Shot Elephant Falls on Trophy Hunter, Killing Him

Published by Michelle Kretzer.

South African trophy hunter Theunis Botha made a career out of flying to the U.S. and persuading Americans with swollen wallets and shrunken consciences to go to Africa to see breathtaking wildlife—and gun the animals down. But during one such “big-game safari” recently, fate turned the tables.

Botha was leading a hunt in Zimbabwe near the Hwange National Park on Friday when the group disturbed a herd of elephants during breeding (which their decimated population desperately needs). The hunters said that three female elephants ran toward them, so Botha and others shot at them. A fourth elephant grabbed Botha with her trunk, presumably to keep him from killing her family. Another hunter shot the elephant, and as she fell, she collapsed on top of Botha, crushing him.

People rightfully have sympathy for the Botha family’s loss. But they aren’t the only ones whose beloved family member was killed that day. Because of Botha and the killing sprees he led, countless elephants, lions, leopards, crocodiles, and other animals watched as their loved ones were slain for a wall mount. Helping to save their lives instead would have saved his.

National Geographic‘s Dereck Joubert estimates that there are about 20,000 lions left in Africa. Just 50 years ago, there were 450,000—a 95 percent decline. Trophy hunters, usually American, kill about 600 of them every year. They also kill about 5,000 leopards every year. There are only 50,000 left. The current population of African elephants is about 300,000, and up to 40,000 are killed every year. It isn’t hard to see that at this rate, elephants and other wild animals won’t be around much longer.

And African communities benefit far more from wildlife tourism. As reported by NPR, “Nature tourism generates 13 to 15 times more revenue than trophy hunting.”

Here’s hoping that Botha’s story compels other safari leaders to start shooting animals with cameras, not guns.

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