongated; not neatly rounded in shape and symmetric as in the case of leopards.
To tell the whether it is a male or female leopard look at the straddle. The straddle is how widely or narrowly a human or animal places their feet when walking. This is usually measured by drawing a line from the heel of the right fore foot track to the heel of the right rear foot track and doing the same with the  left feet. The distance between the two lines is the straddle.
A male leopard has a wider straddle than a female leopard. Imagine a fashion model walking down the ramp placing her feet in front of each other and compare that to a big guy walking along with his thighs and crotch area getting in the way…
Now look down at your own feet. Notice how your toes are pointing in the same direction that you are pointing? Well the same applies to leopards. The pad points to the rear and the toes point to the front, so, unless the animal is walking, backwards moves in the direction its toes are pointing.

You can also tell whether a leopard is walking forwards, backwards or sideways, the height and weight, condition, speed, how long ago it was there and many other details.

I won’t go into that now. I am busy writing a book on the subject of tracking men and animals and how to determine or estimate all these different facts with real accuracy.

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