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NRA’s Seminar to Address Global Poaching Crisis

NRA’s Seminar to Address Global Poaching Crisis

Photo credit: Greg Willis of Denver, Colo.

Here in America and around the globe, there is a heightening awareness of conserving wildlife resources and a stronger-than-ever move by hunter-conservationists to combat poaching. 

Helping to promote and lead the charge in anti-poaching initiatives is the National Rifle Association (NRA), America’s No. 1 organization for hunters. Along with defending American freedom and our constitutional rights, the NRA has been involved in protecting and defending hunting and wildlife conservation since its inception in 1871. Now it has announced it is holding a seminar entitled "Fighting Poaching: How the Hunting Community Can Stem the Tide." The panel discussion will run from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Sat., Apr. 27, at the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis. 

The seminar will feature the following five expert wildlife conservation professionals—some of whom are household names—who possess worldwide experience in fighting the poaching cartel at home and abroad.

BILLY BIRDZELL
A U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer, U.S. Special Operations team leader and author, Birdzell now specializes in training anti-poaching units in Africa.

COL. CRAIG BODDINGTON, USMC Reserves, Ret.
Internationally known outdoor writer and wildlife conservationist, author of dozens of books and hundreds of articles, Boddington is an anti-poaching activist, particularly relating to African big game.

JOHN BORKOVICH
An occasional contributor to the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website, NRAHLF.org, Borkovich is an award-winning, accredited wildlife conservation officer and author.

IVAN CARTER
Carter is an African professional hunter and world-renowned TV host of “Carter’s W.A.R.” on the Outdoor Channel. He is on the front lines in Africa fighting poaching and promoting wildlife conservation issues continentwide.

CATHERINE SEMCER
A regular contributor to the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website, NRAHLF.org, Semcer is a worldwide speaker and debater on hunting issues, has boots-on-the-ground experience in fighting poaching in Africa through work as a professional wildlife conservationist with H.O.P.E. (Humanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants) and as a research fellow with Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). (PERC focuses on free-market and property-rights-based solutions to policy challenges in environmental security, conservation finance and sustainability.

Through a two-hour Q&A session, these speakers will share valuable information about the complexity of the poaching problem. The international professionals are valuable assets in the battle against poaching in Africa and in efforts to address the illegal trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn. They provide education, awareness and training to individuals and groups, including rural Africans, to assist in efforts to detect and apprehend poachers. They realize that government agencies alone cannot win the war on poaching and that there must be a partnership with local people and groups if we stand any chance of reversing the trend and exposing poaching as possibly the single greatest threat to hunting.
 
For my part, I am proud to be part of the seminar. Working as a state conservation officer allowed me to fight the poaching of our wildlife right here in America. In my quest to control poaching, I have used spotting scopes, night vision, and was armed as a sworn law enforcement officer. I flew in helicopters, rode in boats, and patrolled in trucks, off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. I experienced knife and gun fights and found myself in many car and foot chases. In spite of my best, heartfelt efforts, I came to realize that I could not stop all poaching by myself. Early in my career I found that being polite and treating hunters with respect and dignity and issuing more warnings than tickets for basic misunderstandings, would result in hunters becoming allies in my efforts to address poaching. 

During the seminar, panelists will explain that poaching is not hunting and poachers are not hunters and that we must educate the public on that difference. NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF)-funded research has shown there is public confusion over the word “poacher,” which applies to those involved in poaching crimes, such as taking animals out of season, killing deer in the middle of the night and illegally killing elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns. Poaching is a criminal act committed with intent and with guilty knowledge. 

Though now retired, I remain involved on the legislative end of the anti-poaching battle, and was responsible for the passage of a law that penalizes poachers who target trophy bucks by assessing fines based on antler size. Some serious poachers pay $10,000 or even $20,000 for the illegal taking of just one mature “trophy-class” buck. Several U.S. states have enacted similar enhanced trophy-poaching laws. Leading the pack was Colorado, which predated my efforts, when it implemented the Samson Law in 1998. The law showcased a famous 1995 case when a poacher—not a hunter—killed a highly photographed bull elknicknamed Samson, with a crossbow at the Estes Park Center of the YMCA of the Rockies. As noted here at NRAHLF.org., in an article by Colorado resident Phil Phillips, the passage of Samson's Law raised fines for the poaching and/or possession of any animal considered trophy-class to as much as $25,000

Also on the national front, another part of our efforts to address poaching is the use of the Interstate Wildlife Compact Act. It stipulates that if a criminal is convicted of poaching and loses his or her hunting privileges in one state, then several other states also will deny the poacher the right to hunt in their states. 

As important as it is to enforce strict laws, equally important is educating the public about conservation and the effects of poaching. I believe all school-age children worldwide should be taught about wildlife conservation. Part of this education has to include lessons about the harm poaching does and how we all can get involved to stop poaching. We absolutely cherish nature and many of us live to spend time in the outdoor world. Many clubs and organizations share in this love of nature and are part of our commitment to address poaching. It is imperative that America’s millions of outdoor-loving citizens from hunting, fishing and shooting-sports communities join in these anti-poaching efforts.]

By pulling together a panel of the world’s most-respected conservationists for an unprecedented anti-poaching seminar, NRA is sending an important message that it is solidly behind our wildlife professionals.

Editor’s Note: Please mark your calendars for the NRA anti-poaching seminar, "Fighting Poaching: How the Hunting Community Can Stem the Tide" during the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis on Sat., Apr. 27 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Moderated by Ward “Trig” French, co-chair for the NRA HLF (alongside NRA First Vice President Richard Childress), and Karen Mehall Phillips, founding editor of America’s First Freedom and Woman’s Outlook, editor of NRAHLF.org, senior editor of American Hunter and author, the seminar is set to engage the audience and provide several takeaways. In the words of Trig French, “If successful, the audience will recognize the complexity of the problem, the inability to apply a single fix-all solution, and that the collective hunting community has an obligation to apply what they have learned to support, both financially and in the field, all available methods to stem the scourge of poaching.”

 

About the Author: John Borkovich’s love of nature led him to become a wildlife conservation officer. Now retired, he served as a firearm instructor, a member of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Firearms Transition Team and a field training officer at the Conservation Officer Police Academy at Michigan State Police headquarters. He also served as an adjunct professor for the St. Clair County Community College’s criminal justice department. Borkovich’s book, “Wildlife 911: On Patrol,” is available through his website, wildlife911officer.com. To read other NRHLF.org articles by John Borkovich, please check out the following links:


Follow NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum on Twitter @HuntersLead. 

 

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