MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota dentist is apologizing for killing a lion in Zimbabwe earlier this month. Dr. Walter Palmer said he thought the hunt was legal, but two guides are facing criminal charges for poaching because of where the lion was killed. The story has generated lots of anger and vitriol against the dentist across social media.
But, every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to legally hunt wildlife in Africa. So, what exotic animals can be hunted? Good Question.
“I think game hunting is misunderstood because people equate it to poaching. They are very different things,” said Mitch Petrie, vice-president of Programming at Sportsman Channel.
He’s produced television shows on hunting in Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Each country sets its own quota for each animal. Kenya hasn’t allowed hunting since 1977 and Botswana instituted a temporary ban last year.
“They’re uncertain about the population of their native game, so they put a temporary ban on hunting to see what the impact is,” said Petrie.
It’s estimated about 600 of the roughly 30,000 lions are legally hunted each year. An international agreement sets annual limits on the number of animals that can be exported from the country where they are killed. In 2015, it was 1780 for elephants, 155 for cheetahs, 1,220 for leopards. Earlier this year, the country of Namibia auctioned off the opportunity to kill a rare black rhinoceros. That hunt brought in $350,000.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, that money will go towards wildlife conservation, anti-poaching and community development programs in that country.
Petrie points out all of the meat is eaten by locals and the hunted animals are past their breeding age. He said it also reduces the risk of poaching.
“You take a picture of your big self next to the big game you just killed, it’s disgusting,” said one man walking along Nicollet Mall Tuesday afternoon.
A few minutes earlier, another woman walking in the same spot said, “They would probably look pretty on my wall, just like the bear or deer we hunt here.”
Permits to hunt these animals can cost tens of thousands of dollars, which people in the hunting industry say brings in needed dollars for conservation efforts that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
“If something is economically viable, it has value to landowner or the locals, and they look after it,” said Peter Stofberg, owner of African Days, a company that offers tours in Africa.