I cannot believe how vitriolic the anti-hunting sentiment and rhetoric has become of recent on social media. Much of it driven by emotion and total ignorance of the true situation. Since boyhood I’ve been involved with hunting, and much of my youth was spent in a remote part of the then colonial Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), where marauding elephant and other animals laying waste to tribal crops was a seasonal occurrence. Government game rangers invariably arrived at the tribal kraal in the aftermath of the crop raid, assessed the damage, and then if warranted hunted the culprit(s). As pre-teens, and if any crop raiding elephant had been shot near where we lived we were often collected afterwards and taken to where the crop raider(s) were being cut up, I was about 10 years old when I first sat atop a dead elephant. In 1967 I joined the Rhodesian Department of National Parks & Wildlife Management as a 17-year-old cadet game ranger under their two year in house training scheme. At the time without doubt the best training scheme for young game rangers on the African continent. At age 17 under guidance from a senior ranger I also shot my first crop raiding elephant. Over the next six years there would be more. Dealing with crop raiding elephant, hippo, buffalo and stock killing lion, leopard, or crocodile, was part of our job description and to this day in Zimbabwe it is still referred to as PAC (Problem Animal Control). The only difference is that learner professional hunters, intent on entering the safari industry now do the PAC work rather than government game rangers (it gives them essential exposure to hunting dangerous game). In newly independent Zimbabwe circa 1980 I turned to professional safari hunting as a career, a career which spanned over four decades. The first time I ever came up against any form of anti-hunting rhetoric was in 1986 when I appeared on a weekly South African TV program titled 50/50. The main topic was about commercial safari hunting in which I was involved at the time, in the Ciskei Homeland (one of pre-independent South Africa’s self-governing black homelands). All hunting in the Ciskei benefited the local tribal communities, just like the CAMPFIRE (Communal Area Management Program For Indigenous Resources) program in Zimbabwe. Different speakers had been invited to have their say on the TV program, which lasted for 30 minutes. One lady who represented a little heard of anti-hunting group got herself into such a state she was virtually apoplectic. Hissing, and spitting with rage – I was both intrigued and embarrassed at her behaviour. In the Ciskei, paying sport hunters were used as a management tool, the rifle the regulator. These paying sport-hunters were used to reduce the surplus to carrying capacity of the thirty antelope species found on the tiny nation’s three game reserves (there were no major predators, thus the rifle became the regulator). Paying sport-hunters were also used to periodically take off a surplus to requirement white-rhino. A percentage of all trophy fees went to the tribal community (the accumulated revenues were then paid to the local Tribal Council at season’s end). These monies which had accrued over the season helped build dip tanks for livestock, school classrooms, the purchase of computers for schools, and anything else the local Tribal Council(s) may have identified as needing funding. In addition, the tribal villages abutting the reserves were given controlled emergency winter grazing for their cattle. An exceedingly important aspect in tribal Africa where cattle are symbolic of wealth and grazing is always in short supply. It was also a symbiotic relationship – the Amaqwati tribe got much needed winter grazing, and the wildlife authority got rid of the tick burden in the reserves via the tribal cattle which were being dipped regularly. You can’t dip wildlife. Sadly, and despite Southern Africa having a number of viable and beneficial sustainable yield wildlife hunting programs, as touched on above. The anti-hunting lobbies conveniently ignore the wisdom of these concepts which in an African context, work. As previously mentioned this anti-hunting rhetoric is brought about by emotion driven ignorance coupled to what is probably a ‘feel good’ reason, and a kudos collecting exercise for those involved. More particularly so, celebrities who seemingly love to jump on the anti-hunting bandwagon at every opportunity. However, in most African countries anti-hunting bluster is a totally alien concept to their way of thinking, and considered illogical. Much of rural Africa is dreadfully poverty stricken; the AIDS scourge, high inflation, unemployment and rampant government corruption in a number of sub-Saharan countries hasn’t helped any either. To fully understand just how bad it is, one needs to experience a safari in the extremely remote areas of these countries firsthand. I have; in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique – and to a far lesser extent in South Africa. I doubt any of those who shout the loudest on social media have a real insight or the slightest understanding of what living in a truly remote African tribal environment is like. For example, in Zimbabwe the rural communities are totally reliant on their annual hand sown millet crop getting them through the year. They have little else by way of food (unemployment is above 80%) and they sow their meagre crop to coincide with the onset of the rainy season. Once the crops begin to ripen, marauding elephant (and sometimes hippo) start visiting under cover of darkness. If a tribesman is fortunate enough to harvest some of the millet and store it in his homemade granary, it still doesn't mean it is secure from a marauding elephant. Constructed on upright poles amidst the cluster of huts, it’s still an attractant to a hungry elephant. A bull elephant pushes a tribal granary over as if it were matchwood, and easily destroys in a night of plunder the family’s entire year’s food reserve. Whilst all of this destruction by elephant is taking place the entire family; men, women, and kids are normally cowering in the dark inside their flimsy hut, terrified. They have no communication with the outside world, no electricity, no transport, no medical backup – all they can do is wait for daylight and hope that as it approaches, so too, will the elephant(s) move off. Sometimes it ends in tragedy as once happened in Zimbabwe’s remote and vast Gonarezhou when I was still a young game ranger, and stationed there. A bull elephant had repeatedly raided an old Shangaan tribal elder’s crops and one night in frustrated rage he ran at it in the dark. Cussing and hurling stones towards the feeding elephant. The elephant in turn got angry and charged him with deadly intent. Realising he was in deep trouble the luckless old tribesman ran towards a hut door, thought better of it and darted off to one side. The elephant flattened the hut the tribesman had nearly entered, and closing with its luckless victim, ears pinned back against its neck and trunk rolled up out of harm’s way, it dropped to its knees and catching its victim beneath its forehead rolled him along the ground crushing the life out of him. Not yet finished it then used its trunk to lift him high above its head and running around the edge of the hamlet trumpeting and bellowing with rage, it pummelled the bloodied and broken cadaver against the surrounding trees. It then pushed over a mopane tree and threw the pulverised body against the boll with such force, the dead Shangaan twirled around the fallen tree trunk. The elephant then wandered off towards the Mozambique border. Inside the remaining few huts the deceased’s terrified family and grandchildren cowed in shock and awaited the dawn. The late Senior Ranger John Osborn who was camped a few miles away was roused at about 05hr00 by a hysterical handful of bedraggled and semi-naked Shangaan. They begged him to track down and kill the culprit, he attempted to but by then it was well inside Mozambique. Remote dwelling African tribes’ people who live like this 24/7 understandably look upon game rangers, professional hunters, and paying safari clients as their saviours when marauding animals turn their lives into an ongoing nightmare. In Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE areas if safari hunting was to stop, uncontrolled poaching would become rampant immediately, and the game numbers decimated. As has already happened in some badly run CAMPFIRE areas. It’s not even debatable. Elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard, crocodile, and the variety of antelope species being hunted by paying clientele under the CAMPFIRE program in Zimbabwe’s tribal communities are tolerated, but only because they have a value that benefits the local community by way of monetary earnings and much needed protein. And for no other reason. Even in areas where a CAMPFIRE program is working correctly, there are still deviant elements within the community who continue to poach using rifles and the destructive ¼” cable snare. The anti-poaching policing of these areas is conducted by Tribal Council game scouts (paid by monies earned through hunting) and the safari operator who has the hunting rights. Take those two elements out of the CAMPFIRE equation and it’d be a case of ‘Goodbye wildlife’. In these extremely remote regions of Southern and Central Africa where hunting safaris are taking place, the safari operation and its ongoing constant ground coverage across a given area is the only deterrent in place against poaching. Instead of having an anti-hunting social media rant for reasons only they know, perhaps those who feel so strongly about hunting should go and experience life with a tribal family in a remote part of Southern Africa. Preferably for the entire duration of a rainy season; mosquitoes, marauding elephants and all. I’m sure it’d change their thinking. Because I've always included this point of view somewhere in all of my books, and often when feature writing, I was extremely annoyed when of recent I posted it on my Face Book business page Kevin Thomas Books@kdt1950, and having paid attempted to use it as a Face Book advertising 'boost'. Only to have it rejected by Face Book as depicting violence or some such rubbish. For those interested, my books can be found on here on the AH site, on my website www.kevindthomas.com and on Amazon (Ebook & paperback), aside from my latest book There's Something About Buffalo which is currently only available on my website.