Feb 4, 2014, 1:00 AM EDT
As I held my rifle on five fishing poachers, my professional guide interrogated the little boy who accompanied these men in their illegal fishing practices. They were using batteries and nets to catch fish during the off season (illegally) and had a plethora of weapons on them. We loaded the poachers in the back of the truck to transport them to the authorities.
Halfway to the police station, one of the poachers pulled a hidden knife from his boot and maneuvered himself into a position to slice the throat of my hunting companion. The PH reacted quickly with his physical punishment and removal of the blade while exclaiming that “more retribution will come when you meet the police!” All poachers know is that the consequence of being caught can mean relinquishing rights to own firearms, prison time, and quite likely death.
Poachers come in many variations; there are ‘meat poachers’, like the pygmies using snares in the jungle to capture endangered species for consumption, ‘trophy poachers’, like the guy who shoots a buck out of season in his neighborhood, and the ‘precious-commodity poacher’ who slays elephant’s and rhino’s to encourage Asia’s ritualistic medicinal practices.
The anti’s often confuse ethical hunting with poaching, but there’s a big difference between hunters who follow the law and utilize every bit of the animal, and poachers who cut the tusks out of an elephant leaving his carcass to rot.
Sadly, because safari hunting was recently closed in Botswana I’ve been told that the poaching of elephants has increased by a staggering 700%! And why not? The safari outfitters who once protected the elephants with their anti-poaching teams no longer have a vested interest in ensuring these majestic species are preserved. Instead of taking one old bull elephant at a rate of $60,000 the Botswana government would rather pacify the anti hunters and let the Asian market control the populations to near extinction. Look at Kenya… there hasn’t been hunting there since the 70′s and the wildlife has been severely affected; but take neighboring Tanzania where hunting is legal and wildlife abounds.
Why can’t the anti-hunters accept responsibility for their role in negatively impacting wildlife?