Friday 20 September 2019

I have no regrets, says hunter who has killed at least 5,000 elephants

Zimbabwean Ron Thomson
Zimbabwean Ron Thomson

Jane Dalton

A hunter who has killed more than 5,000 elephants and 50 hippos has said he is “10,000 times” unrepentant.

Zimbabwean Ron Thomson has been identified as a prolific wildlife hunter in a new report revealing how elephant populations have plummeted by about two-thirds.

As well as thousands of elephants, the 80-year-old states on his website he has also shot dead more than 800 buffalo, up to 60 lions (“including six man-eaters”), up to 40 leopards, about 50 hippos “and many more”.

The father of two, who spent his life as a game ranger in African national parks, denied being motivated by bloodlust and insisted he killed to help populations survive.

If key species were not reduced, their growing numbers would destroy their own habitats, Mr Thomson said.

He also accused western conservationists of spreading “fraudulent lies” to extract money from the public while understanding nothing about managing wildlife.

Elephant numbers have sunk from about 1.3 million in the 1980s to about 400,000, according to an investigation by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH).

The Great Elephant Census, finalised in 2016, showed 352,271 African savanna elephants in 18 countries, down 30 per cent in seven years.

Mr Thomson denied being a trophy-hunter or culling animals, arguing his job was “major population reduction”.

He said he no longer regularly hunts but may do so if invited. “I’ve done enough in my lifetime to satisfy any ‘bloodlust’ people may think I have. It wasn’t bloodlust – it was my job," he said.

When he raised a rifle to an animal, he thought “I’ve got to kill it absolutely with one shot”, he told The Independent.

“I didn’t have any sentiment. I’m totally unrepentant, a hundred – ten thousand – times over for any of the hunting I’ve done because that’s not the problem. The problem is we’ve got a bunch of so-called experts from the West telling us what to do. I’m a trained university ecologist – I must surely know something about this.”

“I wish I could take you by the shoulders and shake you hard and say ‘don’t assume everything you’ve heard is correct’,” he said. “The African elephant is nowhere near extinct. People who say this are animal-right-ist NGOs who ask for money and tell lies to get it. When you have a healthy population you must ensure they don’t increase beyond the capacity of their habitat.”

The CBTH found 1.7 million trophies were legally traded between 2004 and 2014, including 200,000 from threatened species.

Lions fared worst, suffering the biggest increase in trophy hunting among key species since 2004.

Eduardo Gonçalves, founder of the campaign, said: “Trophy hunting is a cruel and abhorrent hangover from colonial times. The recent surge in elephant hunting shows the industry is out of control.”

Operations sometimes “overstock” but that is rare in “natural” populations, he said.

“The African elephant population as a whole is in very serious decline," he said. “There are numerous instances of ‘management culling’ being used as a cover for trophy-hunting. Hunting and ‘culling’ can create more human-wildlife conflict issues than they solve. If you remove a mature elephant bull from a herd, young males often display behaviour similar to juvenile delinquency among humans. This causes more conflict and persecution.”

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