In an Open Letter John Varty, a Global Environmental Activist, suggests a disconcerting scenario that led to the deaths of the beloved elephant Voortrekker and Cecil the Lion. Both these iconic animals were killed by trophy hunters. The former in Namibia and the latter four years ago this month in Zimbabwe.
John shares some back story to put trophy hunting and what leads up to killings of Voortrekker and Cecil in a larger, darker context.
With John’s permission his open letter follows.
An Open Letter to Pohamba Shifeta, Minister of Environment and Tourism in Cabinet of Namibia and Dr Alfredo Tjuiurimo Hengari, Press Secretary and Presidential Advisor
The Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism, Namibia
Honourable Minister, I once had a conservation with Doctor Kenneth Kaunda the ex President of Zambia. Kenneth Kaunda claimed he had the densest population of leopard in Africa in the Luangwa Valley and therefore the best leopard viewing.
On the first point I agreed with him, on the second point not so!
Surrounding South Luangwa National Park are hunting concessions. Young male leopards born in the Luangwa Valley disperse when they are 20 months old. Now they are lured to baits and shot by overseas hunters in the hunting concessions next to South Luangwa National Park.
So Mr Kaunda, you can never compete with Londolozi who have partnershipped with leopards for over 5 decades.
You create the trust of the leopard inside the South Luangwa Park in the eco tourist industry. You photograph, film and habituate the leopard in the park and then you betray that trust when you shoot him in your hunting industry for money. Is that fair Doctor Kaunda?
When you led Zambia, you were known as a fair man. I ask you again Doctor Kaunda is that fair? (At that point Doctor Kaunda left the meeting)
So I ask you Honourable Minister of Environment of Namibia.
You have an icon elephant called ”Voortrekker”. He is known to thousands of people around the world. Pictures and movies have been made about him. Some of the journeys Voortrekker has undertaken, have baffled elephant scientists.
“Voortrekker” was a living treasure, he did not belong to Namibia, he belonged to the World!
“Voortrekker” was as well known as “Cecil the Lion” and “Skye from Umbabat”, yet you shot him for money. Is that fair Honourable Minister? I ask you the same question I asked Kenneth Kaunda, is that fair?
Desperate countries like Zimbabwe are selling off young elephant and sending them to zoos. This is for money!
But Namibia is not a “desperate nation”. I have always regarded Namibia and its conservation as that of a winning nation.
I understand about sustainable utilization and wildlife must pay its way. I understand!
I understand that the President of Botswana has 130,000 elephants and he has conflict between his rural people and the elephants. I understand that!
But that is not what I am talking about. You photographed, filmed, researched and habituated Voortrekker for many years and when it suited you, you shot him for money!
I ask you again. Is that fair?
Tread Lightly on the Earth
Global Environmental Activist
Whatsapp: +27 (0)83 651 1600