I'm killing you for your own goodIn today's New York Times, Alexander N. Songorwa, the director of wildlife for the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, makes a plea for the African lion not to be declared an endangered species (they are currrently categorized as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List). His argument is very pragmatic, basically saying that rich American tourists who fly over there so they can shoot lions with high-powered rifles and then bring back a trophy spend a lot of money, and that money helps fund game reserves, wildlife management areas, and conservation efforts in Tanzania. He further explains that his country has a stable population of lions (about 40% of all lions in Africa -- though is it that high only because other countries have done so badly protecting their lions?) and that they have rules against killing females and younger males.
"We had to destroy that village to save it"What should we think about that line of reasoning? On one hand, sometimes you have to break some eggs to make an omelette, and maybe this is the price to pay to finance conservation efforts... But on the other, we have to be careful about false dichotomies. There are other choices. We don't necessarily need wealthy people to fly around the world just so they can shoot top predators from afar and then feel manly when they off show the carcass to their friends (I mean, there's not much merit in killing a lion with what is basically a sniper rifle -- try knife fighting one and then you can brag).
I wish conservation efforts could be funded by regular tourism, photographic safaris, maybe some environmental/wildlife NGOs or a small royalty on natural resources, something like that. But I also won't kid myself that the situation is simple and that the Tanzanian government has lots of resources available (though that has been getting better lately). Maybe these types of safaris can be progressively phased out as other sources of revenue are found? Note that in my opinion there's a difference between a local hunter who then eats what he or she killed and a trophy hunter who flies to the other side of the planet to kill just for fun.
Dear Reader, what do you think?