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By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
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To some, that might sound reminiscent of the logic that led an American commander in Vietnam to posit that a village had to be destroyed in order to save it. But there is a sound argument, one that takes into account the hard, fiscal realities of Third World regimes, to support Sullivan's position. In a nutshell, it goes like this:
The Tanzanian government makes millions every year from fees it charges foreigners to hunt in game reserves like the Moyowosi, which are set aside solely for that purpose. Every hunter must pay $100 per day for each gun he brings into the country, another $100 for an "area occupancy fee" and $600 for a hunting permit. Nearly everything associated with the hunt is subject to a tariff, right down to the bullets, which are taxed at 10 to 15 cents each. In addition, for every animal that is shot, the government exacts a kill fee, ranging from $2,000 for a lion down to $280 for a warthog.
If Tanzania were to close areas like Moyowosi to hunting, as many animal-rights groups desire, it would be deprived of this steady stream of hard, western currency. The government would then be forced to open the reserve to native settlers, in an effort to generate taxes and food from the land.
Opening the land to the plow, Sullivan insists, would be catastrophic. The encroachment of man in the land of the lion would inevitably lead to attacks on settlers. A herd of buffalo can decimate a large field of corn in one night. Faced with such conflicts, the settlers would cry out for help from the government, which might then be compelled to embark on a program of wildlife extermination.
"If that happens, tens of thousands of animals will die for no good reason. People who say if you stop hunting, you can save the animal population, simply aren't telling the truth," Sullivan says. "The only way to ensure the animals will always be there is to make sure they retain their economic value to the government of Tanzania and are kept away from civilization.
"People think hunters are from a different planetary system, that we have no love, no compassion for the beauty around us. But if the truth be known, we love animals more than so-called animal lovers themselves. When we hunters spend millions of our own money every year to shoot a few animals, we protect wildlife as a whole."
It is, in any event, truly only a few. Moyowosi safaris are hardly in the spirit of the buffalo slaughters on the Old West American plains, or in the style of poachers, who have been known to conduct African hunts from the tops of Land Rovers, using Uzis to mow down hundreds of animals in an hour.
In contrast, during last year's four-month hunting season--which runs from late June to October--the Tanzanian government allowed Sullivan and crew (who had exclusive hunting rights in 1992 to the Moyowosi) to shoot 6 lions and 16 buffalo. That, he says, is "like taking five deer out of the Kaibab Plateau all year."
Sullivan insists that in addition to helping his clients select this limited amount of game, he also serves as a humanitarian and good-will ambassador. As evidence, he says that all the meat from the kills is dried into a jerky called "biltong," which is then distributed to poor Tanzanians, whose diet is lower in protein than almost any other people in the world. Every year Sullivan also delivers clothes and medical supplies to remote villages.
"Over the course of the season, we feed probably 5,000 people," he says. "These are people who really have no way to make money. We are talking about a sport with far-reaching effects.
"Once you know the facts, what I do doesn't sound so evil."
McMeekon, of the African Wildlife Foundation, agrees that hunting of the Sullivan variety is "part of the wildlife regulation toolbox"--one of the ways in which African nations can raise money and be encouraged to preserve animal sanctuaries.
Admitting that neither the lion nor the buffalo is classified as an endangered species--in fact, both are more plentiful now than at any time in recent memory--McMeekon gives grudging approval to Sullivan's thesis.
"While I think that you can clearly overestimate the humanitarian nature of big-game hunters, it is true that they do good for the natives. Also, the money and resources they pour into local economies are an incentive for locals to report poachers, who don't pay them anything."
Other respected scientists confirm that agriculture, rather than the well-regulated safari, represents the real threat to African wildlife. Rodger Yeager and Norman Miller, in their book Wildlife, Wild Death, the seminal study of land-use problems in eastern Africa, note that the "ecological equilibria" in Tanzania are threatened primarily by "increased economic activity, worsened by enclosing game animals within geographically fixed spaces that cannot support the animals' growing numbers."
The authors, both longtime Africophiles and university professors specializing in environmental and public-policy studies, suggest that conflict with human farmers within these confined areas, like the Moyowosi, is what really leads to animal extermination.
@body:Activists like the Fund for Animals' Schubert are quick to identify Sullivan with the popular stereotype of the American hunter as a bloodthirsty buffoon; the overweight, beer-guzzling goofball who is as likely to shoot the NRA sticker off his pickup truck as he is to actually hit a live animal.
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.