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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.

It is the dawning of a new era. There is something special happening in America that, as a matter of fact, is happening on a global basis: the heightened awareness of conserving our natural 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 titled, "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 to 3:30 p.m.

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

U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer, U.S. Special Operations team leader and author who specializes in training anti-poaching units in Africa.

Nationally-known outdoor writer and wildlife conservationist, author of dozens of books and hundreds of articles, and anti-poaching activist with particularly relating to hunting and anti-poaching efforts of African big game.

Occasional contributor to the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website, NRAHLF.org, awarded and accredited wildlife conservation officer, author, and nature and conservation specialist.

African PH and world-renowned TV host of Carter’s W.A.R. on the Outdoor Channel, who is on the front lines in Africa fighting poaching and promoting wildlife conservation issues continentwide, especially relating to the poaching of elephants for their ivory and rhino for their horn.

Regular contributor to the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website, NRAHLF.org, worldwide speaker and debater on hunting issues with 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) as well as a research fellow with Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), focusing 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 in particular, have become a valuable asset 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 (and even train locals from African tribes and villages) to assist in efforts to search for and apprehend poachers. They realize that state, federal and local wildlife agencies cannot alone win the war on poaching and that there has to be a partnership of people and groups if we stand any chance of reversing the poaching trend and exposing poaching as possible 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 bring knowledge of the poaching of our birds, fish and animals right here in America. In my quest to control poaching, I have used spotting scopes, night vision, and M1s and .40 cals. I flew in helicopters, rode in boats, drove cars, 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. I realized early in my career that if I were polite and treated our hunters with respect and dignity and gave more warnings than tickets for basic misunderstandings of a given regulation then hunters would become allies in my efforts to address poaching. 

During the seminar, panelists will explain that poaching is not hunting and poachers are not hunters, taking care regarding who we brand as poachers in our discussion. Just as I believe that most drivers have broken a minor traffic law or have driven 60 mph in a 55 mph zone at one time, I also believe that from time to time, hunters, like anyone else, make minor mistakes afield and are not poachers who we will profile in the seminar. NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF)-funded research has shown there is public confusion over the word “poacher,” which only should be used for someone involved in poaching crimes, such as taking animals out of season, killing deer in the middle of the night and killing elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns.

Poaching is a criminal act committed with intent and with guilty knowledge.

Though I am now retired, I remain involved on the legislation end of the anti-poaching battle. I was responsible for the passage of an anti-poaching law that penalizes poachers who target trophy bucks and assesses fines based on the size of the antlers of the deer. Some serious poachers pay $10,000 or even $20,000 for the illegal taking of just one mature “trophy-class” buck. Several states in America also have similar enhanced trophy poaching laws. Leading the pack was Colorado, which predated my efforts by implementing the Samson Law in 1998. The law showcased a famous case in 1995 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 on the NRA HLF website, NRAHLF.org, and covered 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 hard work and having strict laws is, it is also very important to educate the public about conservation and the effects of poaching. I believe that 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 just 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 our millions of great outdoor-loving people from our hunting, fishing and shooting sports communities join in our effort to fight poaching and to protect our valuable natural wildlife resources.

While the NRA has always been a supporter of wildlife conservation and law enforcement, it really is great news that it is pulling together some of the world’s heavy hitters to host this anti-poaching seminar. This sends an important message that it is solidly behind our wildlife professionals in our combined interests and goals of continued protection and conservation of our fish, birds and animals.

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 where possible, 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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