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By Ray Stern
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
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By Monica Alonzo
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The romantic black-and-white movie world of the Victorian-era safari, when sporting gentlemen clad in pressed trousers and starched shirts ventured out to bag the big one, is replicated down to the last detail. Native workers--Sullivan employs about 100--slather hunting guests in luxury, pressing their clothes daily, providing hot water for showers, and fixing morning and evening feasts, all painstakingly prepared in camps located deep in the bush, hundreds of miles from any town.
But before clients can revel in all this authenticity and pampering, they must first pass Sullivan's philosophical test. The high priest of hunting is very selective about whom he allows into his congregation.
He insists that each client (about four per year accompany him to Africa, each paying up to $50,000 to cover costs and Sullivan's $1,350 per day guide fee) spend a weekend or several evenings with him before embarking on safari.
"I try to put them in the proper frame of mind, so that they know what they are about ready to do is a privilege," he says. "I try to instill in them the same love and admiration for animals that I have. They have to have the same value system. I don't take anyone who just wants to go kill animals in mass numbers."
The elaborate preparations and careful planning--refining the atmosphere, the insistence on historical weapons, the careful screening process to ensure proper "attitude"--combine in the crucible of the Tanzanian bush to produce what Sullivan says is often a life-altering experience.
"Hunting is not a right, it's a privilege, and is something we hold dear. The actual taking of life, to those of us who cherish it, is an honor. That we have the ability to still do that in the year 1993 . . . ," his voice trails off momentarily, but he soon clears his throat and returns, deeply serious.
"Putting it simply, safari is like no other experience or adventure that is available to us on planet Earth. It is an emotional experience . . . and it makes you a better person."
To some, of course, such sermonizing is merely proof that Sullivan is a con artist, a scamster attempting to justify the profitable bloodletting that pays his rent. Diana McMeekon, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based African Wildlife Foundation, one of the largest mainstream animal-rights organizations, says she has heard quasi-religious, personal-development rationales for hunting "a billion times."
"In fact," she says, "if I hear one more hunter tell me that every time he shoots an elephant, he breaks down and cries, I'm going to hurl.
"You can have a very satisfactory and exciting encounter with wildlife, and broaden your experience quite well, without having to kill anything."
D.J. Schubert, director of investigations for the Fund for Animals, a somewhat more extremist group that opposes hunting except in cases where human survival depends on it, says that the fulfillment Sullivan's clients gain from hunting is nothing more than "blood lust."
"This isn't something that will make you a better person, unless you consider brutally butchering a beautiful animal and importing its head for your wall to be a growth experience," he says.
"[Sullivan] and his kind are deplorable."
This moral wrestling between hunters and gatherers is, in the end, essentially unresolvable--dealing as it does with philosophical esoterica (do animals have souls?) best left to the parlors of church and academe.
Is it murderous and barbaric to kill an animal? Is it just and ennobling? Is it ethically neutral? Is it really any different from picking up a package of hamburger at the Food Mart?
As far as the effect on the African ecosystem is concerned, it may not matter. There is substantial evidence, touted by Sullivan, that indicates big-game hunters who play by the rules laid down by the Tanzanian government aren't harming the wildlife population.
In fact, there is evidence that hunters are actually helping to keep the vast majority of Africa's big game alive and well.
@body:The Moyowosi game reserve is, by all accounts, just off the freeway to paradise. This is Hemingway territory, and although the reserve isn't quite in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro (the peak is about 500 miles to the northeast), it is of the same milieu.
While the fabled mount can sometimes become crowded with tourists, however, the Moyowosi consistently retains its splendid isolation. It is Africa as it has been for millennia.
Located in northwest Tanzania, the Moyowosi is endowed with a substantial water supply that makes it a lush breeding ground for the finest big-game animals in eastern Africa.
The genetic pool here, especially when it comes to lion and Cape buffalo, is especially rich. From the flood plains to the rolling, green veldt, the Moyowosi is crowded with huge, strutting beasts of both species. As many as 75,000 buffalo and unknown hundreds of lions inhabit the 5,000-square-mile reserve.
It is in such regions, Sullivan says, that the very survival of wildlife depends on hunters. "The best way to support African wildlife in Tanzania is to go hunting," he says. "That is the only way we can guarantee they will always be there."
I have no quams with people eating what they kill and hunting for that purpose. I have a hard time swallowing the rheteric behind trophy killings. Blood thirsty killers, probably not, but claiming trophies under the guise of "wildlife conservation" is simply perverse.
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