I see that the Daily Maverick (and my friend Diana) beat me to the punch with this post. And you should definitely read this article: In Defence Of A Lion Killer. Personally – I was a bit bored by the “criticising Melissa is sexist” section. But it’s the second part that’s more interesting.
As an aside: this post is an ideological follow-on from an earlier one: The Economics of Rhino Extinction.
The Background (in case you’ve been living in an internet black-hole)
- Melissa Bachman is an avid hunter. Also, a TV presenter.
- She recently hunted a lion at the Maroi Conservancy in South Africa.
- She bragged about it on Twitter (and everywhere else).
- By posting this picture:
- Which resulted in mass outrage.
- And a petition to keep her out of South Africa for ever.
Other Pictures of Melissa that Didn’t Spark Outrage
[fair warning – some of these are graphic]
Here she is with bambi:
A wild boar:
Winnie the Pooh:
Actually, that last one I found pretty offensive.
I just want to point out the Melissa Bachman is a TV presenter on a show called Winchester Deadly Passion. “Winchester” as in: the hunting rifle manufacturers. She hosts a hunting show. A quote:
“A show that will keep you on the edge of your seat with a hardcore hunting style mixed with Melissa’s genuine and fun loving personality”
And sure, I’m offended again (by the phrase “fun loving”, because honestly, who doesn’t love fun?) – but she’s not claiming to be anything other than a hunter.
Buzzfeed posted an article entitled “TV Presenter Melissa Bachman angers the entire internet“. And there’s another article on buzzfeed, where the author calls her a coward and puts up many selfies that involve posing with lions near a game truck.
Oh – and here’s the link to the petition on change.org: “The Government of the Republic of South Africa: Deny future entry to Melissa Bachman“. Which has 326,928 signatures at the time of posting. And the basis for the petition is that “she is an absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation, this country prides itself on“.
That statement is a brassy example of:
- South Africa’s education system (checks out that grammar, yo – what is going on with the random comma?); and
- A blatant falsehood.
Is Hunting Anti-Conservation?
The evidence suggests that it isn’t. In fact: almost entirely the opposite. And that’s on two fronts: both in theory and on the empirical evidence.
The Theoretical Rationale for Hunting As Conservation
- The fundamental economic problem is one of unlimited human want and scarce natural resources.
- Animal conservation takes up valuable natural resources (specifically: land and a potential food source).
- The burden of conservation does not lie with the liberals in micro-roasted coffee shops with their outrage: it rests with the local communities that surround the conservancy and are being told not to farm and not to hunt.
- In terms of economic efficiency, the local communities have a clear vested interest to just ignore the boundary lines…
- Unless the conservancy can make itself a more attractive economic alternative to farming and hunting.
- So the conservancy breeds animals and applies for hunting permits and charges Melissa Bachman about $30,000 to hunt her lion (here’s a list of hunting prices that I stole from the Daily Maverick article), not including her lodging and food.
- The local community become involved in the hunting industry: working in lodges and as guides and so on.
- And the Conservancy becomes a sustainable enterprise, which now has a vested interest in conserving its wildlife populations.
- It’s conservation with a profit motive.
- And it works.
The Empirical Evidence
The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, on its website, makes the following (summarised) claims:
- In 1964, South Africa had a national herd of wild game consisting of around 575,000 wild animals.
- The safari hunting and game lodge industry began to develop at around that time.
- Today, the wildlife population is close to 19 million.
- White rhino, black wildebeest and bontebok were brought back from the brink of extinction by breeding programs on private game farms.
- Sable and Roan as well.
- Also: the South African hunting industry contributes R8 billion to GDP each year.
And here is the direct comparison:
- Kenya banned all hunting in 1977 (sport-hunting, hunting for meat, everything).
- It has lost between 60% and 70% of its large mammals since.
- Here is a paper by Mike Norton-Griffiths (an economic environmental consultant who presents a lot of papers at conferences) called “How Many Wildebeest Do You Need?” where he explains the causal link between these two pieces of evidence.
- And here’s a 2007 article from the Economist.
PS: the Daily Maverick also found this study: Saving African Rhinos: A Market Success Story. It’s an excellent account of how market incentives (through permitted rhino hunting) saved the rhino in South Africa.
Let’s start a petition to allow Melissa Bachman (and her money) to come back to South Africa more often. Or, better yet, let’s change the petition to: “The Government of the Republic of South Africa: Deny Future Entry to Michele Bachmann”.
Because Michele Bachmann is a wart on the face of human decency.
Melissa Bachman, on the other hand, is saving the world – one $30,000 trophy at a time.