In the episode, which aired Sunday night (a highlight reel is posted above), host Tony Makris and a guide stalk an elephant in the Okavango Delta of Botswana -- "a mecca for elephant hunting," according to a narrator.
Makris boasts of his "positively lethal" rifle and the .577 ammunition ("made to kill ivory") used to take down the beast. Hiding in a bush, he fires two shots a the "cheeky" pachyderm, who runs away. Makris and his guide eventually catch up to the elephant, killing it. They later celebrate the kill with a bottle of Champagne.Here's the really nasty stuff.
The elephant hunt was perfectly legal. Yes, Botswana is closing its borders to hunting of any kind, and if you'd like to ready an intelligent article on the subject, I suggest Dr. Kevin Robert's thoughtful article in Sports Afield:
Banning sport hunting is not going to make all these problems disappear—that is for sure. You and I both know this. In fact, it is only going to make things worse. Subsistence poaching is going to escalate as rural communities lose the funds sport hunting once generated. When this happens, even more pressure is going to be placed upon the dwindling antelope numbers. When wildlife loses its economic value, it is replaced with something that is valuable. Look at what has happened in Kenya, for example. This once wonderfully rich wildlife country has, since the banning of sport hunting, lost 80 percent of its wildlife. Only time will tell if Botswana walks the same path.
I'm not going to go full rant on the level of hypocrisy that is intrinsic in the antihunting fanatics — even if you only eat free-range, grass-fed beef "harvested" in the most humane manner, and you know the name of the pig who ended up as your chops, I can assure you that the cow didn't go happily to the bolt, the pig to the charcuterie, even that wild salmon to the net. We outsource our killing and pretend that act makes us virtuous.
We forget the admonition of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." We tamed the world, then we want to step back and let Nature — definitely with a capital "N" — take its course. The "wild" that we seek to preserve for the most part isn't any different than the park closest to your house...it requires management to exist. Even Etosha, larger than Switzerland, is not a preservation of the wild, but a recreation of the wild — by 1900 all the elephants, lions, leopards and other large animals were gone, victims of overhunting and the move to a ranching/farming economy. Etosha was created, and carefully managed.
An analogy, no matter how big a glass aquarium you get for your house, you can never simply let that aquarium go wild, that is, stop your regular maintenance and let nature take its course. Should you do that, the "course" nature will take ends up a stinking bowl of fetid water and dead fish and plants.
I could talk about the competing economics of hunting and ecotourism, but I suspect none of that matters in this conversation. Rather, in the First World we have moved toward a culture that places value on "experiences" rather than real experience. For example, is there any need to travel the world when you can get that international "experience" at Epcot in Florida? Should we have to deal with the chaotic, often bloody mess of Africa when we can go to Busch Gardens in Tampa and:
Feel yourself being swept away to the African veldt on an open-truck tour that takes you up close to the wonders of our 65-acre Serengeti Plain, where you'll meet some magnificent animals.
Get nose-to-nose with a giraffe. Learn a thing or two about zebras you never knew until you got this close. Understand exotic species like bongo, eland and ostrich as your guide helps bring you closer to the wildlife and wild places in this world we share.
...a wildlife "experience" as U2 might say, even better than the Real Thing.
Maybe I'm just being crotchety this morning, but my idea of a nightmare is a world of "experiences" bereft of real experience.
"Take a deep breath and remember that the whole world sucks, America sucks less, and Texas during deer season doesn't suck at all."
— Brother Ted Nugent