Hunting versus Non Hunting
Please note this is an economic debate, not
an ethical one.
Recently on facebook, a debate raged between
the hunting fraternity (wise use of resources) and non hunting
The usual mudslinging and abuse from both
sides occurred. One of the posts from the non hunters, was that
all hunters were psychopaths.
Iím not sure that Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick
Courtney Selous, James Corbett, Ernest Hemingway, James
Stevenson-Hamilton and Harry Kirkman amongst others would agree
In England a bunch of people including
royalty, get on some horses and with a pack of hounds, chase a
fox until it is exhausted. Outnumbered by 12:1, the fox is
eventually ripped to pieces by the hounds. Are the people
involved in the hunt all psychopaths?
In Spain a large group of people gather in an
arena to watch a matador taunt a bull and then kill it with a
spear (occasionally the bull kills the matador). As the blood
flows and the unfortunate bull crumbles to his knees, the King
of Spain sips his best Spanish wine from the comfort of his
royal box. Are they all psychopaths?
Hunting, fox hunting and bull fights have a
number of things in common. Firstly, great cruelty and secondly,
enjoyment by human beings at the death of a fellow creature.
But this newsletter is not about the ethics,
but rather the economics of hunting.
The Timbavati have spent millions of rands on
improving their land, fencing their land and protecting their
The Timbavati record of protecting their
rhino is one of the best around.
Therefore their attitude is, if we have spent
millions of rands protecting our land and animals, we would like
a return on our money.
The Timbavati can either photograph, catch or
hunt their animals.
Because of foot and mouth disease, only non
cloven hoofed animals can be sold. This leaves Timbavati with
hunting or photography.
Hunting and photographic safaris are not
compatible. However, Timbavati seem to have come up with a
formulae whereby they are doing both. Good luck to them. They
are cleverer than I am.
Whether they should be allowed to hunt a
hundred pound elephant is another debate (many feel that with
only 30 left in the world, the big tuskers should be protected)
However, letís examine the economics of
hunting the bull elephant (letís say the price is $1 million or
The hunting outfitterís argument is that one
hunter from overseas impacts the land for a few days, creates a
few jobs for trackers and skinners, pays the Timbavati R13
million, which they can use for their good conservation work.
The hunting outfitterís argument is: How many
game drives burning fossil fuels need to be done to earn R13
million? How many Coke cans and consumer garbage from the
tourists to earn R13 million? How much noise pollution from
aeroplanes bringing tourists to the lodges to generate R13
million? How many toilets will be flushed at 5 litres of water a
The protectionists will argue that the hunter
creates very few jobs and the meat from the bull elephant will
never reach the local communities. In fact the protectionists
will argue the local community will not benefit at all from the
death of the bull elephant.
Most private game lodges work on a ratio
higher than 1 guest to 3 staff, i.e. a 50 bed game lodge employs
more than 150 people.
The protectionists will argue that in order
for wild life to survive, the local communities must taste the
benefits of the wild life. This is done through job creation and
Under the protectionist scenario, the bull
elephant should remain alive, because being a hundred pound
tusker, he is a huge tourist attraction and therefore a
Tread lightly of the Earth
Elephant Bulls over 50 years old vs Human Men
over 50 years old
In the big tusker debate, a discussion
broke out between two posters.
The one said human men like Elephant
bulls over 50 years of age are no good for breeding.
The famous tracker Winnis Mathebula, was
still producing children with his young wife at the age of
My Kenyan tracker Lakakin Sukuli at 40
years of age, took a 14 year old wife. One of Lakakin's
reasons was that when he was 60 years old, his wife would be
34 and would still be able to produce children. According to
Lakakin many Masai men in their 70ís are still producing
Why donít all you female activists get a
sample of men over 50 and test their virility and their
I offer myself as a sample, but how you
get my sperm must be negotiated.
Tread Lightly On The Earth
I am tracking a young tigress through rugged
The rock I am standing on rolls from under my
feet. I have a high centre of gravity, my weight is distributed
downwards on two legs. The result is I fall heavily on the
The tigress is moving over the same rocks.
The rock rolls from under her paws. Her weight is distributed
over 4 legs, she has a low centre of gravity. As the rock rolls,
she simply jumps to the next rock. As she jumps, her tail is
stretched out rigid to counter balance her. As she lands, her
paws expand 30% and the digit pads mould around the rock upon
which she is landing. Her weight is distributed across all 4
Having picked myself up from my fall (the
tigress has heard the fall from 500m away), I follow the tigress
tracks into a dense thorn thicket. The thorns catch my clothes,
retarding my progress, vines trip me up. The tigress hears me
The tigress low to the ground, slips under
the bush. The thorns comb through her silky coat. She moves
silently on four leather padded paws. The tigress is moving at
5km an hour, clearly I will not catch up to this tigress.
I stop to rest and get to thinking. Did our
brain begin developing when we were moving around on all fours
or did our brain develop after we became an erect species,
moving on two legs.
Once we were moving on two legs, there were
certain advantages. We could see the prey over the grass. Our
hands were free to use weapons.
The disadvantages were, we could be easily
seen by the prey. Secondly, we were flat footed so acceleration
was difficult (a tigerís weight is thrown forward as it moves
and it can therefore accelerate swiftly if prey jumps up in
front of them). Thirdly, as an upright species, our centre of
gravity is high and we fall easily.
Once our brain developed, we moved from
primitive weapons to bows and arrows, to rifles, to automatic
rifles, to nuclear weapons.
Therefore my question for Dr Richard Leakey
and Prof Lee Berger is as follows:
Did our brain enlarge when we were a species moving around on
all fours or did we became an upright walking animal and then
our brain enlarged?
Tread Lightly on the Earth
It is with regret that I have to inform
you that the Tigress Oksana has been destroyed.
Under pressure from the male tiger,
Corbett, Oksana burrowed under a gabion and under the
electrical fence. Oksana must have been under enormous
pressure as large rocks were removed as she burrowed out.
I pursued her for 34 days across 6
different properties. I estimate that she covered 150 km
during this time.
A helicopter was called 4 times, but
Oksana refused to budge from the thick bush, even when the
helicopter went low level.
Five times she came to the entrance of
the baited drop door cage, but she never entered.
I tried playing distress calls of prey
animals, but she never responded.
A night vision infra red camera was
Gavin Rous, the vet came 3 times, but
never fired a single dart.
During the search, Oksana made 9 warthog
kills (Iím sure there were more), 2 porcupine kills, one
mountain reedbuck and a mountain zebra. When she died, her
chest was covered in porcupine quils.
On the journey, Oksana revealed water
holes and fountains that I never knew existed. She took me
through some of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever
Over 2 000 man hours were used in the
search. Construction of the lodge was delayed for 10 days as
construction crews refused to work through fear of the
Oksanaís father was Sariska and her
mother is TiBo (Oksana was a carrier of the rare recessive
Oksana was just 28 months old and at
dispersal age. Her death is a major setback for Tiger
Canyons and for me a deep personal loss.
Trackers: Jacob Pieterse, Jacob 2,
Sylvester, Herold Mogane, Dial Pieterse and Joseph
Vet: Dr Gavin Rous
Helicopter Pilot: Wesley
Rodney and Lorna Drew, Emma Wypkema, Ben, Keisha Kleinhans,
Thinus Steyn, JJ van Zyl, PD Jacobs, Jan Kruizenga, Piet,
Tian, Abel Erasmus.
I would especially like to thank Wimpie Geyer of the Free
State Nature Conservation for all the support given during
Tread Lightly on the Earth