Why Men Trophy Hunt

Discussion in 'Articles' started by AFRICAN INDABA, Apr 12, 2017.

  1. AFRICAN INDABA

    AFRICAN INDABA CONTRIBUTOR AH Enthusiast

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    Editor’s Note: Carl D. Mitchell sent me this article. Considering the main topic in this issue of African Indaba it seems appropriate to include this opinion piece of Darimont et al. in full length.

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    1. Introduction
    The killing of Cecil the lion (Panthera leo) ignited enduring and increasingly global discussion about trophy hunting [1]. Yet, policy debate about its benefits and costs (e.g. [2,3]) focuses only on the hunted species and biodiversity, not the unique behavior of hunters. Some contemporary recreational hunters from the developed world behave curiously, commonly targeting ‘trophies’: individuals within populations with large body or ornament size, as well as rare and/or inedible species, like carnivores [4]. Although contemporary hunters have been classified according to implied motivation (i.e. for meat, recreation, trophy or population control, [5,6]) as well the ‘multiple satisfactions’ they seek while hunting (affiliation, appreciation, achievement; [7], an evolutionary explanation of the motivation underlying trophy hunting (and big-game fishing) has never been pursued. Too costly (difficult, dangerous) a behavior to be common among other vertebrate predators, we postulate that trophy hunting is in fact motivated by the costs hunters accept. We build on empirical and theoretical contributions from evolutionary anthropology to hypothesize that signaling these costs to others is key to understanding, and perhaps influencing, this otherwise perplexing activity.

    2. Man the show off?
    Subsistence hunting among traditional ‘hunter–gatherers’, which also targets larger-bodied prey, provides a starting point for understanding trophy hunters from the developed world. Owing to disagreement over the relative importance of potential benefits men receive from hunting, however, evolutionary explanations as to why subsistence hunters target large prey attract competing theories and significant controversy. Some assert that energetic and nutritional returns to hunters and individuals they provision best explain why men accept the costs of big game hunting (e.g. [8,9]).Others invoke the pressure to share large prey as an explanation for wide distribution of meat (e.g. [10]). But why target prey that will be mostly consumed by others? An alternative hypothesis, consistent with data across hunter–gatherer systems, starts by noting that men generally target species that are not only large-bodied but also—and, importantly—impose high cost (i.e. high failure risk; [11,12]). The hypothesis considers the carcass not only as food but also a signal of the costs associated with the hunter’s accomplishment. The Meriam peoples of Australia provide a flagship illustration of this association. There, men, women and children collect green turtles when they come ashore to lay eggs. In contrast, only men hunt them at sea. Pursuing turtles in boats, hunters accept significant economic and personal cost, including a dive into dangerous waters [13], despite the fact that most of what they acquire will be consumed by other community members [14,15]. Such seemingly irrational behavior is resolved by costly signaling theory [16] from which the hypothesis draws. The theory considers the social status and prestige that accrue to successful hunters. The Maasai peoples of eastern Africa themselves describe lion killing as a manhood ritual that awards prestige to the hunter who first spears the animal [17]. Why is status awarded? Simply put, killing large, dangerous, and/or rare prey is difficult with high failure risks that impose costs on the hunter. Accordingly, successful hunts signal underlying qualities to rivals and potential allies. This holds true for successful Meriam turtle hunters, who gain social recognition, get married earlier to higher-quality mates, and have more surviving children [14]. For such behavior to be maintained, even the attempted hunt must signal that the hunter can sustain the handicap of high-cost, low-consumption activity, providing honest evidence of underlying phenotypic quality [14,15,16].

    We propose that an assessment of contemporary trophy hunting behavior offers fresh additional evidence for a costly signaling model to explain any big-game hunting. First, inedible species, like carnivores commonly targeted by trophy hunters, make nutritional and sharing hypotheses implausible. Second, evidence for show-off behavior appears clear. Trophy hunters commonly pose for photographs with their prey, with the heads, hides and ornamentation prepared for display [18]. Interestingly, similar costly display occurs in other taxa. For example, chimpanzees likewise pay a cost in time and effort spent hunting without commensurate food consumption gains; interpretations of related display behavior support a social status model (reviewed in [19]). Similarly, some seabirds like the pigeon guillemot show off ‘display fish’, sometimes for hours. Often discarding them, the behavior is likewise thought to be social, related to site-ownership display [20]. Third, whereas some might argue that caloric returns for edible trophy hunted species are high and associated costs of failure low (owing to advanced killing technology and foods easily purchased by participants), the behavior still imposes costs that guarantee the honesty of the signal; while rarely costly in terms of danger or difficulty, hunts for endangered species can be extraordinarily expensive. Moreover, even the everyday hunter who targets larger individuals within populations pays the opportunity costs of forgoing income-generating activities as well as sustenance lost by passing up smaller, abundant prey. We note that the signal can honestly reflect a hunter’s socio-economic standing (and qualities that underlie it) but not necessarily any remarkable physical abilities ([21]; figure 1), given the efficient technology contemporary trophy hunters employ [4].

    A signaling model assumes benefits to both signaler and audience, the latter benefiting from the information they can then use in their own ways. It is unclear what specific benefits—other than increased status—might accrue to trophy hunters. Trophy hunting systems do not lend themselves to testing for patterns associated with reproductive success, as in the Meriam example above. Hunting associations (e.g. B&C, SCI), however, have elaborate scoring systems that award status. We predict that greater status is bestowed upon those killing larger and/or rarer (i.e. costly) animals. Similarly, no detailed data exist on the potential audience, but we suspect hunters would broadcast the signal to friends and family, colleagues and members of hunting associations or social media groups (see below). Survey and/or interview data, commonly collected in the context of wildlife management or research, may be able to clarify audience composition.

    If we accept that trophy hunting simply provides a vehicle for status-accumulation, such an interpretation is consistent with those related to the purchase and display of luxury objects (e.g. expensive automobiles, clothes and jewelry), long proposed to serve as forms of competitive signaling [22]. Finally, given that women in hunter–gatherer societies overwhelmingly target small, predictable prey compared with men [12], there are now seemingly puzzling examples of female trophy hunters, often prominent media figures and/or professional hunters sponsored by outdoor companies. We speculate that such behavior, counter to expected gender norms (and their evolution), might allow for increased attention in an increasingly competitive social media and marketing world (below).

    3. Costly signaling in a global, commercialized world
    Worldwide social media creates for trophy hunters a vast audience to which to boast. Signaling the costs of hunting are no longer restricted to carcass displays in small social groups. Men can now communicate an ability to absorb trophy hunting costs not only to their immediate social group but also—with the help of the Internet—to a global audience. Media abound with costly signals. For example, although probably not a representative sample, many hunters post hunting stories and pictures on online discussion forums, commonly emphasizing the size of kills [21]. Advertisements for hunting equipment likewise frequently emphasize a product’s efficacy in securing large specimens. In these ways and more, contemporary culture reinforces trophy-seeking behavior that probably evolved long ago.

    4. Policy-relevant research
    Although some argue that trophy hunting provides a route to conservation, others contend that trophy hunting can pose significant threats to hunted populations. Interacting with our signaling hypothesis, and of acute conservation concern, is how trophy hunting of rare species can propagate a feedback loop toward extinction. Known as the ‘anthropogenic Allele effect’, demand and associated costs increase when otherwise unprofitable rare resources become attractive, thereby speeding up their decline [23]. We call for more research to evaluate quantitatively the conditions that influence trophy hunting motivation. If the signaling hypothesis explains this behavior, then policies designed to limit the perceived cost of the activity, dampen signal efficacy or both should reduce trophy hunting. Indeed, recent bans by several governments on the importation of lion remains have probably curtailed demand, despite the hunts themselves remaining legal. And how might shame [24] influence motivation? We predict that social media boasting about lion hunting declined following the widespread shaming after Cecil’s death during perhaps the largest media coverage ever associated with wildlife [25]. After all, any perceived benefits of signaling are also probably contingent on associated threats to status, something shaming would erode.

    Authors: Chris T. Darimont, Brian F. Codding and Kristen Hawkes. Royal Society

    References: [1] Nicholls H. 2015 Charismatic lion’s death highlights struggles of conservation scientists. Nature. [2] Di Minin E et al. 2016 Banning trophy hunting will exacerbate biodiversity loss. Trends Ecol. Evol. 31, 99–102. [3] Ripple WJ, et al. 2016 Does trophy hunting support biodiversity? A response to Di Minin et al. Trends Ecol. Evol. 31, 495–496. [4] Darimont CT et al. 2015 The unique ecology of human predators. Science 349, 858–860. [5] Festa-Bianchet M. 2003 Exploitative wildlife management as a selective pressure for the life history evolution of large mammals. [6] Mysterud A. 2011 Selective harvesting of large mammals: how often does it result in directional selection? J. Appl. Ecol. 48, 827–834. [7] Hendee JC. 1974 A multiple-satisfaction approach to game management. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 2, 104–113. [8] Hill K, Kaplan H. 1993 On why male foragers hunt and share food. Curr. Anthropol. 34, 701–706. [9] Gurven M & Hill K. 2009 Why do men hunt? A re-evaluation of ‘man the hunter’ and the sexual division of labor. Curr. Anthropol. 50, 51–74. [10] Blurton Jones NG.1984 A selfish origin for food sharing: tolerated theft. Ethol. Sociobiol. 5, 1–3. 5. [11] Hawkes K. 1991 Showing off: tests of an hypothesis about men’s foraging goals. Ethol. Sociobiol. 12,29–54. [12] Codding BF et al. 2011 Provisioning offspring and others: risk–energy trade-offs and gender differences in hunter–gatherer foraging strategies. Proc. R. Soc. B 278, 2502–2509. [13] Bliege Bird R et al. 2001 The hunting handicap: costly signaling in human foraging strategies. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 50, 9–19. [14] Smith EA et al. 2003 The benefits of costly signaling: Meriam turtle hunters. Behav. Ecol. 14, 116–126. [15] Bliege Bird R & Smith EA. 2005 Signaling theory, strategic interaction, and symbolic capital. Curr. Anthropol. 46, 221–248. [16] Zahavi A. 1975 Mate selection: a selection for a handicap. J. Theor. Biol. 53, 205–214. [17] Hazzah L et al. 2009 Lions and warriors: social factors underlying declining African lion populations and the effect of incentive-based management in Kenya. Biol. Conserv. 142, 2428–2437. [18] Child KR, & Darimont CT. 2015 Hunting for trophies: online hunter photographs reveal achievement satisfaction with large and dangerous prey. Hum. Dimens. Wildl. 20, 531–541. [19] Hawkes K &Bliege Bird R. 2002 Showing-off, handicap signaling, and the evolution of men’s work. Evol. Anthropol. 11, 58–67. [20] Cramp S & Simmons KEL (eds) 1983 The birds of the western Paleartic vol III. Oxford University Press. [21] Darimont CT & Child KR. 2014 What enables size selective trophy hunting of wildlife? PLoS ONE 9, e103487. [22] Veblen T. 1899 Theory of the leisure class: an economic study in the evolution of institutions, 400 pp. Macmillan. [23]Courchamp F et al. 2006 Rarity value and species extinction: the anthropogenic Allee effect. PLoS Biol. 4, e415. [24] Jacquet J et al. 2011 Shame and honour drive cooperation. Biol. Lett. 7, 899–901. [25]Macdonald DW et al. 2016 Cecil: a moment or a movement? Analysis of media coverage of the death of a lion. Animals 6, 26.
     

  2. LivingTheDream

    LivingTheDream AH Elite

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    They lost me after the turtle example, turtles don't lay eggs all year round. The men go to sea to get them because depending on the season it is what is needed to eat. You take risks when hungry.
     

  3. Trakehner

    Trakehner AH Member

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    Phew...what a biased and totally "full of scata" blather about what the author calls an, "otherwise perplexing activity". They've sure hung their hat on "signaling" and show their belief of hunters (and males in general) as being "look at me...I shot a rare and big critter". Oh for allah's sake...really, that's the best they can do....mine is bigger than yours commentary? We can get the same blather from feminist theory about males and what a dysfunctional element they are. It was rather cute when in the first sentence the latin classification for lion is used....exactly what other african lion were they thinking of?

    Signaling? Hmmmm, how about female signaling...e.g. jewelry (who has the biggest stone on their engagement ring), furs, 50 pairs of shoes, not working, Range Rover, maid, big/bigger/biggest house....all of these are signaling to impress other females with their status search. More animals die to provide fur coats than ever are killed on safari or any hunts for that matter....but...never mind.

    I found this a very unreadable and anti-hunting spiel. I especially like the "shaming" of hunters due to Cecil the "charismatic lion's" murder....their theory that maybe shame can stop hunters or not being able to bring your trophy back home....Pathetic bunny huggers.
     
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  4. Pheroze

    Pheroze SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    It's "unclear" because the authors have not done anything other than read a course syllabus, and apply their political views to it. Lots of big words, that must be worth something.
     
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  5. IdaRam

    IdaRam AH Elite

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    Wow, I feel like I understand myself so much better now that I've read that.
    Guess I'll go:E Strong: :E Weak: and then drag my old lady into the cave by the hair :S Boobs:

    What a load of malarky
     
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  6. CTDolan

    CTDolan AH Elite

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    Bought for $3, second-hand? Men haven't always been so smitten by a big rack!

    IMG_5075.JPG

    The image does this incredible whitetail no justice whatsoever (and neither does the taxidermy).
     
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  7. CTDolan

    CTDolan AH Elite

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    The man who shot the buck, Jim Jordan, reunited with his trophy at long last.

    IMG_4039.JPG
     

  8. CTDolan

    CTDolan AH Elite

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    Sorry, didn't intend to sidetrack the post. The point I'm trying to make is that "trophies" weren't always so important.

    Not having read the information in the original entry, I am perhaps repeating what has already been stated but, in my opinion, life being somewhat easier than it once was, the size of the rack (tusks, horns, body, etc.) has become a more important than the balance (the edible bit).
     
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  9. Hank2211

    Hank2211 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    What arrant nonsense. If I was after status accumulation, fancy cars would be seen by way more people and no one would object to them. As it is, only a very few ever see my trophies, and I expect the same could be said by every hunter on this site. Hunting actually reduces anyone's ability to buy fancy cars, jewelry, clothes (excepting camo, of course).

    I believe the issue with trophy hunting is, as with many things, caused by the careless and casual use of undefined terms. In this case, "trophy." What constitutes a trophy for many, including myself, is any animal which provides a memory of the hunt. I don't actually seek out the biggest horns, just old, past their prime animals which have already done their bit for the gene pool. The worse their condition the better. I know many share my perspective. So is my trophy the same as a four year old buffalo with a soft boss and 46 inch horns taken out by someone who just shoots for size? Clearly not. Yet we are all lumped into the same pot. Why? Because otherwise, you'd have a much smaller population to take shots at (figuratively speaking, of course!).

    Too many people try to make hunters fit into two groups - meat or subsistence hunters and trophy hunters. In fact, we cover the full spectrum of motivations, as you might expect for any human activity.

    But of course, telling the world we kill animals for status, or because our, ahem, "equipment" is too small, is an easy way to get allies. Telling people that selective trophy hunting might just be better for an animal population than indiscriminate subsistence hunting would get no traction and, most importantly, no donations.
     
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  10. Lrntolive

    Lrntolive AH Fanatic

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    Seriously? This piece of drivel is clearly written with anti hunting undertones. Every race from the beginning of time had chased the largest possible prey throughout time. You see it on cave drawings through time.

    The only difference between now and then is that modern man/woman is able to do this on his/her own, without an entire tribe. Trophies were kept, but in different ways. Horns and antlers were fashioned into weapons and tools. Hides were turned into clothing and shelter. These were all cherished trophies and functional items. Meat was distributed through the entire tribe.

    The major difference between now and then with regards to those trophies is that we have no need for those archaic tools and clothing, even though it would be better for our environment. Some hunters choose to keep those trophies in different ways. This is better than the apathic majority that choose not to partake or care what happens to the world's wildlife.

    I really wish these anti hunters would love wildlife more than they hated hunters. Maybe wildlife would actually stand a chance.
     
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  11. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    If it were written on this paper it might become useful.
    1200px-Toiletpapier_(Gobran111).jpg
     
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  12. IdaRam

    IdaRam AH Elite

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    Absolutely true, but what a terrible thing to do to perfectly good toilet paper.
     
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  13. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH Legend

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    Pure rubbish. Until the outdoor community takes a public stance to educate and refute what anti hunting organizations are saying about hunters and hunting in general we will continue to loose ground. A massive public education program would certainly help many people understand sportsman. We won't change everyone's opinions but I'll take one person a day.
     

  14. ScottG

    ScottG AH Fanatic

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    It's like they are trying to find the answers to issues they have so they can come up with a cure. I'm not sick, my wife had me tested.
     

  15. ScottG

    ScottG AH Fanatic

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    I guess for me it boils down to this is it legal? If the answer is yes then stay on your side of the fence and leave me me alone and I'll do the same.
     

  16. Lrntolive

    Lrntolive AH Fanatic

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    My guess is they received a large grant from HSUS or sum other anti hunting organization to write this. Typical of the trapped campus mentality. Sitting in a room with other like minded people, researching books by like minded people and thinking they know what's best for everyone. Communism at its finest.

    All theory, no practice.
     
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  17. CAustin

    CAustin BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Yep my thoughts also!
     

  18. gizmo

    gizmo SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Legend

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    Well after reading this I certainly have plenty to say but..... I pretty much think that the general consensus on this crap has it summed up.
     

  19. Saul

    Saul AH Enthusiast

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    Oy vey not another one of these. I would be lying if I said that I read the whole thing.
     
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  20. billrquimby

    billrquimby AH Veteran

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    I'm fed up with pseudo-scientists trying to dissect what I do and why I do it. The truth is, I hunt because I must and I will hunt until I cannot.

    Bill Quimby
     
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