Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Killing Skye: Some Call It ‘Hunting’

Photo courtesy of Africa Geographic
The photo on the left is of a popular lion known as Skye. Skye is missing. Skye is likely dead. Skye was likely baited in and killed by a guy named Jared Whitworth, a Safari Club member from Hardinsburg, Kentucky, who spends a lot of money to get permits and pay guides to lead him to and help him kill beautiful "trophy" animals for fun, status and ego-gratification. He (and others) call it "Hunting."  

Here's what we know for sure: Whitworth recently paid to kill a baited, mature male lion near Kruger National Park in South Africa, within the home range of Skye and his pride. The trophy-killing industry, guides, so-called hunters, and agency officials are refusing to release details. Some claim he didn't kill Skye, but killed another mature male lion. But as Simon Espley, CEO of Africa Geographic, explains: 

“The trophy hunting team insist that the lion killed was not Skye the pride male, claiming that he was in fact an old male lion with worn teeth and a protruding spine. But they refuse point blank to supply a photo of the dead lion to prove their claim, citing legal and personal safety concerns. Lynam and others insist that Skye the pride male was killed. According to Lynam, Skye has not been seen since the day of the killing of that lion. Additionally, one of his cubs has since been killed and some of the pride lionesses have been beaten up as a new coalition of males has moved into the area. This is classic lion behaviour when a dominant male is removed and new male/s move into the vacuum – cubs are killed (infanticide) and lionesses are beaten up as they try to defend their cubs.”

When asked if he could see the lion, one reporter was told by an agency official: “The moment the client pulled the trigger, the lion became his property. Consent to view can only be given by the client.”

The “client,” Jared Whitworth, has not given consent. He seems to be in hiding. 

Whitworth paid a ton of money (lion tags can sell for as high as $35,000 -- the bigger and more rare, the more expensive) to have guides bait a lion for him, into close range, and tell him where and when to shoot, back him up in case he missed, and then take photos of him proudly standing over the carcass. 

According to Espley:  “Whitworth is a member of Safari Club International (SCI), which defines hunting success in terms of size and rarity. Apparently the larger the horns/tusks and rarer the animal, the more respect you are due for killing it. Whitworth’s 15-year-old daughter was awarded the title ‘2018 SCI Young Hunter of the Year,’ and the SCI website features her proudly posing with a massive buffalo she killed.”

Other hunters defend such actions and insultingly refer to killers like Whitworth as “hunters” and “conservationists.” They confuse paying guides to help you kill for ego and amusement with hunting, and they confuse conservation (the protecting of wildlife, wild places, and healthy, functioning ecosystems) with animal husbandry (protecting, and often raising and producing, certain types of animals as marketable commodities that some people will pay to kill -- often to the detriment of other wildlife, and healthy, functioning ecosystems). Many hunters -- always fearful of "anti-hunters" hiding behind every bush, trying to put an end to their "traditions" and "way of life" -- defensively dig in and rally around the flag to defend such actions with tiresome (some partially-true, but mostly questionable, easily-refuted bullshit) claims of these senseless vanity killings being “good for conservation,” “good for local economies,” “good for the species,” and “providing financial incentives to protect animals.”  

When I listen to them I sometimes imagine General George Custer and his 215-or-so detachment of soldiers facing 10,000 angry Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. As my friend Jim Posewitz (himself a hunter) puts it: “Circling the wagons is not a good defense when there are already far too many opponents surrounding the wagons.” 

People are fed up with it. I’m one of them, and I’m a hunter. 

There are good folks who criticize me for being a hunter. It does, indeed, seem contradictory to my love for wildlife and wild places. I welcome challenges that cause me to thoroughly examine and attempt to justify my actions and evolving beliefs. Here’s how I justify my actions: 

I spend all the time I can in elk country near my home in western Montana, year-round, hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, observing and admiring elk. And yet, each fall I head into elk country with the intent to kill one. Why? Partly because I can think of no more ecologically-sound way to live in my part of the world. I cherish wild elk meat; it's healthy, and it's derived from healthy, native grasses and forbs in the wilderness near my home.

I half-jokingly like to think I'm a vegetarian of sorts, living off the the wild grasses, sedges and forbs that grow near my home. Most these plants are not directly palatable to humans, so I let elk convert them to protein for me. Perhaps someday I can travel through the digestive system of a grizzly and fertilize the vegetation that elk eat: Seems only fair considering all the elk I've killed and eaten.

We're all part of this land.

I hunt to experience and celebrate a fundamental connection with nature, because we must all kill to eat, and eating elk nourished on native grasses and forbs has as low an impact on the environment as any of the alternatives. Even eating soybeans and soy-based products supports an agricultural industry that displaces and destroys wildlife habitat to grow a non-native plant, requiring irrigation, pesticides, herbicides, fossil fuels, trucks, roads and industry to be shipped around the country. Not to mention the thousands of deer and other wildlife killed to protect valuable agricultural crops. Most people are not aware of the impacts of their lifestyles and actions, or they choose to live in denial. Aldo Leopold wrote: "There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace."

We all kill to eat.

But should we kill for ego, amusement, entertainment and profit? Does paying a guide to lead you to, or bait in an animal and tell you when and where to shoot really pass as “hunting”? Can we justify killing big, rare animals to get our names into record books to boost our image, ego and status among certain segments of society when most of society understandably finds it abhorrent, immoral and unethical? 

No. We can't. There is no legitimate justification and defense. None! 

Is my position, in large part, an emotional one? Hell yes! You’re damn right it is! If you can’t get emotional about arrogant, narcissistic, wealthy people paying thousands of dollars for guides to lead them to beautiful animals, or bait those animals in, and tell them where and when to pull the trigger, so they can kill those animals to gratify their egos, then what in the hell can you ever get emotional about? It's a very emotional issue, as it should be. 

It’s wrong! There is no biological, social, ethical or moral justification for it. There is no legitimate defense. 

Let’s stop confusing killing with hunting, and wildlife conservation with animal husbandry. It’s time to put an end to the senseless, indefensible, unjustifiable trophy-killing of animals for vanity, ego-gratification and status. It's time to put an end to an industry that treats these animals as mere economic commodities to meet ego-driven demands.  

As Espley concludes: “I have great faith that in time trophy hunting in the Greater Kruger will be replaced by a more ethical, more relevant sustainable land-use strategy. This will take time, but it will happen.” 

Let's hope that happens everywhere -- the sooner the better.


* A 2015 study reported by National Geographic concludes that government corruption, especially in Zimbabwe, prevents most trophy-hunting fees from going towards any conservation efforts, with authorities keeping the fees for themselves.

* Some governments are taking over more wildlife areas so as to profit from poaching and trophy hunting (a consequence of creating commercial markets for parts of wildlife).

* A 2017 report by the Australian-based Economists at Large says that trophy hunting amounted to less than one percent of tourism revenue in eight African countries.

* According to an International Union for Conservation of Nature report from 2009, surrounding communities in West Africa receive little benefit from the hunting-safari business.

* There are a lot of wildlife studies pertaining to how the genetic health and social behaviors of species is adversely affected because trophy hunters often kill the largest or most significant male of a species. The removal of the most significant animals (because of the size of their horns or mane for example) can severely affect the health of a species population. As Dr. Rob Knell states "Because these high-quality males with large secondary sexual traits tend to father a high proportion of the offspring, their 'good genes' can spread rapidly, so populations of strongly sexually selected animals can adapt quickly to new environments. Removing these males reverses this effect and could have serious and unintended consequences. If the population is having to adapt to a new environment and you remove even a small proportion of these high quality males, you could drive it to extinction."

* A 2004 study by the University of Port Elizabeth estimated that eco-tourism on private game reserves generated more than 15 times the income of livestock or game rearing or trophy hunting.

* Researchers also noted that more money was raised and more jobs were created (and staff received "extensive skills training") from eco-tourism than trophy hunting.

* The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources in 2016 concluded that trophy hunting may be contributing to the extinction of certain animals.

* Conservationist groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare assert that trophy hunting is a key factor in the "silent extinction" of giraffes.

* The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant conservation organization, believe that elephants bring in significantly more revenue from tourists who want to see them alive. Their 2013 report stated "alive, they benefit local communities and economies; dead they benefit an elite few as well as criminal and even terrorist groups."


  1. Enjoyed reading your post and agree with your defense of eating elk. I wish more hunters were around like you. So sad for Skye and his pride!

  2. David, an excellent article!

  3. Thank you for a well thought out article. Very well written!

  4. Hunting is divided by social class, just like everything else in our society.
    You have the wealthy doing their dominance display “hunts,” and then you have everyone else from humble meat hunters trying to feed their families and everything in between. Don’t they (Safari Clubbers) realize that no one outside their little inbred club is the least bit impressed that they killed a lion?

  5. I would like to thank you, Mr. David Stalling, for writing this article which gave me a more understanding and awareness of what I should take into consideration regardless if I am against Trophy Hunters of which I myself use the term "Trophy Killers." The one thing that bothers me the most, is having all these actions of Trophy Hunting with the lack of no feelings of remorse of taking the life away of such a beautiful creature of God's Creation (not man's creation nor that given of the science aspect behind the life taken away, as we humans do. I can respect a selfie portrait without a smile to be more respectful of the dead bodies than those who laugh, cheer on, and smile with glee and pride. To me, that is not being thankful or showing gratitude but,it shows more greed involved of one's happy ego of being trigger happy regardless of the life that was being taking away. This is in my own "self-righteous belief and opinion," of how I feel. Whether it is right or wrong, but I see that the dead carcass should,indeed, serve as a purpose,and deserve our respects for the the kill involved. And, of course, I can't really channel if it's meant to be killed for the fun thrill of it, to shoot it dead on it's tracks, or if I can understand in the way you put it; while looking at the elf you can almost taste the savory flavors of the meat as a source of food for your taste pallet. Your intent to kill is not out of the intent to shoot for the fun of it, or as a sport, but as a food source alone. Also, what I don't understand is why do I see a group of Trophy Hunters gathered together with the dead bears carcasses all lined up in a row of the Trophy Hunters taking smiley selfies of 6 to 8 bears dead on the ground with rifles held up to show their pride as they do while they put their legs up against their backs. It would be a great photo for the Hunters, but not in the eyes of an animal lovers and Wildlife Animals Advocates that I take to heart. I am, however, glad you eat the meat for survival, but others do kill for malice of it, and for the wrong reasons as prestige and, their expectations of taking out the most desireable one of all of them, to show off in the field of Hunting. This is my personal take being respectful to you as an individual Trophy Hunter with your self-motivation at large. It's a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for your time in writing this exclusive article on your part. It was very helpful to me. I appreciate your time and efforts. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Cordially yours,
    Alpina Chilton