Photographs showing billionaire Donald Trump's two sons posing next to wild animals that they killed in Zimbabwe have gone viral, sparking debate over whether or not such trophy hunting should still be allowed.
The images show Eric and Donald Trump proudly showing off their animal victims, which included a leopard, elephant, crocodile, water buffalo, civet, kudu and other species. The photos were snapped two years ago, during a trip organized by Hunting Legends International, but only recently made the Internet rounds.
The killings were perfectly legal, as hunting even leopards is allowed in many African countries, such as Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, in addition to Zimbabwe.
Leopards have vanished from almost 40 percent of their historic range in Africa, and from over 50 percent of their historic range in Asia, according to the organization Panthera.But many people in Africa, particularly farmers, view leopards as a nuisance. Illegal killings of these wild cats are common in certain regions, along with the legal hunting.
Hunters from the U.S. can also bring home their prey, so long as they follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Guidelines. (You can view a summary of the regulations if you Download Salaet.) A CITES permit is required to hunt leopards and elephants in countries where that is legal. The Trumps can even bring home two leopards apiece each year.
We buy up these farms, which have all seen better days, as technology has changed and many of these generations of pioneering farmers have disappeared from the scene. We rebuild the farms from scratch and change them back into private game sanctuaries. We take down the cattle fences, we demolish all the shacks, old sheds and cattle pens, we replace cattle, pigs, sheep and goats with all the wildlife which used to roam here before. Through proper management we rid the farm of alien plants, we re-establish the land as it was before and we now have more than 4000 wild animals roaming about freely on 25000 acres of unspoilt nature again - just in one of our private reserves. We sustain ourselves financially by allowing trophy hunters to come to our private wildlife sanctuaries (which we personally bought, paid for, developed and saved from disaster) and hunt our old & mature male animals, which are beyond their prime productive time. We manage our animal population extremely scientifically as it is the backbone to our business. We only shoot a numbered amount of animals every year. We create jobs for local hungry people, we feed them and we look after our own wildlife sanctuaries as if our lives depend on it – because it does!
Well-known hunters, such as musician Ted Nugent, would likely agree with that view. Nugent recently told Fox411.com, "Anybody with a shred of honesty supports the Trumps, and all hunters, as the best damn hands-on value conservationists on earth. The Trumps are welcome at the Nugent family sacred hunting grounds anytime."
Clearly not everyone shares that opinion, as Donald Trump himself has been fielding criticism left and right since the photos came into public view. He's been on TV, Tweeting and more these days about the matter.
Stephen Lamb of Touching the Earth Lightly told the Cape Times that he was outraged by the images showing the Trump sons with the dead animals.
Lamb said, "Hunting as an activity was there for a reason. It was there for human life sustenance, for people to eat. People who lived in tune with nature and understood their place in it."
He added, "In a traditional hunter-gatherer sense it was acceptable, but these days are mostly over. In a world where we are trying to save animals from extinction, trophy hunting has no place on this planet. Conservation is fundamentally a pro-life philosophy, one that respects all things living, equally. Conservation does not need the blood money of rich people who kill for pleasure."
Lamb continued, "What conservation initiatives were funded by this killing, and who endorses them? Considering Zimbabwe's legacy of corruption, these are the questions that must be asked. It's all too easy to use the 'it's for conservation' line."
Another argument for killing wild game is that the meat is often used to feed people. Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, often hears that about rhino and elephant meat. But, in terms of feeding individuals, he told me, "There are plenty of other things they can eat, such as beef, goat, chicken and fish." The populations of these animals are not under threat, and they can be farmed and better controlled.