Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one for whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself. --James Anthony Froude, Oceana,1866
On an entirely manmade earth there can no room for man either. All that will be left of us is robots. -- Romain Gary, The Roots of Heaven 1956
The latest act of debauchery and murder happened in Botswana several days ago, where one of the last great tuskers on earth was killed for its eight foot long tusks as a trophy. This elephant bull, more than 50 years old with magnificently huge teeth that grazed the ground when it walked, will now lifelessly stare into the void -- and into the soul of the monster in some men, as an inert mantel object somewhere in South Africa or perhaps Texas. For $50,000 one of the titans of the world is no more.
Botswana used to have a conservation ethos worth admiring under its former president Seretse Khama.'The pressure on the world’s natural resources is immense and not sustainable without change,” Seretse Khama once said. “The short-term approach that leaves nothing for the future. We will not let this happen here.”
Well it is happening -- and next door the oil group ReconAfrica from Canada has undertaken tests to drill right next to the greatest refuge left on earth for the African elephant, the miraculous Okavango Delta in Botswana. This is sheer madness. And now under the new president of Botswana, Africa’s greatest treasure, the elephant, is being yearly sacrificed in the hundreds. Over the last decade 130,000 were destroyed for their ivory. Now 300 elephants will be sacrificed annually to appease the bloodlust of killers. It is not what the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania had in mind when he vowed in that country’s constitution to protect the natural splendors that make his country unique on earth.
Then why build the Uganda-Tanzania pipeline? Why invade the peat bogs in the northern Congo for oil? Africa will be lost if it is turned into the world’s last repository for the industrial north, with its fauna and indigenous peoples sacrificed for short-term gain. Even India , now undergoing a monstrous heat wave due to climate change, had a hero and tiger champion, in Jim Corbett who said,” A country’s fauna is a sacred trust and I appeal to you not to betray your trust.”
All over the world trophy hunters continue to ransack the unique fauna of the world, many of them endangered species. In the United States, 90 percent of the trophy hunters are believed to be Republicans. A bill introduced in 2019 by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) to amend the Endangered Species Act, along with seven fellow Democrats and one Republican, would have gone a long way to prohibit the slaughter of the great tusker in Botswana that was just destroyed.
So far that bill, HR 4804, has not passed. Who is holding back this urgent piece of legislation? Special interests, including those who willfully continue to persecute innocent species for vainglory, and those in the oil and tobacco industries who have donated to major conservation organizations to influence them.
If there is corruption among top conservation groups, how can we hold onto the wildlife? Ranchers who senselessly trap and kill wolves by the hundreds in Montana and Idaho, and the trophy seekers who go to Africa and lure lions to blow their brains out are of the same ilk. In a time when the earth has already lost 70 percent of its wild animal population, America must act. A recent report showed that 700,000 animal trophies were brought into this country between 2016 and 2020.
We are acting as if we didn’t like life, as if life were expendable. But it is not just the United States that is seeking to stop the maddening pace of the cruelty we have forced on the non human world. Eduardo Goncalves has led the charge in his Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting in the UK which will soon be voted on in Parliament. Ninety percent of the UK public is against trophy hunting and if the Goncalves bill passes it will have repercussions throughout the world. The murder of the innocent wildlife cannot be tolerated anymore. Africans never killed big game for fun. Native Americans didn’t destroy the great buffalo herds for fun.
There have been arguments justifying animal trophies from trophy-hunting groups throughout the world, none more financially endowed than the ones here in America. But the favors bestowed by the oil and tobacco industries on trophy-hunting groups beg the question, how much longer do we accept the lie that trophy hunting benefits the protection of species? Native people derive almost nothing from the billion-dollar trophy industry, which is all about revenue. As Rene Ebersole of Nat Geo writes,” It appears that the United States is the only country in the world where wild animals are killed by the tens of thousands strictly for prizes and entertainment.”
In a time when an enormous number of children are depressed about the future, this continued onslaught on the innocent is something the young among our own species can no longer countenance .
Passing HR 4804 in Congress and safeguarding all life for future generations should be something not to ponder but to act on immediately . It is why the Biden administration with bipartisan support is planning the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which, if passed, would provide $1.4 billion to protect our most endangered species. We ignored the Cop21 Paris Climate Agreement almost completely -- and now on the eve of the Kunming Biological Diversity Conference in China later this year, humanity needs to act. This is the final decade in which we can reverse the apocalyptic scale of biological degradation all over the world.
With all eyes on Ukraine, we nevertheless have been warned: The pandemic now upon is entirely due to how we have treated the animals and the forests of the world, the original true wealth of this planet. We have to stop killing ourselves and the planet’s innocent inhabitants before Earth becomes another Mars. Passage of HR 4804 in tandem with the UK bill to ban trophy imports would allow the wildlife of the world to live on this blessed planet.
Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson have been bearing witness to the interaction between tribal people and wildlife in Africa for over a generation. They have published four books on Africa including the latest with their son Lysander, Lords of the Earth -The Entwined Destiny of Wildlife and Humanity. Their most recent film is Walking Thunder- Ode to the African Elephant.