This past May I attended the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, Texas. To be honest, nothing really surprised or shocked me at the convention, except one thing: There was an entire aisle dedicated to exotic animal hunting excursions.
Up until then, I had no idea you could legally hunt lions, zebras, elephants, leopards, etc.
At the convention, safari hunting booths were covered in pictures of kills.
Each claimed to be the best safari hunting company, providing the absolute best, most unique safari hunting experience.
"Consistently taking the largest leopards in Africa!"
"Truly the best elephant hunting"
"Africa: 10 days 10 animals"
There were giants tusks and stuffed lions.
Photo albums of kills.
And, of course, lots of deals on lions. This was cheapest I could find.
Fast-forward six months later...
In October, I spent three days with lion experts Beverly and Dereck Joubert in Botswana. You may have seen my face before in this post. Sry.
Beverly and Dereck have been making films and studying lions for over 30 years now. They are both citizens of Botswana.
Botswana is one of only two countries to completely outlaw all trophy hunting in Africa. Just this year, on Sept. 13, all trophy hunting was banned.
In its place, Botswana has adopted a low-impact, small-footprint, ecotourism model. It's one of exclusivity.
Tourism accounts for $80 billion in Africa's economy. The Jouberts believe that if you remove an iconic species, a huge amount of that money goes away.
Before these anti-hunting laws went into effect, Botswana had areas called "hunting concessions" where safari hunting was legal.
Since safari hunting is now banned, these former hunting concessions are being auctioned off.
Here's an old map of hunting concessions one safari company in Botswana owned:
One of the biggest problems with safari hunting is that many of the safari hunters, like Melissa Bachman, kill male lions.
The Jouberts said this is what happens when you kill one male lion:
1. Other male lions come in.
2. They kill every cub in that territory.
3. Up to 30 cubs can die.
Which brings me back to the NRA...
The truth of it all is that Africa's lion population decreased by 90% in the past 75 years.
Right now, Botswana has 3,500 lions. With these new anti-hunting laws in effect, the Jouberts believe this number could double.
Dereck says that 1 acre of protected land generates 1,300% more revenue than 1 acre of hunted land.
Now for some myths. There are two common myths that people have about safari hunting.
MYTH: Revenues from hunting go back and benefit small villages.
Dereck says that revenue almost always stays outside of Africa. They don't benefit small villages. Most of these safari companies are American run. Of 600 permits to kill lions in all of Africa in 2012, 566 were bought by Americans.
MYTH: Safari hunting brings jobs to villages.
This is only half true. The ecotourism model brings better jobs to villages. Instead of learning how to skin an animal, a villager may be taught how to do plumbing in a camp. This job is more sustainable than a job dependent on skinning animals.
To wrap things up, it all comes down to this: