By Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd
Finally the time has come to drop kick the Big White Hunters out of Africa.
Dr. Walter Palmer has done something worthwhile after all.
His special combination of vanity, smugness, greed, arrogance and stupidity has taken something which happens all the time, usually out of sight and out of mind, and has elevated it to international recognition.
The slaughter of Africa’s wildlife is a crime against nature and humanity.
In 1978, I spent a few months in East Africa investigating and tracking poachers. I was gathering information to support the listing of the African elephant as endangered. I wrote an article in Defenders of Wildlife that got me into an argument with the editor when I predicted that within two decades the elephant population would be diminished by 30%. He accused me of being overly dramatic and cut my prediction from the story. It turned out that I was not being dramatic enough. By 1980, the diminishment was 50% despite the fact that the African elephant was listed as endangered by the United States in 1978.
From a population estimated at some 25 million 500 years ago, the African elephant was reduced to ten million by 1913. By 1979, there were an estimated 1.3 million elephants. Today, there are only a half a million remaining and the population is in serious decline with poaching now at unprecedented levels.
And Dr. Walter Palmer was intending to kill an elephant before leaving Africa after realizing the potential trouble he was in for killing Cecil.
Looking at lions. When I first went to Africa there were 250,000 lions in the late Seventies. Today that number has been reduced to about 25,000.
And yet the killing goes on. Lions, rhinos, giraffe, elephants and so many other species killed by poachers illegally and legally in most cases by White hunters.
Most poachers are Black so they can’t afford to do the paperwork to make their activities legal. The White hunters however have the cash to buy legality.
Dr. Walter Palmer claims his hunt was legal, but it was not. It could have been. He paid for it to be, but he got greedy. He wanted a celebrity lion and lured it out of a national park and illegally shot it with an arrow in such an unprofessional manner that the lion suffered for 40 hours before being killed with a bullet from Palmer’s guide.
He and his guide then stupidly tried to destroy the radio collar, and in an even more stupid move, they left the collar near the body allowing authorities to find the decomposing carcass of what had recently been the noblest and most beautiful lion in Zimbabwe.
But there is a positive outcome from all of this. It seems that Dr. Walter Palmer has the potential to be the catalyst to what can be a movement to end the trophy hunting in Africa for good.
It reminds me of the trial of David Curtiss "Steve" Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) who was convicted of the abduction, rape and murder of a young woman in Illinois named Madge Oberholter in 1925.
The Klan at that time was extremely powerful and influential. Stephensen met with and advised among others, both the Governor of Illinois and the President of the United States. His last rally before his arrest drew over 100,000 supporters.
His arrogance led him to believe he was above the law and thanks to the bull-dog
determination of a young prosecutor, Stephensen was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1925 and the power of the Klan quickly unraveled when the trial revealed the extent of Klan corruption in political circles.
Palmer’s arrogance has caused the story of Cecil the lion to go viral. He picked the wrong lion, took the wrong actions and cowardly tossed his guides under the bus. The Safari Club International has already recognized the danger Palmer has placed them in. They in turn tossed him under the bus and cancelled his membership and since then have been preparing themselves to defend their vile and bloody enterprise from the wrath of the public.
Safari International has some 50,000 members, 150 chapters and collects $3.17 million in membership dues each year. It raises another 7 million from their annual convention.
But what is truly despicable about this organization is that it encourages slaughter through awards.
SCI’s record book system ranks the biggest tusks, horns, antlers, skulls and bodies of hunted animals. Hunters are rewarded with trophies for completing a “Grand Slam.”
There are 15 “Grand Slams.” The ones that cover Africa are:
1. The African Big Five Club (African lion, African leopard, African elephant, African buffalo and an African rhinoceros.
2. “Dangerous Game of Africa” (requires a minimum of five from the African lion, African leopard, African elephant, African rhinoceros, African buffalo, Hippopotamus and Nile Crocodile)
3. “African 29” (African lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, and a small cat, eland, bongo,kudu, nyala, sitatunga, bushbuck, sable antelope, roan antelope, oryx/gemsbok, waterbuck,lechwe, kob or puku, reedbuck or rhebok, wildebeest, hartebeest, mamalisc, impala, gazelle, pygmy antelope, springbok, dik-dik, bush duiker, forest duiker, nubian ibex, aoudad, hippopotamus, and wild pig)
4. “Cats of the World” (minimum of four of: lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, cougar, lynx, cougar or puma, serval, carcal, African golden cat or bobcat)
There are dozens of other reward categories with members able to purchase special gold and bejewelled pins for the number of kills they rack up.
There is also the Global Hunting Award that requires the killer to have hunted 6 continents to receive a diamond award (a minimum of 17 native in Africa, 13 native or introduced in North America, 4 native or introduced in South America, 6 native or introduced in Europe, 6 native to Asia and 4 introduced in the South Pacific, for a total of 50 animals).
There is the Hunting Achievement Award that requires a minimum of 125 animals, or 60 if hunting with a bow.
And for women they have the Diana award, given to women who “have excelled in international big game hunting.”
And finally there is the obscenely named “World Conservation & Hunting Award,”
given to hunters who have killed on six continents tand have killed more than 300 species. This “esteemed” award goes to the killer who has taken all 14 Grand Slams, the 23 Inner Circles, Pinnacle of Achievement (fourth) and the Crowning Achievement Award.
It is this award system that is driving thousands of wealthy primarily white men and a few women to spend millions of dollars stalking animals around the world for the sole purpose of killing the in the name of vanity and self glorification.
The public for the most part is unaware of the sheer immensity of this global hobby of slaughter. Thanks to Dr. Walter Palmer however they are getting a glimpse of it.
Palmer may be the most hated man in the world for a few days because of his vicious crimes of vanity but he will not be forgotten by the Safari International.
Hopefully Cecil will not have died in vain and that his death will represent the thousands of animals so horrifically slaughtered every year.
Dr. Walter Palmer should have stuck to cleaning teeth. He has now been deservedly immortalized as the most vile and despicable hunter of all time but history may look on him a slight bit more favourably if his actions bring down the Safari International Club like Stephenson brought down the Klu Klux Klan.