Driving across Texas envisioning the wildlife that was and remembering the Texas teen trophy huntress in Africa.
Strange emotions, seeing the sign Texas Tech University as we stop over for the night in the local RV park. This is probably not her campus as there are several throughout the state. Nonetheless, Texas Tech brings up disturbing images of a rather pretty smiling blonde cheerleader dressed in camouflage toting a rifle next to a dead animal. The notorious Texas teen trophy huntress, Kendall Jones.
How does she do it? How do others do it?
How can you look into the eyes of a giraffe, elephant, rhino, leopard, lion or any other living breathing being and pull the trigger with the sole intent to kill, take your photo next to it and hang its dead head on your wall?
And then to boot you call yourself a ‘wildlife conservationist’!
Driving through the large state of Texas, especially in the western part of the state, I’m reminded of Botswana. Vast open spaces with the road stretching for miles. Okay, the roads across Texas are slightly better maintained, and are wider as we could never pull our fifth wheel in Botswana, but then, that’s why we live in a Landy in Africa.
The prairies of Texas got me wondering… what wild animals lived here before the ranchers came in? Before the fences, before the sport hunting and the taking over by humans what graced these vast open spaces?
Well, I did a bit of Google research and found that there were some 142 species of animals and more than 540 species of birds once found in Texas. Sadly, many of the mammals are now quite rare or even extinct.
A small remnant population of black bears survive in the Tran-Pecos. The bison that once roamed the state were deliberately slaughtered. Reportedly over 200,000 hides were sold in a two-day sale in Fort Worth in 1878. Mountain lions once plentiful like the smaller cats, the ocelot and jaguarondi, are now extremely rare. The red wolf once found in the eastern parts of the state and gray wolf packs that roamed the west are no longer.
And so it goes with most mammals across Texas, except for the white tailed deer, coyote and cotton tailed rabbit most have been pushed out or intentionally eradicated.
Actually, the entire American continent was once teeming with wildlife, huge herds of bison of around 60 million they say, expansive herds of pronghorns, mountains with bighorn sheep, rivers full of beaver and otters, wolves and foxes flourishing, and birds and more birds. Now most of the magnificent species that once roamed this vast continent are found only in zoos or select reserves.
Maybe, that explains why Americans make up 90% of the trophy hunters in Africa? For generations Americans have shot animals for sport, for body parts or to eradicate them because they were in the way.
With trophy hunting and exploitation of wildlife being acceptable and big industry in many countries in Africa will this continent end up like America… civilized and progressive with concrete and cement? Caught up in consumerism, living a climate controlled existence far removed from nature?
Part, if not most of the intrigue, the fascination, the very heart of Africa is embedded in its iconic wildlife and wild places, its ability to bring humanity in touch with its very soul.
Thank goodness for those who work tirelessly to save and preserve Africa as we envision it… as we need it! For Africa truly is beautiful, yet oh so vulnerable!
Our thanks to people like Silke, Shannon, Peter, Chris, Marnus, Karen, Patrick, Vincent, Carol, Marian, Dion, Drew, Janet, Kevin and so many, many more…. Never give up as not only the wildlife and Africa, but the world is counting on you.