Hunting Behind High Fences
Hunting Behind High Fences
Boone & Crockett Club – the universally respected North American hunting and conservation organization founded by Teddy Roosevelt and recognized for its stringent Fair Chase definitions and the concomitant hunting ethics and morals – has tack- led, as B&C President Robert Model said in his president’s mes- sage in the Club Magazine “Fair Chase” Spring Issue 2004 – the so-called high fence issue. Model challenged all B&C members to participate in a policy formulating exercise to develop a sensitive and workable solution. In Model’s words, the challenge centers on “to recognize what composes appropriate management within high fenced areas and what is and is not fair chase hunting”.
B & C realizes that in North America there are more and more legally established “high fenced areas”. In Southern Africa this trend has started already several decades ago in South Africa, and has spread to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. The important issue on hand – and we in Africa know about this from painful experiences – is how hunting takes place (or should take place) within those fenced areas.
We have been bombarded for some years with criticism for the so-called “canned hunts” (I still prefer to say canned killing or shooting, since even the thought of it makes my hunter’s soul recoil in horror) and more recently the issue of “put & take” has justifiably gained momentum. I have written frequently – and not only in hunting magazines – about it. Therefore I am encouraged that an American organization like Boone & Crockett Club tackles the matter in a very serious way. Last not least, most of the visiting hunters going on safari in Africa come from the United States – and if such a respected association like B & C develops a credible solution it might very well be applicable in Africa as well, respectively the African professional hunting associations could use it as a blue print to develop acceptable universal policies together with the international hunting associations.
I am impressed by the democratic and pluralistic approach of B&C and the courage to involve all members in the effort to find a solution. The club recognizes that the deliberations will provoke debate and even controversy, but that the inescapable realities require decisive actions!
Africa will closely watch the discussion at B & C and it is more than likely that we will use the expertise of some B & C members to assist us in solving a few of the fair chase related problems on our continent.
Many American hunters look at the one African safari as a unique achievement of a livelong dream, others come back to Africa whenever personal economics make it possible. These hunters expect in Africa a quality hunting experience.
Based on valuable traditions, but at the same time consider the necessity of change in an ever changing world.
Change is a difficult process there and here. The challenge is that we use our combined knowledge and expertise to come to conclusions which serve at the same time the furthering of biodiversity conservation objectives, the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of biodiversity AND the local rural population, the preservation of hunting and the public acceptance of the contributions modern trophy hunters make to conservation.
SCI has also recognized the importance of the issue with the recent press release dealing with the SCI Board’s policy on fenced wildlife operations (see separate article in this issue). The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation CIC has already put “Best practices in Trophy Hunting in Africa” high on its African agenda and the professional hunting organizations in Africa have tackled the problems repeatedly over the past years.
The end result of a future combined effort could be a fundamental guideline for safari hunting within and outside fenced areas in Africa.
Some years ago the burning issue of fair chase hunting within and outside fenced areas had been tackled already by a select group of prominent African and American hunters. These efforts resulted at that time in a statement which read:
Every sport hunter shall pursue an animal only by engaging in fair chase of the quarry. Fair chase is defined as pursuit of a free ranging animal or enclosed ranging animal possessed of the natural behavioral inclination to escape from the hunter and be fully free to do so. A sport hunted animal should exist as a naturally interacting individual of a wild sustainable population, located in an area that meets both the spatial (territory and home range) and temporal (food, breeding and basic needs) requirements of the population of which that individual is a member. Sport hunted animals should, wherever possible, be sustained within an ecologically functional system. Said animal is to be hunted without artificial light source, or motorized mode of transport and in an area that does not by human design concentrate animals for a specific purpose or at a specific time, such as artificial waterholes, salt licks or feeding stations. No ethical hunter whilst sport hunting shall take female animals with dependant young.
In my opinion this statement does already incorporate most – if not all – basic requirements covering hunting behind and outside fences. The statement also addresses concerns voiced by a number of people in various discussions I had. Most of these concerns evolve around the issue “what is actually the difference of shooting a canned lion, since ‘put and take’ shooting involves also species like certain antelopes and especially white rhino?”
I want to make my point of view again absolutely clear – and I know that I am not standing alone on this issue! The important point which distinguishes hunting from mere shooting must be the uncertainty of the outcome of the hunting activity. Those “guaranteed hunts” which some callous outfitters and agents offer and in which so-called hunters participate have nothing to do with hunting. The often used arguments by proponents of these killing excursions “that killing a canned animal actually serves conservation since it protects the wild populations”, “the ethics and morals of an activity cannot be prescribed” and “what’s the difference between breeding cattle for slaughter and breeding lions for being shot” are unscrupulous and fact-twisting.
Unfortunately the public and the media regularly mix hunting and canned shooting to the detriment of all true hunter-conservationists.
The core issue in the above statement is clearly “A sport hunted animal should exist as a naturally interacting individual of a wild sustainable population, located in an area that meets both the spatial (territory and home range) and temporal (food, breeding and basic needs) requirements of the population of which that individual is a member”. Of essential importance are the under- lined words.
Looking at the high fence issue in combination with fair chase, one can clearly deduce that any form of “put & take shooting” (i. e. when an animal is released on a property irrespective of size for the sole purpose of being shot as soon as possible after release) and the even more perverted form of “canned lion shooting” (when the lion – often enough an aged zoo or circus lion imported from Europe – is sometimes released only hours before its being killed) have nothing in common with hunting and neither do they have any conservation benefit. They have also nothing to do with the livestock industry, since an animal destined for slaughter is killed by professionals under very controlled conditions.
Some may argue that it is a form of free enterprise and personal choice – and there I concur, as long as the perpetuators do not call themselves hunters and/or conservationists. If a government deems it fit to curtail such activities (as a draft legislation in South Africa for large carnivores suggests), these proponents of free enterprise should not complain, since a modern welfare state has the right and obligation to subject unbridled free enterprise to certain restrictions!
The age-old traditions of hunting, the objectives of the sustainable use of natural resources, the Africa-specific objectives of poverty relief, as well as the challenges of biodiversity conservation and wildlife management on finite (i.e. fenced) and open areas require that the organized hunting community around the globe takes stock and develops a clear vision for the future. Open and necessarily controversial discussions are essential to analyze problem areas and to find solutions. An inclusive and honest information and media policy is as necessary as good public relation work. I sincerely hope that the Boone & Crockett initiative will focus our attention again on this important issue and that all hunters worldwide see the necessity to join forces.