Just to amuse myself, I went onto the Safari Club International website today to see what pearls of wisdom I could gain from Larry Rudolph, the SCI President, about lion trophy hunting. This is an organization with something like 53,000 members, and is a powerful pro-hunting lobbying group in the USA. They have prided themselves in having kept lions off the CITES agenda for many years and in fact have offered financial assistance to CITES so that organization can keep up its record of stellar work (???) in conservation of species threatened by international trade. The SCI motto is “First for Hunters”, and that speaks for itself.
On January 19 this year, Larry had this to say on the topic of “Hunters as Conservationists”:
• “In my role as your President, I take immense pride in our mission statement: “SCI is the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide. We all understand the role of hunting as a conservation tool in sound, science-based, sustainable use conservation. However, we need to educate and demonstrate to more of the non-hunting public, and other conservation organizations, the absolute necessity that hunting plays in the value of many species around the world.” You lost me there Larry. “Sound, science-based, sustainable use conservation”? Lion hunting in Africa is not any of those three.
• “One example of the teamwork and cooperation that exists in this effort is the program to maintain a healthy population of African lions in the wild. One such shining example where SCI has led the way is in Zambia, East Africa.
The example I use is in an area about four hours outside of Lusaka, the Mumbwa GMA. In this area, more than a decade ago, a male lion older than three or four years old was difficult to locate, even inside a national park. Together, the Zambian Wildlife Authority, dedicated professional hunters, research scientists and hunters worked out a plan to improve the vitality and aging of the lion prides. The Professional Hunters also play a vital role in ensuring that only the oldest and most mature lions are collected. The hunting clients as well are supportive. I have seen hunters turn down some great trophies because a pride had small cubs and they did not want to endanger them.” Lost me again Larry. How exactly did you improve the “vitality” of the lions? By not hunting them? And you admit that trophy hunters are targeting pride males but sometimes did not pull the trigger as the pride had young cubs? Is this an example of your “sound, science-based, sustainable use conservation”?
• “Whenever you hear someone tell you, “hunters don’t care about wildlife,” take the time to explain to them what we as SCI members and hunters know.... we promote wildlife conservation worldwide… Always be proud you are a member of the greatest hunting and conservation group in the world…Always remember to be proud to be an SCI member. Do not apologize for who we are and what we do. We are hunters—the truest conservationists and defenders of wildlife in the world.” Larry, please read all the reports by experts to tell you how hunting is failing conservation and communities in Africa. “Always be proud… do not apologize”? Rather say – be humble and do apologize as we have gone very badly wrong by supporting corrupt operators and government officials.
And a few months later, Larry was very miffed that an SCI letter to the Guardian was not published (concerning an article by that UK newspaper about lions being proposed for the US Endangered Species Act by conservation organizations in the USA). Here is what Larry had to say and some excerpts from his unpublished letter to the Guardian:
• “What the Guardian newspaper doesn’t want you to read… Last week the British newspaper the Guardian published an article parroting the claims of anti-hunting groups that were made in a petition to the White House. The petition calls for listing the lion as an endangered species under the ESA, and cites hunting as a primary reason for the lion’s decline in population. SCI immediately submitted a letter refuting these claims—but the Guardian doesn’t want you to read it, as they have ignored our submission. So as an informational service, we are distributing the letter to SCI members…Rest assured we are aggressively countering the claims put forth in the petition, and will have much more to report on the critical issue of lion conservation as this attack on hunting plays out.” Well, well Larry. Who here is the better parrot? You can be countered at every statement you make (below) with facts and figures. Perhaps the Guardian ignored you as you cannot present a coherent argument? “Rest assured”? If I was an SCI member, I would be very worried about your abilities to assuage your constituents about their past excesses.
• “The March 1st article, “African lions under threat from a growing predator: the American hunter” does not paint a clear picture of the benefits that hunting and hunters bring to the conservation of lion populations, nor the sustainable economic benefits hunting develops in many rural communities of African countries. Those benefits, in turn, bring value to lion populations and inhibit unchecked lion mortality.” Larry, there are no economic benefits that accrue from hunting to African communities, as your local hunting operators and their pals in government steal them all. Educate yourself to the realities Larry.
• “Safari Club International Foundation is committed to science-based African lion conservation by assisting lion range states in completing national lion management plans. To date, we have assisted Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in developing their plans, and have funded the publication of Namibia’s and Zambia’s national lion management plan.” Larry, your scientific programme is written by those you can influence to produce propaganda. The truth is sadly different. Your “scientists” are well known to the international community and tainted by their association. Hopefully SCI will continue to pay their salaries and pensions as they have no hope of any academic career in the future.
• “Through adaptive management, governments set hunting regulations that are non-detrimental to the health and survival of the game species populations, specifically for lions, as this species generates huge economic revenues for rural communities. In fact, revenues from hunting generate $200 million annually in remote rural areas of Africa”. Larry, the figure of $200 million to what you call remote rural areas is based on $100 million to South Africa (largely game ranchers) and $100 million to the hunting operators and cronies in other countries – remember that analyses have shown that one square kilometre of land set aside by communities for wildlife in Tanzania earned them $4 annually as opposed to $110 for the hunting operators. There are no huge economic revenues for communities, and you need to accept the facts.
• “When this financial incentive is lost or mismanaged, the value local communities place on the sustainability of lion populations greatly diminishes. This leads to direct mortality of lions by humans as a result of human-lion conflict.” Larry, the communities are now so disillusioned by your hunter pals that they want their land back from contracts they allegedly were forced to accept by government, hunting operators, and NGOs like the African Wildlife Foundation. They have clearly seen what measly benefits hunters provide and are better off poaching. Read the reports Larry… and adjust the SCI rhetoric if you dare. Perhaps a personal gesture in your lame-duck months as you will soon be replaced by another equally uninformed SCI President?
• “The coalition of extremist organizations that filed a petition with the Department of Interior to list African lions as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act is again attempting to prey on an uniformed public to impose restrictions on hunters using sensationalized, emotional messaging that has nothing to do with the science of wildlife conservation. Their persistent misinformation campaigns portray hunters as the enemy, when hunters are truly the greatest stewards of our wildlife.” Larry, you use words like “extremist organizations” (eco- Taliban? The SCI equivalent of the Axis of Evil?) who “prey on an uninformed public” while having “nothing to do with the science of conservation”. Bunker mentality. I beg to differ Larry, you have no scientific credibility to continue to promote lion trophy hunting, no community support, and your 53,000 members of SCI are now posed against at least 1,000 times that number of people, well informed, asking you some nettlesome questions about how exactly lion hunting contributes to conservation of the species? Let me give you some advice Larry. Reform. Do better. Read and assimilate.
Game over Larry. You had your fun, and you only scored own goals. Time for a new formula, and if you seek to be meaningfully involved in the future, your endlessly repeated empty rhetoric will not stand you in good stead. SCI, unless there are reforms, is now Last For Hunters.