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This is something I came across on Facebook. I know we all understand the fallacy of the hunting for conservation argument. Here, this particular conservationist in Africa talks about how he has to put down animals that escape out of the reserve and threaten the lives of people in nearby villages. He also puts animals that are badly injured out of their misery. He considers the act as noble and in the best interest of the animal. Supporting hunting, he gives an example of how a ban on hunting led to over grazing and the eventual destruction of a whole habitat. I thought it's an interesting topic to discuss the ethics of intervening with the lives of wild animals, our desire to control human-animal confrontation by culling the animals that happen to tresspass into human territory, rather than find a solution to the real problem - rapid human expansion and the shrinking of forests and natural animal habitats. Is there any truth at all to the assertion that hunting could in a meaningful way, improve the habitat and its animals? I would love your thoughts on some of the questions I have been thinking about.

1) Considering that, with our population only increasing, animal-human conflict will be ever more frequent, how best are we to resolve the issue?

2) Is it right to mercy kill an animal that is visibly suffering and cannot fend for itself? Do we have the right to intervene at all?

3) We as a species have already unbalanced nature, predator pray ratio and things like that. Knowing that there is no changing that, is there any truth to the fact that hunting could indeed improve habitats and allow them to support more life? I know  that it completely fails when looked through the animal rights perspective. I just want to know why so many conservationists believe in hunting and why they look at it as a solution.

Here is the article I read.

"Willem Botha Counter Poaching Volunteers

Hi All

I am Willem Botha on the photos that are causing so much controversy at the moment.

I am a game warden responsible for the protection of animals in a specific area. This area was fenced in by humans many years ago and there are humans living on the border of the reserve. In fact, some of the houses are less than 100m from the fence.

Part of the work of a game warden is to do problem animal control. This entails to attend to sick, injured and animals that broke out of the reserve. When animals continuously break out of the reserve and they become a threat to human life, the game warden responsible for the area is given instruction by the local authority which usually get there instruction from the Minister of environmental affairs to either put the animals down or to get assistance to put the animals down.

In some cases where animals are very sick, they need to be put down in order for a veterinarian to perform a necropsy on the animal to determine the severity of the disease and to determine whether the disease is life threatening to other animals or to humans in the area. I once contracted Rift Valley Fever from a sick buffalo which I had to shoot. Rift Valley Fever is a lethal disease and had I not discovered and killed the sick animal, it could have caused the disease to spread and we could have lost hundreds of other animals. I contracted the disease when I came in contact with the animal’s blood and I was severely ill for approximately 14 days.

When animals are badly injured to such an extent that there is nothing a veterinarian can do to save the animal, it is also the duty of the game warden to put the animal out of its misery. I had to shoot plenty young lions with broken back are which they incurred in fights with territorial males. Some of these lions with broken backs have been dragging their hind legs on the ground for so long that the skin was shaved away right to the bone. I have shot lions that were severely infected with Bovine Tuberculoses to such an extent that they could not breath or move properly any more. Some of these lions were in such a bad state that they were literally just skin and bone and did not have the power to even eat even if they were being fed. In an area where tourists are being taken on game drives, no tourist like to see animals in such conditions and if they do, they normally complain that nothing is done to assist the animal accuse the warden of miss management. I have shot Rhino, Elephant, giraffe, lion, buffalo, you name it, which were injured by poachers to such an extent that there was nothing one could do to save the animal. I had to shoot a 4 month old elephant calf because its whole trunk was severed by a poacher’s snare. Do you think that I liked doing that? Do you think I like tracking an elephant by the rotten smell of an injury it sustained by a snare around the ankle that became so septic that the puss come out of the animal’s hip.

I am being crucified by people who have no Idea of the work I am doing and even though I tried to explain to them, they only see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe. I have even been falsely accused of having a hunting operation and that I was advertising hunting safaris. When I pointed out and proved that it was not me, I was made out to be a liar. Some grown men even threatened to punch my 10 tear old daughter who appeared with me on a photo of a darted lion, in the face.

Some people turned the whole situation into a racial thing by calling me and some of the people who assisted me “White Thrash” and many other things. Do you want me to post the photos of the people who insisted that some of these animals were shot and see whether they were white?

The photo’s I post on facebook depicts the life of a game warden. Most people know a game ranger as the guy who sits behind the steering wheel of a Land Rover and take guests on a game drive and who tells them all these wonderful stories about the bush. Most of these guys are in fact tourist guides of which some of them have Nature Conservation qualifications and they still have a very long way to go before they can become game wardens. These photos’s tells you the story of a game warden and what he has to endure.

Each time I shot an animal which sustained injuries by poacher’s snares, I wished that it was rather the poacher I shot than the animal. Plenty photo’s where I sit with lion which seem to be dead, it is actually a lion that was darted for me to remove the snare and to treat the wounds where possible.

I have darted crocodile, lion, leopard, rhino and many more that escaped from the reserve and relocated them safely back to the reserve even though some of the animals kept on escaping and had to be put down eventually.

In 1994 people visited Robben Island and saw the antelope on the island. These people were informed that Robben Island was the hunting ground of the Prisoner Services Officers. They started a petition against the hunting on Robben Island and Robben Island was declared a gun free zone. Eight years after the island became a gun free zone, the animals started dying of starvation. All of the bontebok on the island died. All but one eland died. All but one ostrich died. Many springbok died. Many fallow deer died. Rabbits started climbing two meters high into trees to get to the leaves. What once was a beautiful habitat became a dessert where no animal could survive without human assistance. I had to try and move the remaining fallow deer from the island in order to safe them. Had they controlled the numbers like they did before the island became a gun free zone, the island would still have been as green as it was 100 years ago. Now the people who signed the petition blame it on bad management. The people who signed the petition are to blame because they made the island a gun free zone and the warden on the island could not control the numbers of the animals.

I do not have to feel bad for any animal which was shot by me as each and every animal which were shot by me was done so with a legitimate reason and never have I made money out of any of those animals as some people suggested in their posts.

Most of the people who made these negative comments do not know the difference between a hunting rifle and a dart gun. Then there is even one or two that referred to a hippo as a rhino and some don’t know the difference between a springbok and an impala. Please, don’t get involved in an argument you know nothing of.

If there is still anybody out there who does not understand who I am and what I do, then you do not want to understand it and I am no longer prepared to get into arguments with people who cannot reason realistically.

I know that I have done more for nature conservation in one day, than most of you people who is sitting behind your computers looking for someone to slander, have done or will do in a life time. Why don’t you rather join a volunteer group and go and face the extreme weather conditions of the African bush and do something productively than passing negative comments on someone who is doing just that.


Willem Botha"


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Replies to This Discussion

1) Considering that, with our population only increasing, animal-human conflict will be ever more frequent, how best are we to resolve the issue?

I know that many people who are deeply concerned with the lives of other animals think that the only way that we could ever resolve this issue would be for the human population to be radically reduced. I am sympathetic to that idea. It would make sense, on one level, for us, as a species, to limit our numbers in order to lessen our negative impact on the world. However, I think it's not a realistic solution to the problem and not one that could be achieved without draconian population control measures. We are going to have to figure out ways to live in the world, given the size that our population is likely to be. I think it's far less problematic to control populations of 'free-living animals' through contraceptive methods than it is to kill them. We ought not to substitute controlling other animals for controlling ourselves, but in the short run it seems better to me to prevent the "overpopulation" of other animals than would be to kill them or let them die agonizing deaths.

2) Is it right to mercy kill an animal that is visibly suffering and cannot fend for itself? Do we have the right to intervene at all?

Is it right to euthanize a new born baby who is born with terrible physical maladies? Is it right to withhold extraordinary life-sustaining technologies when all that those technologies do is prolong suffering and delay death? I think it could be right to do those things, and I believe that parents, in consultation with their physicians currently do do those things. If it is sometimes right to do those things when it comes to human infants, then it sometimes must also be right to do those things when it comes to other animals.

3) We as a species have already unbalanced nature, predator pray ratio and things like that. Knowing that there is no changing that, is there any truth to the fact that hunting could indeed improve habitats and allow them to support more life? I know  that it completely fails when looked through the animal rights perspective. I just want to know why so many conservationists believe in hunting and why they look at it as a solution.

I am opposed to killing other conscious beings, except in such extreme cases where death would be a reprieve as noted above in response to #2. There are better ways to deal with the problems which humans beings have, in large part, created. We stand a better chance of finding better solutions when we take the option of killing off the table. 

I don't think there is any reason for humans to interfere with free living individuals, as I believe that every attempt we have made to do so in the past has ended in tragedy. But, separate to that, I think it is a shocking position of arrogance and human supremacy to believe that we have a right or an obligation to interfere in the lives of other species or the ecosystems in order to somehow make things as humans believe they should be anyway. 

I think hunters, as with all individuals who wish to defend their use of others, will continue to make excuses to justify their commodification and exploitation of other animals. Just like circus owners do, dog fighting organisers do and those who eat other animals do.

 I think that human overpopulation is the root of all of the problems you have mentioned, and perhaps if we address that, rather than using other animals as the reason for the enormous habitat loss and over-use of resources on the planet, we may be able to work toward a solution. 

Thanks Carolyn and Tim for your replies. 

I completely agree that our population is at the root of all our problems. I remember Learie Keith mentioning that the ideal human population the Earth can sustain with our present lifestyle is 4 million (which was about the only thing worth acknowledging in her entire book). I agree with Tim that controlling population is a slow process and cannot be looked at as an immediate solution to the problem. Realistically, population will continue to increase in the near future and, keeping our greater goal to detach ourselves from the lives of other animals and allow them to live life in freedom and on their own terms, we should maybe accept the fact that all our actions right now and our present lifestyle are contributing to the destruction of life and habitats and look to do what's in the best interest of the planet and all its species in the moment? Like domestication, our greater goal is to end enslavement and the use of all animals for our benefit, but the animals that are already here need our protection. We are obligated to act in the their self interest because, we like it or not, it's a human world out there. I am not being a human supremeist, I'm only acknowledging the fact that we are controlling the planet, the environment and all life that depends on it. All the animals are bound by our rules, slaves to our reason and our acts kindness or violence. In a ideal world, we should leave the animals alone and let them live their lives on their own terms, but it isn't an ideal world. That being the case, can there be an argument against helping an injured animal in the wild? Willem Botha talks about killing lions infected with bovine tuberculosis. I agree that we have no right to take the life of another sentient being, but is it really wrong to intervene and treat them? I understand that these diseases exist in the frequency that they do as a direct result of human influence and a reduction in our population is again a long term solution to it. But since it exists now, shouldn't we take responsibility to the suffering we have caused and intervene to save lives, if that is the best thing to do for the animal? 

I agree with you, Carolyn, that trying to influence the lives of free animals is an act of human supremacy and I doubt any of the "hunters for conservation" people have a noble agenda at all. I think wild animals are just as bound and just as dependent on our choices and actions. So, I find it hard to argue that we should completely detach ourselves from them right now and maybe help them in the best ways we can, possibly including intervening into their lives and, as Tim mentioned, control the number of animals through contraception, if that will protect them from the actions of our species right now.

Thanks for posting this.  I suggest the next logical step for wildlife is land rights.  If we consider for example the history of white settlement in countries like Australia (where I live) and Africa and the U.S.A., it was based on disenfranchising the indigenous peoples of those countries.  As we move forward on animal rights I believe we need to place animals on a par with these rights that once we denied other humans. These indigenous peoples were driven off their land based on an assumption of inferiority, and I see many parallels with these struggles. With respect to the article, to me there seems something rather suspicious about what this person is claiming to be the case. I question the name 'game' warden which, and please correct me if I am wrong, seems to imply that he is managing a place where animals are intended to be hunted.  Not very well written which also suggests that this is not a person with much of an education. Highly dubious defence all up.

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