It’s Time to Crack Down on Poaching


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I want to be clear here- I support hunting. The deer hunt, for instance, in Pennsylvania is as much about population control and public safety as it is about the sport of it. It’s a necessary function of our society, and the government properly regulates it. What I don’t like is the poaching that goes on around the world, poaching like shooting Cecil the Lion just outside of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

Conservation groups in Zimbabwe reacted angrily to the news that the 13-year-old animal had been killed: partly because the lion was known to visitors and seemingly enjoyed human contact, and partly because of the way in which he was killed. He was lured out of the national park and shot.

I called it poaching, a legal term,because that’s what it is. This was a crime.

During the hunt – which the organisers later admitted was badly carried out – it was alleged that Cecil was lured at night about half a mile out of the national park using bait, and then shot with a bow and arrow. The next day he was found wounded by the hunters and killed, before being beheaded and skinned.

Animals cannot be killed within the confines of the park. The hunters then removed his collar – further contravening park rules.

The professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst, said he reported the “mistake” to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority the following day, and it is now being investigated. The landowner bordering the national park has been charged – along with Mr Bronkhorst. Both are due to appear in court on August 6.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe National Parks issued a statement confirming the charges.

“Theo Bronkhorst, a professional hunter with Bushman Safaris, is facing criminal charges for allegedly killing a collared lion on Antoinette farm in Gwayi Conservancy, Hwange district on 1 July 2015,” the statement said.

I’m leaving the American hunter’s name out of this, in part because he’s facing no charges, and in part because it appears that he paid to get the permits and go on a hunt, and did just that. These other guys knew the rules though, and they broke them. They should pay a harsh penalty.

Zimbabwe and it’s neighbors should enact new, tougher laws on this activity though. The governments should pass laws banning hunting within close radius of the park- ending this practice of trying to lure lions out of the park limits to be hunted. The second thing that should and could be done by both the government and NGOs is an increase in human capital devoted to preventing poaching. If you have more rangers and more people working on stopping these illegal practices on the ground, you can stop some of this bad behavior from happening. Lions are magnificent creatures, but they are increasingly victims of bad human behavior:

The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University has tracked the Hwange lions since 1999 to measure the impact of sport hunting beyond the park on the lion population within the park, using radar and direct observation.

According to figures published by National Geographic, 34 of their 62 tagged lions died during the study period – 24 were shot by sport hunters.

Dr Andrew Loveridge, one of the principal researchers on the project, told the publication that Cecil and another male lion named Jericho led two prides with six lionesses and a dozen young cubs, and he feared for the safety of the cubs now Cecil had been killed.

“Jericho as a single male will be unable to defend the two prides and cubs from new males that invade the territory. This is what we most often see happening in these cases. Infanticide is the most likely outcome,” he said.

This has to stop.

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