by Divya Bhardwaj
Trophy hunting is defined as the selective hunting of wild game for human recreation. Supporters of trophy hunting argue that when conducted legally, it actually raises money to protect the animals and their habitats. They are not wrong, since currently the leading source of funds for threatened animals in Africa is from trophy hunting. Trophy hunters look at an animal and just see one number in a population count, and think their actions are justified since the population is rising. However, those against this activity, such as myself, believe that this is not the best way to contribute to wildlife conservation efforts. Animals should not have to be killed to maintain their populations. In order to respect these animals, we must educate ourselves about them. To find out more about these diverse and impressive species, these are Africa’s five most coveted trophy animals, and three interesting facts about them.
- They live in groups called prides, which usually consist of about fifteen lions. This makes them the most social of all big cats.
- Side note: when an adult male (most desired by trophy hunters) is killed, it upsets the balance of the entire pride and removes strong genes from the population.
- Lions are among the slowest of all big cats, but they are able to thrive due to their teamwork and strength.
- Lion prides are matriarchal. Lionesses remain in their prides for life, whereas there are only a couple males in the group.
- They have distinctive calls to communicate with each other.
- They are excellent at climbing trees and use their long tails for balance.
- Leopards are found all over Africa and in parts of Asia, but have the most healthy (but still declining) populations in southern Africa, in countries such as Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
- Side note: Zambia recently lifted a ban on leopard hunting.
- Of the big five animals to hunt in Africa, buffalos are the least vulnerable to extinction, though the population is declining.
- Side note: They are also the most popular animal to hunt, since they are considered the most dangerous of the five.
- When a buffalo is born, he or she is orange. Twin buffalos are very rare.
- Herds consist mainly of females and their calves, with one or two males. Males usually form their own, male-only herds.
- White Rhinoceros
- The word rhinoceros means “nose horn”.
- They love to hang in muddy pools to protect themselves from the sun and mosquitos.
- Unlike other rhinoceros species, white rhinos often live in groups, called a “herd” or a “crash”, mainly made up of females in their calves.
- Elephants purr (much like cats) to express themselves,
- They are the only mammal that cannot jump.
- Elephants are caring and protective to the others in their herds. They comfort others when they are sad, especially young, and have amazing memories. They even have special ceremonies when a long-lost friend returns to the herd.
- Side note: When another elephant dies, even if it is unrelated to their herd, elephants have been known to shed tears and cover the body with leaves, dirt, and tree branches.
Trophy hunters are comfortable killing the above animals and more for their personal gain. The ends justify the means for them: they may be killing animals, but since they are simultaneously helping them, they do not believe they are doing anything wrong. There is something wrong with this picture. The number one fundraiser to conserve wildlife is trophy hunting. We can do better than this. It will certainly always be a contributing factor, but it is more than slightly shameful that the most we can do to protect endangered species is to have hunters pay (conservation organizations) to kill them. However, there are organizations that go about wildlife conservation in a different manner, such as the World Wildlife Fund, the The International Anti-Poaching Foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and many others. Consider donating to these organizations to protect these endangered species. Time is running out. Every 26 minutes, an elephant is killed by poachers. These are lives you would be saving; no amount is too little.