After public outrage in June over the death of Cecil the Lion, public discussions have flooded social media sites, discussing the aspects of legality of trophy hunting and its ethical implications.
A large bull elephant with tusks that weighed around 120 lbs each, known as a “tusker,” was killed on Oct. 8 in exchange for $60,000. His death, like Cecil’s, is causing people to express and defend their opinions on the topic.
One argument that trophy hunters maintain is that they aim to hunt the largest, potentially oldest males, and assume that they are past breeding age, making the kill more ethical. Research shows that this elephant was, contrary to the hunters’ faulty justification, in his prime breeding age, and his death damaged the social circle he was a part of in numerous ways.
The male elephant that was destroyed last week had incredibly large tusks, which signifies leadership in elephant social hierarchy. He was killed as a part of a hunting safari in the Malipati region of Zimbabwe, which is between Gonarezhou National Park and South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
His demise, along with other animals being targeted for their large stature, make it so that next generations of animals will be smaller, as well as conceived with fewer genetic variants, which has the potential to cause health and chromosomal issues. Prime breeding age for male elephants is between 40-50 years old; females prefer mature males, like the bull that was killed, who is estimated at 50 years old at the time of death.
Elephants are incredibly social animals, and are one of the most intelligent species. They celebrate births, and it has been widely documented that they mourn one another’s death.
Mature males are important to the social circle that they reside in; young male elephants can become aggressive without the influence of an older male to learn social behavior from, in the same way juvenile delinquency and absent fathers are correlated in humans, according to professor Caitlin E. O’Connell of Stanford School of Medicine.
Safari hunting of elephants such as this are legal, given that the hunter has acquired the proper permits and kills within the designated area. Trophy hunting mostly brings revenue to the safari companies and to private land owners the kills are made on; supporters of hunts often think that the money being spent on private kills is being distributed to the government and average citizen, which both receive only a small portion of the profit being made, according to Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman of the Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force.
When the designated hunting areas are poached of their largest trophies, hunters lure out larger animals to be killed on legal land, which was the basis of the controversy over the legality of Cecil’s kill. This scam means that the countries relying on tourism to bring in money are being stripped of the very things that inherently draw crowds.