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Another View: Responsible hunting helps save lions

A lion named Tommy walks near the spot Cecil the lion was lured onto a farm in an alleged illegal hunt in Zimbabwe. The killing of Cecil by an American hunter triggered outrage and strengthened resolve to enforce regulations governing hunting.
A lion named Tommy walks near the spot Cecil the lion was lured onto a farm in an alleged illegal hunt in Zimbabwe. The killing of Cecil by an American hunter triggered outrage and strengthened resolve to enforce regulations governing hunting. The Associated Press

While responsible hunters deplore the illegal killing of big game, it’s unfortunate that animal rights extremists are exploiting the high-profile shooting of a lion to advance political and fundraising agendas by spreading misinformation and maligning local hunters (“Cecil the lion’s awful death should end trophy hunting,” Viewpoints, Aug. 4).

The author ignored the vital role that Safari Club International members and other hunters play globally in protecting wildlife parks and conservancies. If it weren’t for regulated hunting, most African lions and other big game animals would cease to exist.

Vernon Booth, a Zimbabwe ecologist with 30 years of wildlife management experience, recently told the New York Times that lions were now protected because of the high value attached to them as trophies. Without the trophy hunt money, locals would increasingly poison lions, which are considered dangerous to people and livestock.

Every year, Safari Club invests millions of dollars in Africa to fund rangers, aircraft trail cameras and telemetry equipment to combat poachers and to aid conservancies. These investments also protect local communities from wildlife attacks, generate income and save habitat.

According to National Geographic, investments from hunting in Africa have led to the recovery of several species, including the southern white rhinoceros, the Cape Mountain zebra and the black wildebeest.

Current grandstanding by animal rights groups distracts attention from their failure to do meaningful conservation work. Where is their financial investment in protecting wildlife parks and conservancies in Africa? Where is their willingness to work with our members as we fight poachers?

The Humane Society of the United States, for whom the author lobbies, is an organization whose recent television campaign seeks donations to “rescue animals now.” Though it receives $130 million annually, it doesn’t run a single pet shelter and donates less than 1 percent to shelters. The federal government has received more than 150 complaints about its fundraising practices, currently under investigation in several states.

Much animal rights rhetoric is designed to inflate salaries, membership and profits. In contrast, safari hunting provides an estimated $200 million in annual revenue for Africa. Banning regulated hunting won’t help threatened species. It will do the opposite.

Don Giottonini is president of the Sacramento chapter of Safari Club International.

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