by Brian McCombie - Monday, October 14, 2019
Though many American hunters may not realize it, the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) and its DSC Foundation (DSCF) has been a prime supporter and promoter of anti-poaching efforts on the African continent. A mission-focused conservation organization, the DSC is funded by hunters from around the world and hosts what it calls “The Greatest Hunters Convention on the Planet,” an annual hunters’ convention that raises tremendous funds for grants in the conservation, outdoor education and hunter advocacy arenas.
In the past five years, for example, the DSC has channeled more than $5 million toward qualified projects, organizations and programs in support of that mission through the non-profit DSCF. One of its recent educational initiatives has been the production of a series of YouTube videos designed to engage hunters and showcase various wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts the DSCF and other hunter-backed groups have been funding in Africa.
This video takes you inside an anti-poaching unit, exploring how hunting has paid for efforts to remove snares from the safari area, saving countless animals. If hunting stops, poaching will surge, wiping out the very animals anti-hunters claim to want to protect.
One such video, “The Guardians,” published on Aug. 12, examines life, hunting and wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe’s Dande Safari Area. The area encompasses a half-million acres chock full of African game—and approximately 81,000 people.
As “The Guardians” reveals, hunting and wildlife conservation have significantly improved the lives of the area’s rural people. While these rural villagers do experience occasional problems with wildlife, from elephants trampling crops to occasional attacks on people by lions, they also understand the value of their wildlife—and of hunters’ dollars. So much so, the villagers work with local safari operators to identify and catch poachers. Some of the villagers work on the newly formed Dande Anti-Poaching Unit, which, according to the video, has removed over 9,000 poachers’ snares and stopped numerous poaching attempts. As the DSCF has explained repeatedly, only when rural African people living among wildlife realize the shared benefits of conservation-based regulated hunting in their area will they embrace the wildlife and work with safari operators to eliminate illegal poaching.
"The Unheard Voice"
In this DSC video, we see how hunting increases the value of game species for rural Africans, who must live with often destructive and aggressive animals. Not only is harvested meat shared with the villagers, but money raised from hunting safaris provides clean water, schoolhouses and other amenities that improve the lives of the people. These incentives motivate anti-poaching efforts, thus conserving animal populations.
Another video in the series, “The Unheard Voice,” released last year on Aug. 20, explains that as the anti-hunting community seeks to shut down all hunting, the unheard voices are the rural Africans—the people who are most affected when politics supersedes science in the management of wildlife. The video features a villager in the Dande Safari Area who discusses living with wildlife firsthand. He promotes the many positives that hunters, hunting and wildlife conservation continue to provide for his people.
Referring to laws made outside of Africa to stop hunters from bringing home their harvested game animals (such as the ill-conceived CECIL Act aiming to stop U.S.-based hunters from importing their hunting taxidermy into the United States), the villager notes: “People who make such laws do not understand our life here… Our village has learned to live with the wild animals, even the dangerous ones, and the money hunters bring to our area provides good things we’ve never had before.”
These “good things” include a new school, a new well to provide clean water and a small clinic complete with a doctor. The safari operators also share the meat hunters harvest with the villagers.
Once seen as a problem, local wildlife here is now viewed with respect and tolerance. “We do not allow poaching of animals here,” the narrator explains. “If we killed all these animals, all these good things would be gone… Our lives are better because of hunting.”
"Our lives are better because of hunting."
Acknowledging the success of the DSCF’s educational YouTube video series, “The reaction to the two named videos has been incredible,” said Richard Cheatham, DSCF executive director. “This messaging campaign is intended to educate and engage the hunter and the non-hunter. The fact that 'The Unheard Voice' was told from the perspective of a member of the local community is why it has resonated. It isn't a preachy message from the stereotypical American big-game hunter. The narrator’s message comes from the heart.”
Referring to other videos in the series, Cheatham continued, “Some of our subsequent messages in our videos focused on the local voices of common citizens and government officials. ‘The Guardians’ spoke to often overlooked beneficial aspects of big-game hunting, but aspects that few can oppose. Our latest YouTube video, ‘The Response,’ is a direct challenge to those social media warriors who oppose hunting and conservation. But even though the message is clear and direct, it does not come across as an attack. We’re simply trying to illuminate the issues and educate the larger audience.”
In this video a professional hunter writes a response to an anti-hunter on social media. There is no attack, just a straight-forward and impassioned explanation of how hunting makes the lives of the animals and the native people, much better.
American hunters can read about other conservation-based work the DSC is doing—from anti-poaching and elephant and lion projects in Africa to desert bighorn sheep restoration in North America. Visit the website at biggame.org.
About the Author: Brian McCombie is a field editor and editorial contributor for the NRA's American Hunter. He writes about firearms and gear for the NRA's Shooting Illustrated website, as well as handling public relations and marketing for companies and manufacturers in the shooting sports industry. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Brian likes hunting hogs, shooting 1911s chambered in 10 mm and .45 ACP, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with Squinchy, the orange tabby cat.
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