by Nicole Rivard
It’s no wonder wolves and other wildlife are under siege in Idaho when you see Blake Fischer, one of Idaho’s Fish and Game commissioners, grinning over a stack of dead corpses of the animals he slaughtered on a recent trophy hunting trip to Namibia.
Even Idaho Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter, who put wolves in the crossfire by signing Idaho’s wolf-control bill in 2014, was ashamed by Fischer’s behavior and asked for his resignation. That says a lot.
While Fischer may not have done anything illegal, hunting will always be unethical and immoral and will never be a conservation tool.
But what Fischer did doesn’t surprise me. State agencies reap revenues from hunting and fishing licenses – it’s their primary clientele and federal agencies receive funds from taxes on guns and ammo. It’s not unusual they are staffed with trophy hunters.
These agencies should abide by the gold standards of conservation— habitat protection and reintroduction of wildlife within their historical range, instead of catering to hunters.
In addition to an entire baboon family, Fischer also killed a leopard, giraffe, impala and waterbuck while in Africa. Then he bragged about it in an e-mail to more than 100 people, according to the Idaho State Journal.
“Fellas,” Fischer wrote in the Sept. 17 email, “I have been back for a week, but have been hunting and trying to get caught up. Anyways, my wife and I went to Namibia for a week . . . first she wanted to watch me and ‘get a feel’ of Africa . . . so I shot a whole family of baboons. I think she got the idea quick.”
“She also let me shoot a giraffe,” he wrote beneath a picture of himself holding the dead animal’s head. “These things are HUGE. The photo doesn’t do it justice. When we walked up on it, it was shocking how big it was.”
His comments and photos are not only despicable, but underscore how I feel about trophy hunters—they are just as bad as poachers. While poachers are willing to slaughter magnificent animals to make a buck, well-heeled vainglorious trophy hunters like Fischer spend lots of money to hunt for bragging rights and prizes. In either instance, money doesn’t make killing ok.
It’s infuriating American trophy hunters dupe the public into thinking that without their money, conservation efforts in Africa would not exist.
Recently I attended a presentation about new strategies to combat wildlife trafficking at Grace Farms Foundation, which is located near Friends of Animals’ Connecticut headquarters. It was uplifting to hear about a unique collaboration between the foundation and the National Anti-Poaching Task Force in Tanzania and its successes.
They include the 2016 arrest of Yang Fenglan, the “ivory queen” accused of smuggling more than 700 tusks worth $1.7 million out of the country. Another operation nabbed 12 members of the “triple six gang” –so-called because of the 666 pieces of ivory they were caught with.
All of the speakers talked about the rampant corruption in African countries that can be unwieldy obstacles to convicting poachers. What I realized during the presentation is that any money from trophy hunting supposedly going towards so-called conservation could actually be funding organized crime and poaching because of the corruption.
But you won’t hear that from trophy hunters.
They also don’t want you to know about a 2013 study that revealed that only a measly 3 percent of trophy hunting expenditures actually goes back to the local communities for conservation or development.
The only difference between poachers and trophy hunters is public perception. The Safari Club International has a well-oiled PR machine perpetuating the myth that trophy hunters are conservationists.
But you only have to visit the SCI’s website to see proof that trophy hunters are thrill-seeking competitors hoping to get the biggest trophy so they can show it off and receive awards.
SCI offers awards in dozens of categories, including those for killing the most species in the most-distant places and for killing multiple species of bears and big cats around the globe.
According to CBS news, the SCI’s most coveted prize is the “World Hunting Award,” or so-called “Super Bowl-ring” of hunting. It’s a gold and diamond-crusted ring so far bestowed on 94 hunters who have killed a collection of dozens, if not hundreds, of animals. Before Walter Palmer’s SCI membership was suspended after he killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, he had won a “Continental” award from the hunting group for killing a dozen animals in North America and was edging closer to a “grand slam” awarded for killing an African elephant, a leopard and a Cape buffalo.
Friends of Animals has been working to stop people like Palmer and Fischer in their tracks for the last few years with the African Big Five Trophies Act, legislation we drafted that would ban the importation, possession, sale or transportation of the trophies of African leopards, lions, elephants, black and white rhinos .—all threatened or endangered species—and their body parts throughout New York the biggest port for trophies in the U.S.
It will be reintroduced in 2019 with additional protections for giraffes.
FoA is also supporting a federal trophy hunting ban bill that has been introduced.
If hunters can’t bring their trophies back to the U.S. to brag about, the lives of animals will be saved because the incentive to hunt will be taken away.
I’m really looking forward to the legislation being passed so all those egotistical grins are wiped from the faces of trophy hunters.