Big game hunters preserving species

Published on Tuesday, 8 July 2014 23:19 - Written by

A Texas Tech sophomore is in trouble with the left for shooting animals in Africa — even though evidence shows this is the best way to preserve endangered species. Sure, it’s counter-intuitive. But it works.

“Animal rights activists aren’t pleased with a Texas Tech University cheerleader’s hunting trips that have left trails of blood throughout Africa,” the New York Daily News reported last week. “The pictures of her beaming beside dead animal carcasses have caused an uproar heard around the Internet. Kendall Jones, 19, of Cleburne, has been uploading these controversial pictures to Facebook to promote her hunting career and hopes to host a TV show on hunting.”

Here’s one of the nicest comments that appeared on Jones’ Facebook page: “Congrats you shot a lion, when you take one down in a fair fight with your bare hands I’ll consider that impressive.”

But those activists are missing the point. Kendall’s actions are beneficial to the species, because she paid for the privilege.

Frank Miniter, of Forbes magazine, went on a safari in Africa recently, to see how capitalism — more specifically, the commercialization of game preservation — has resulted in better protected herds of wild animals.

Miniter examined several endangered species in Africa that were saved by the big game-hunting DeBeers family of South Africa, which set up hunting preserves.

“The red hartebeest and black wildebeest, to name two species, were virtually extinct elsewhere in southern Africa in the mid-twentieth century,” Miniter said. “By trapping and transferring animals from this property ... areas around southern Africa were able to begin new herds.”

Miniter quoted a professional hunter in Africa.

“People are worried about the African lion and I am too,” that hunter explained. “But right here is an example of how giving wild game a real value can save them. You’ll see kudu, giraffe, zebra, springbok and a lot more on this property. Leopard are even making a comeback here. All this game has been in good numbers for generations because hunters protected them and kept the land wild.”

The principle here is called the “tragedy of the commons.” When something belongs to everyone, it belongs to no one.

As Miniter said, “As he spoke I thought that if Adam Smith had known a thing about wildlife he could have written a whole chapter in that wordy book of his about how wild animals with a real commercial value are apt to be bred and spread over the land. When people realize it’s in their own self-interest to do so it’s much more likely to happen — altruism isn’t as trustworthy a friend as self-interest.”

Kendall Jones gets this.

“There are many parts of Zimbabwe where there is an abundant population of leopard that wreak havoc on the livestock of the farmers in the village,” Jones said in an interview. “Instead of the villagers killing the leopards to prevent livestock damage, permits are sold to hunters to do this for them.”

Revenue from the permits helps those economies, she added. History is on her side.