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Hunters Did That, Too

Hunters have plenty of reason to be proud. Two of those reasons are the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and the Denali National Park in Alaska. Hunters were the force behind the creation of both.

In the 2003 Winter Issue of The Alaska Professional Hunter, Robert Fithian, Executive Director, reminded everyone of the role that hunters played in the creation of both the McNeil River and Denali Park treasures. Denali National Park (initially Mt. McKinley National Park) was created from the effort of a hunter by the name of Charles Sheldon; his Alaska guide, Harry Karsten; and the Game Committee of the Boone and Crocket Club. 

The McNeil River State Game Sanctuary is the greatest bear viewing site in the world. It exists because of the tireless petitioning of the Alaska Board of Game by Slim Moose. Slim was a well-known Alaskan guide and member of the Alaska Professional Hunter’s Association.

Jim Fithian points out that hunters are the true stewards who have lead the way. "We can stand by our contributions to the well being of our wildlife and wild-lands. We have always provided for and carried the economic burden of management of our wildlife resources. Management that is based on true science applied to proper stewardship conservation principles and mandated by our needs of food, economics and enjoyment. In Alaska, our State Constitution requires that our wildlife be utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle. It further assures full utilization and development of our fish and wildlife resources."


African Rhino Increasing in Numbers and Value

The foremost rhino experts report that the rhino population in Africa is the highest since the early 1980s, and that its live-sale price at auction has skyrocketed. The African Rhino Specialist Group (AFRSG) is a specialist group of IUCN's Species Survival Commission. Its mission is to promote the growth of viable populations of the various subspecies of African rhinos in the wild. Every second year it seeks to compile and synthesize information on the status (number and range) and conservation of African rhinos across their range. The group's most recent figures place the population of white rhino in the wild at 10,400 and the black rhino at 2,700. According to Martin Brooks, the chair-president of the AFRSG, this is "the first time since the mid 1980s that African rhino numbers have exceeded 13,000."

The southern white rhino numbers have continued to increase. They went from 6,784 in 1993; to 7,532 in 1996; to 8,441 in 1997; to 10,377 in 1999. All countries of the southern subspecies are increasing. Though 94 percent of southern white rhino are in the Republic of South Africa (9,754), Zimbabwe had 208, Kenya 164 and Namibia had 163. Twenty-two percent (2,319) are now privately owned.

The black rhino population is also creeping up. There were about 2,400 in 1992 and 1995, which increased to 2,600 in 1997 and to 2,700 in 1999. This distribution is 1,074 in South Africa, 695 in Namibia, 435 in Zimbabwe and 420 in Kenya. Some black rhino populations "have been performing sub-optimally and may be overstocked." These arguably may develop into hunting opportunities in time. According to the Scientific Officer in the group, Richard Emalie, only 2.81 percent of the black rhinos are privately owned, as compared to 22.29 percent of white rhinos. This comports with the policy statement that "if it pays, it stays." There are 251 different discrete white rhino populations in Africa and 178 (70.9 percent) of them are privately owned. Not so of the black rhino population, of which only nine are privately owned. One can only conclude that sustainable use has served the white rhino well and that the potential of use is now beginning to serve black rhinos too.

The only African rhino not stable or increasing in number and locations is the Western black rhino in Cameroon. "Time for its survival is running out," according to the AFRSG. "It is the most critically endangered of all African rhinos." Capture and captive breeding in a protected sanctuary is thought to be the only resort left for that subspecies.

The AFRSG also reports that live rhino sales values at the Hluhluwe 2000 game auctions in Kwa Zulu - Natal were at record levels. The prices ranged from $29,000(US) to $50,365 per rhino. The average was $29,200. The 1999 rhino prices have had a 4 1/2-fold increase since 1996 and were 70 percent more than 1998 prices. The prices of black rhino were also up. Six were sold at $54,750 each. The total sales were $1.23 million for 42 white rhino and $330,000 for six black rhino. Tourist hunting is accepted in this instance as having been a substantial force behind the conservation and continuing recovery of African rhino.


The Role of Trophy Hunting, etc.

Role of Trophy Hunting: “During the first part of the previous century . . . [w]ildlife was considered undesirable competitors for grazing that could best be used to produce livestock . . . and even in the late 1950s land was advertised in the Eastern Cape with one advantage being that it contained no wildlife. . . . Today, we have more wildlife than at any time in the past 100 years. Wildlife ranching has contributed significantly to this recovery. . . . What was not expected was that trophy hunting and not meat production would provide the initial stimulus to develop wildlife ranching as a major economic force in South Africa.” (Source: J. du P. Bothma University of Pretoria, November 2002.)

Importance of Sportsmen: “First, it’s clear that wildlife and habitat conservation is important to the sportsmen and women of America. But the reverse is equally true: sportsmen and women are of vital importance to successful wildlife conservation. These folks are a powerful voice for conservation and a powerful force in our economy as well.” (Source: Steven A. Williams, Director of USF&WS, October 1, 2002.

Reversal in Zimbabwe: “For many years, it was colonial governments’ policy to eradicate game to reduce competition with sheep or cattle or to protect domestic livestock from game-borne disease like rinderpest or sleeping sickness. The colonial governments with the resources of Europe behind them failed to exterminate wildlife, so there is good reason to expect that, despite the massive increase in human population, the much lower efficiency of today will ensure the survival of the game, and thence hunting, for the future.” (Source: Don Heath, Editor, African Hunter Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2002.)

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