Are You looking Forward to Your Next Hunting Safari?
I have been fortunate to hunt around the world. No place is, in my opinion, more exciting than Africa. And while every hunt that I have been on in Africa has been exciting, nothing comes close to dangerous game hunting. I hope that through stewardship, conservation and education, game management continues to improve, more countries open up to sport hunting and the 'golden days' of African safari hunting are still ahead of us.
What does this have to do with Mark Sullivan - everything. It takes tremendous time and effort to promote the conservation benefits of sport hunting. Millions of dollars, countless man-hours and a proven record of success will eventually result in more space for hunters throughout Africa and around the world.
But anyone who knows anything about marketing, media or politics knows that 1 negative incident will outdraw the attention of a thousand success stories. As they say in the media 'if it bleeds - it leads.' In the proverbial sense, Mark Sullivan 'bleeds.' He loves the attention - and that is fine.
But he also puts his clients in mortal danger. As someone who has been fortunate enough to hunt the Big 5, and who has had the unfortunate experience of being charged, I can definitively say that it is an uncontrolled situation. I have seen a cape buffalo take 5 shots into the vitals and still get up and come from less than 10 feet. I have seen a bullet to the brain put that animal down - in fact, I have done it. But it was terrifying and I could very easily have missed that grapefruit size target and been killed as a result.
I have also witnessed some of the best shots out there miss for no apparent reason at animals the size of buffalo at 20 yards broadside. It happens. Guns fail - it happens. A slight miss and the consequences of Mark Sullivan's choices will be fatal.
First and foremost, it will be horrific for the family and friends of the deceased. After that, the negative press, well supported by the video library and volumes of print about Mark Sullivan's hunting style will tarnish the reputation of every safari hunter out there. The public will not differentiate between Mark Sullivan and any one of the hundreds of other professional hunters who put the safety of their clients and staff first and foremost. Nor will they distinguish between Mark Sullivan the hunter and you or I.
Dangerous game hunting will be vilified. Its conservation efforts ignored, if not altogether thwarted. The reams of published works and countless hours of video depicting exciting, challenging and conservation minded sport hunting by guys like Boddington, Carter, Shocky and others will be ignored; the sensationalism of Mark Sullivan's work will be all that we see. And as people call upon the governments to curtail dangerous game hunting in the name of safety - we will all be crying foul at one rogue hunter.
That won't happen - one person cannot have that type of impact - right? You are wrong. Mark Sullivan already has that kind of impact - that is the very reason we keep seeing thread after thread about him - because of the impact.
But hunting is secure because of its conservation success, right? Not in Kenya - where the largest Ivory in Africa is now gone forever. But that was then, right? No. Botswana closed most of the Okavango Delta to sport hunting in 2009 in favor of ecotourism. And that was notwithstanding the well documented status of elephant overpopulation in that country. It will not take much for governments to follow the public whims and American tourist dollars and either support or abolish sport hunting.
For those of you who are like me, and look forward to my next trip as I am on the plane coming home, you need to think very hard about what Mark Sullivan means to your future as a global hunter.
As a group, we must police ourselves. That means reporting poachers, trespassers and people who over harvest game. It means speaking out in support of the sport of hunting and drawing attention to its role in conservation and wildlife management. It also means supporting ethical conduct and opposing unethical hunting practices and treatment of wildlife. Cape buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant, hippo and crocs are inherently dangerous to hunt.
The sport is in confronting that dangerous situation, keeping calm, making the right decisions and when the shot presents itself, making the best shot possible for the most human kill possible. When that does not happen, there should be no dispute about what is the ethical thing to do. It should be to follow up your own shot, or allow your PH to do it for you if you cannot. The goal must be a quick and human kill.
The mere fact that Mark Sullivan even asked a question at the time that he did condemns him to unethical hunting practices. There was a wounded animal in front of at least 2 armed hunters, one of whom created the situation in the first place. The only appropriate action at that point in time was to shoot the already wounded animal. There should not have been anything to debate.
What that video demonstrates is narcissism, not sportsmanship. That kind of behavior has no place in the ethical hunting community. SCI recognized that and so did the government of Tanzania - who withdrew Sullivan's concession rights.
Anyone who has looked down the barrel at one of the dangerous 7 with the intent of taking the animal him or herself should loath Mark Sullivan for what he has done and what he might yet do to our passionate sport of dangerous game hunting.