Why hunting is vital to conservation:
Many people hunt for a variety of reasons, not often do you hear conservation being one of them. Some hunters are looking for trophies while some hunters are looking for food. Many people may ask, in this day and age, why people hunt for food when it's easy in most places to just go to the store and shop. Often the answer has more to do with food or trophies rather than the health of the species. While we are not here to debate why some people decide to hunt for their food and others don't; it's an undeniable truth that hunting is a vital factor to conservation, worldwide. Immediately, this topic often sparks debate and I'm sure some reading this have already had a rise in blood pressure. Many would pose the question, how killing wild animals may actually help promote a healthier population. While it's a hard concept to follow for some that have a deep passion for wildlife, it really takes a less emotional and more of a logical view to understand. If you had to put it in the most simplistic of ways, you may think of a herd of animals as a stack of cups. Imagine if you will, that you have a gallon of water and each cup in your stack needs to be half full to be healthy. This gallon of water represents the herds basic needs to survive (food, water, etc.). Now at first with only a few cups in your stack you can see that these cups are easily filled and can even be filled more than half full. Now slowly add more cups to your group and keep filling them half full. You will notice that the more cups you add, the less water there is to go around, this represents population growth. Now many would argue that's where natural deaths and predators come in to control the population. Well let's go back to our cups and remove a cup every two cups we fill, to account for this. Now the population continues to grow, but at a slower rate. The end result eventually remains the same still. Now imagine if you would, we need to take a quart out of your gallon of water for other purposes. This represents human population growth impact which, mind you is constantly growing. This impact leaves less room for animals and their needs, which amplifies the need for proper management throughout the ecosystem. Once again, we can see, the need for even more population control with the human impact fact. If wolves are allowed to overpopulate, eventually they will kill off game populations and look for food in other areas, leading to rises in livestock and pet attacks. If bears are allowed to over populate, it leads to similar consequences with sometimes even fatal attacks on humans. With rises in deer, moose or caribou populations it can lead to larger traffic incidents and lower food resources which can diminish the health of the population. Even though this example is a quite simple one, you can see the point of how hunting helps keeps the vital balance in today's management of our wildlife. Agencies like US fish and wildlife and local fish and game department usually use hunting to keep this balance at a level which allows populations be as healthy as possible. A great example of how hunting helps game animals can be seen in Africa. Africa for years has been the center of debate for trophy hunting and many blame trophy hunters for some of the African animal populations being on the border of extinction, but never considered how hunting is helping grow populations in this part of the World. In 2014, a story of hunter Corey Knowlton got international attention when he won a bid on a $350,000-dollar permit through the Dallas Safari Club to hunt the endangered Black Rhinoceros. It's important to note here that this hunt was sanctioned to be auctioned off by Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism. When Corey Knowlton won this hunt he began to receive, death threats and negative attention worldwide. This was Corey's response, "If they would look beyond the headlines and beyond their own emotional reaction to it and read into it, I think a lot of them would have a different opinion." Let's take a look at what Mr. Knowlton meant when he said if they read into it, they might understand. A look into the behavior of the black rhinoceros, tells us that males are extremely territorial and will fight to the death over females. Thousands of pounds of horn and muscle in a death match, talk about a hell of a rut. Males can reach up to 30-50 years old and still are very aggressive. Male rhinos have to reach 10-12 years old before breeding and claiming a territory, which in and of itself it's quite a long time and can be and reason in and of itself for slow population growth. As they reach the age where they can no longer reproduce, the large males will still fight younger males for territory and females. Namibia as a country whose animal populations have been scarred by poaching has recognized these aggressive traits of older rhinos and chose to take a different approach to solve the problems of poaching and animal endangerment. Namibia tracks their black rhinoceros and tags these old rhinos. They then auction off tags for these specific animals and use 100 percent of the funding to strengthen their protection from poachers and into their conservation fund. When these older males are harvested, it relieves competition over females and territory, allowing more reproduction and population growth. Not only did Corey Knowlton's hunt help increase the population of the black rhinoceros, but after it was all said and done, the USFWS said in a statement to CNN that his hunt brought in more than 500,000 to the conservation fund to protect the black rhinoceros. In a statement after the hunt when asked how if he still felt the same Corey Knowlton responded that killing this black rhino was the right thing to do and that it will benefit the future of this endangered species.
"I felt like from day one it was something benefiting the black rhino," Knowlton reflected just moments after the hunt ended. "Being on this hunt, with the amount of criticism it brought and the amount of praise it brought from both sides, I don't think it could have brought more awareness to the black rhino."
As you can see from this example, hunting promotes conservation in a variety of ways, from bringing in funding to raising awareness in this case. Hunting and conservation in this country have been tied together for many years. In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt, through his passion of hunting and the outdoors, had recognized the disappearance of many animal’s populations and created the 1906 American Antiquities Act. This Act gave birth to the United States Forest Service (USFS) and establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land, becoming known as the father of American conservation.
Today, conservation and hunting remain closely tied all across the country with hunting bringing in millions into conservation through permits and licensing and organizations like safari club international donating hundreds of thousands into conservation efforts. It's the responsibility of every hunter and American to take part in conservation in order keep our wildlife thriving. From the way, hunters choose the animals they harvest to the money they use to buy their they permit, hunters help conservation every day. So next time, someone asks how the harvesting of animals can possibly help keep populations thriving, instead of arguing and debating, educate them on these stories of success through hunting and keep this key to conservation alive.