A 60 year old bull elephant lies dead in Zimbabwe this fall, one of the largest ever seen, with tusks that reached the ground. He was the “prize” of a German hunter who paid his guides about US$60,000 for what was deemed a legal hunt. That’s about one thousand dollars per year of that magnificent creature’s life. I hope that hunter knows that for every glimmer of conquest he feels, darts of disbelief at his actions throb for millions like me at his dumbfounding thickheadedness.
The hunt (such as it was, in a special game preserve) may have been legal, perhaps, but I shake my head at any pretense that what he did was right. I ache for the elephant slaughter that continues in Africa and Asia, and mourn the loss of this majestic, smart, social creature and the hundreds of thousands of smaller but no less necessary ancient creatures, such as rhinoceros and lions, who continue to be poached, and poisoned wholesale at their water holes, and gunned down. The word relentless is not too strong. The word extinct is a shivery potential whose proportions are menacing.
I am not anti-hunting when it serves to nourish hungry people. But there is no longer that lame excuse, when it comes to “game” animals whose existence is threatened. If I could have one wish, it would be for the hunters who murdered this bull elephant, and also Cecil the iconic lion just a few months ago, and others less public, to recognize that in the pursuit of proving themselves to be Great Hunters (or whatever their inadequate explanations) that they are destroying irreplaceable creatures. These actions suck the air out of my lungs. The rest of us might rather enjoy knowing those animals can live lives uncomplicated by such lust.
It is encouraging to read of the actions of such on-the-ground efforts as those by The Milgis Trust, who are doing what they can to stem the onrushing tide of this horrendous trend. Their scouts, like the animals they protect, are in danger of assassination by the well-armed forces invading the land. Can no one effectively teach those with ivory lust the facts here?
A 60 year old elephant, dead. Shot and killed. Boom! Gone. How can there be anything right about the right for anyone to do that? The conversation has to turn to ethical treatment of our natural world, which hasn’t got a voice unless someone shouts in outrage over what has happened. I don’t even care, in fact, that perhaps the local people could use that hunter’s money. Find another way.
I rant because I feel so helpless, here at the sidelines of the astonishing news that there remain people who would kill this bull elephant, or Cecil, or other endangered animals. There can be no justification of that. These animals have a right to their worlds no less compelling than yours, or mine.