Green Hunting – Good or Bad?
In the 19th century, southern and central European sport hunters often pursued game only for a trophy, usually the head or pelt of an animal, which was then displayed as a sign of prowess. The rest of the animal was typically discarded. Some cultures, however, disapprove of such waste. In Nordic countries, hunting for trophies was—and still is—frowned upon. Hunting in North America in the 19th century was done primarily as a way to supplement food supplies, although it is now undertaken mainly for sport. The safari method of hunting was a development of sport hunting that saw elaborate travel in Africa, India and other places in pursuit of trophies. In modern times, trophy hunting persists and is a significant industry in some areas. We –International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa disagree with this theory of which we have seen many species of animal within Africa almost hunted into extinction.
Trophy hunting is most often criticised when it involves rare or endangered animals. Opponents may also see trophy hunting as an issue of morality or animal cruelty, criticising the killing of living creatures for recreation. Victorian era dramatist W. S. Gilbert remarked, “Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns.”
There is also debate about the extent to which trophy hunting benefits the local economy. Hunters argue that fees paid contribute to the local economy and provide value to animals that would otherwise be seen as competition for grazing, livestock, and crops. This analysis is disputed by opponents of trophy hunting. Some argue that the animals are worth more to the community for ecotourism than hunting.
Trophy hunting is cruel and barbaric of which many species of animals that are hunted are hardly ever shot dead outright meaning most times not all, the (PH) has to finish the animal off. The pain inflicted doesn’t seem to bother both professional nor amateur hunter. There is no pretty sight in hunting and what financial gain there is to communities is minimal. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa approached a well known hunter and rancher within Africa last year of which he was (still is) allowing the indiscriminate hunting of Rhinoceros. Tom Hancock an individual that came under fire within the local press with regards to allowing Rhino hunting within the Timbavati region of South Africa situated next to the Kruger National Park (KNP). Many detailed communications were sent back and forth to Mr Hancock of which we showed and demonstrated alternative methods to hunting that would generate more income and show his company to be more professional by all people including conservationists and animal rights activists. Mr Hancock though disagreed and like all hunters attacked us outright. Just to remind you of how cruel trophy hunting is you only have to look at this huntress that takes pride in not only shooting dead a perfectly healthy lioness but has to pose cave man style in some fashion as to prove her sexuality and feminine strength. This type of hunting “trophy hunting” is just bloody barbaric.
Mr Hancock argued many points within his communications to our main Africans team of which still to this very day show little if any proof that hunting actually generates the income stated to be in the billions of Rands. IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare and many leading conservationists have debunked this myth (please see pic below)..
Many animals endure prolonged, painful deaths when they are injured but not killed by hunters. A study of 80 radio-collared white-tailed deer found that of the 22 deer who had been shot with “traditional archery equipment,” 11 were wounded but not recovered by hunters. Twenty percent of foxes who have been wounded by hunters are shot again. Just 10 percent manage to escape, but “starvation is a likely fate” for them, according to one veterinarian. A South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks biologist estimates that more than 3 million wounded ducks go “unretrieved” every year. A British study of deer hunting found that 11 percent of deer who’d been killed by hunters died only after being shot two or more times and that some wounded deer suffered for more than 15 minutes before dying.
Hunting disrupts migration and hibernation patterns and destroys families. For animals such as wolves, who mate for life and live in close-knit family units, hunting can devastate entire communities. The stress that hunted animals suffer—caused by fear and the inescapable loud noises and other commotion that hunters create—also severely compromises their normal eating habits, making it hard for them to store the fat and energy that they need in order to survive the winter. – PETA
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have been debating some time on writing this article due to the “negativity” that surrounds hunting as a whole. Although green hunting is seen to some as a professional method of animal husbandry of which the animal is darted using a combination of veterinary medications to form a tranquilising effect, evidence shows that many African countries are not wiling to take this practice up. Whilst they refuse or in some cases (have banned) green hunting animals will suffer furthermore. We ourselves are at a very large debate here surrounding green hunting and have noticed since we printed on an American huntress that green hunted a Rhino many animal rights activists now believing that green hunting is the best method of non-kill trophy hunting. Is it though? Imagine yourself a Rhino that every month is darted in the region of a dozen times. Would you call this ethical or just abusive? Furthermore how would you feel if you was happily grazing away with calf next to you then for the seventh time that month you found yourself again waking up groggy, baby calf missing, confused and scared? Green hunting doesn’t kill the animal however it can be quite traumatising for the animal and its immediate family.
NSPCA on green hunting;
With so much attention on canned hunting, it is not surprising that “green” hunting may seem like a viable and responsible alternative. Not surprising either that media and public attention haven’t been on green hunting when the spotlight is well and truly on the dreadful, despicable and unethical practice of canned hunting. Even the TV drama series CSI has aired an episode on canned hunting. As the most-watched television series in the world, you can’t do better than that.
Green hunting is being promoted as “the thrill without the kill” or the big-game hunting experience without killing an animal. It has been promoted internationally, included on web sites: – “Imagine the thrill of tracking, spotting, stalking and hunting the world’s greatest game animals at close range in Africa – lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros – without killing any of them.”
“Catch-and-release hunting is now possible by converting a high-powered rifle to a tranquiliser dart gun.”
A list of reasons are given (San Francisco Chronicle web site http://www.sfgate.com/) why green hunting “solves many problems.” This includes the fact that an animal is not killed, no trophy-kill fee (i.e. cheaper), inspiration for the travel industry, providing income for habitat protection, world-wide in scope, relatively low cost and a “full experience without a downside.”
At first sight perhaps argues the NSPCA’s Wildlife Unit. Just about anything can be promoted as inspiring the travel industry or that income can be ploughed into good causes. But an activity without a downside. Not so.
The Chairperson of the Game Ranger Association of South Africa stated to the NSPCA in 1999 that “I am not sure if you people are aware of green hunting and what it entails. It basically has to do where animals are to be immobilised it is then done by an outsider paying big money for the privilege. Surely this can create an opportunity for the misuse of animals for the sake of money and should be a concern of yours. It has come to my notice that there has already been a case where one white rhino bull is apparently subjected to monthly immobilisations.”
Concerns have already arisen about green hunting and there are incidents to prove it. An elephant was “green” hunted near Tandatula Lodge in late 1999 and the elephant was killed when it charged the “hunters.” A letter to the NSPCA from the South African National Parks’ Dr Douw Grobler stated: “It was decided that one collared animal (elephant) would be selected for the eco-hunt purpose. Whilst they (the “hunters”) were approaching a termite mound, the elephant became aware of our presence (in my opinion, the movement of the eco-hunter) and moved closer towards us in a typical head-up fashion.” Dr Grobler describes how the hunters backed up, the elephant charges and was shot and killed.
Three shots at close range and a further three once the elephant was down to make sure it was dead. This elephant was one of the elephants collared as part of the satellite tracking programme. This was green hunting or eco-hunting.
A member of the public wrote to the NSPCA: “I find the practice of green hunting absolutely abhorrent. It would seem that some of the conservation tourist bodies go to any lengths to appease the American dollar or any other foreign currency. Our wild animals, like our natural environment, are becoming victims of greed and expediency.”
AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT AND WILDLIFE magazine reported in January 2000 that prices of up to R300 000 can be paid for the opportunity to dart an endangered animal, that numbers of animals being darted in this way are increasing annually and that now more rhino, to give but one example, are darted for sport than lethally hunted. But although this same report heralds the sport as “catch-and-release”, dart safaris, chemical hunting or non-consumptive hunting – it lists multiple dangers. It notes one instance when a man was charged and knocked down by a rhino whilst chasing after his wife’s first dart victim. He required surgery and was considered lucky to be alive.
What about the animals? The late Dr Andrew McKenzie wrote a definitive text on darting wild animals and he warned that some unscrupulous game ranchers are repeatedly darting a single rhino because “It is a great way to make a dung-heap full of money from one animal.” The South African Veterinary Association recommended that no animal should be darted more than twice a year and preferably only once, to minimise stress. Yet, it has been reported that the same rhino has been darted three times in eight months.
The NSPCA concurs that darting for the sake of darting is not only wrong but totally unnecessary and that even when a dart safari is done for the right reasons, there are risks for the animals. It is hazardous.
Professional capture teams almost always dart from a helicopter. Amateurs on safari do not do that. They are on the ground which raises the likelihood that a dart may be off-target when it hits the animal. This would result in a partial dose of the drug being given. One documented example is when the shot from the eco-hunter deflected off a twig and hit the rhino in the rib cage. The semi-conscious animal then fled, ending up trapped between two boulders.
Lloyds of London has insured 35 rhinos for dart safaris. That’s how big it is and how seriously it is being taken – including the risks to the animals.
The NSPCA recently received a communication entitled BUSINESS PLAN GREENHUNT COMPETITION which involved “hunting” big game on foot with a paintball gun. R1 000 000.00 is up for grabs in prize money, R1 000 000.00 to be donated to nature conservation and R3 000 000.00 to be earned by game farms participating. That is a lot of money for grabs. It would be a brave person or organisation to stand and oppose but the NSPCA is brave and proud of its moral stance – and opposes.
Take a look at the rules and see for yourself: “Each game farm will be allocated points for habitat, type and gameness of game. It will be up to teams to develop a strategy that will benefit them as a team. Points will be allocated for accuracy of mortal shot or shot that will disable the game. Points will be deducted for headshots and wounded shots.”
We reiterate a comment written by former NSPCA Wildlife Coordinator, Rozanne Savory which sums it up: “I must admit to having been somewhat naïve in believing that green hunting was only conducted on animals that were the subject of research or needed to be immobilised for veterinary reasons. To repeatedly immobilise an animal for no purpose other than for that animal to be the target of green hunting – in other words for commercial purposes – is opposed by the National Council of SPCAs on welfare grounds and would be deemed to be causing unnecessary suffering to that animal. In addition, there could be some build-up of the immobilising drug in the body of the animal over a period which could be detrimental to its health.” Ms Savory is an avid animal welfare and animal activist of which we support her views.
Little wonder that the ANIMAL TALK article on the issue carried the headline “Darting Safaris – Brilliant Concept or Another Scam?”
It might seem ironic that the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa came out in opposition to green hunting, stating to the NSPCA that, “After careful consideration and consultation with top authorities on the question of the dart hunting of animals, and in consideration of the trauma and stress caused to the animals involved, the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa has come to the conclusion that it cannot presently support the green hunting of any species as a form of sport hunting.”
The Game rangers Association of Africa advised the NSPCA that, “The effect of repeated tranquilising on any animal is unknown in that the levels of trauma and effect on social behaviour cannot be effectively measured. The possibility of the animal killing or injuring itself during the period in which the drugs are taking effect are real as the animal cannot effectively be moved away from danger. The position in which the animal goes down can also cause death by asphyxiation or damage to internal organs. The threat of injury or death is therefore significant. The practice of green hunting can only be considered abhorrent by members of the Game Rangers Association of Africa who spend their lives protecting these animals for posterity. The ethics of clients who participate in this practice must be questioned as much as those of the people who offer the service.”
The NSPCA has written to the Department of Nature Conservation stating that there is no doubt that repeated immobilisation of an animal takes place and that there are exempted game farms when Nature Conservation is not present during green hunts – and therefore where green hunting has been abused and exploited to the detriment of animals. In one week, the NSPCA received two reports alleging that specific trophy white rhino bulls were being immobilised for green hunts as often as once a fortnight. This clearly has welfare implications. Investigations continue and we wonder if, as may have been predicted, the original justification for green hunting has fallen by the wayside in the quest for the dollar. Please note that there is NO or little evidence that states the repeated immobilization of large mega fauna has untold effects to health and the fact the NSPCA has only received a handful of complaints coupled with the many hundreds of satisfied green hunters that actually helped to conserve the Rhino species. We must state though that as professional conservationists repeated immobilization of any Rhino constantly over such a small time frame is detrimental to health and can impeded complications should a Rhino that for instance has been darted then falls prey to an accident, illness or is poached. This is an area of concern to us should we lobby for the green darting to be brought back. Measures to immediately stop exploitation of the system would need to be addressed and those found abusing the system banned from keeping animals for life.
End of report – –
South African Veterinary Council, Cape Nature and Department of Environmental Affairs back in 2011 declared that green Rhino hunting is unethical of which they listed no such hunter is allowed to dart the Rhino then later on formally banning any veterinary officer from darting “any Rhino” for the purpose of (green hunting). International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa personally believes that green hunting was banned for other reasons that we have yet to fully document on. The fact stands at this though. Veterinary officers are required to check Rhino health on a monthly basis, administer medications, vitamins and to check the overall health of the said mammalian. Darting if practiced correctly and under the watchful eye of both veterinary officer, land owner/welfare officers we believe should be practiced so as long as the “sport” is not under any circumstances exploited. Question yourself this can you in a ranch walk directly up to a Rhino considered a dangerous animal and effectively administer medications or survey its health? I am a veterinary officer and have taught veterinary science for over 12 years and yet have been able to walk directly up to any animal within captivity such as a Rhino or Elephant and administered any such medication without the need for sedation. Anyone person that states publically that they can do such things have 1. either brought the animal up from birth or 2. are point blank liars.
South African Veterinary Council list that green hunting is unethical as it has been noted many Rhinos are darted more than twice in any one given month and that (green) hunters have been seriously injured in the process of darting. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa have located no evidence of which any (green) hunter has been killed, and what evidence that was located on animals killed during the practice of (green hunting) is small and not worth mentioning compared to the range of animals slaughtered during (non-green) hunts.
It seems too that its not just South Africa that has banned green hunting – back in 2011 – According to a press release by the Veterinary Council of Namibia (VCN), poachers were increasingly using drugs during illegal hunts. Particularly, the council pointed out that the worrying increase of Rhino poaching in South Africa, which is often done with drugs obtained illegally from veterinarians. (VCN) formally banned the process and later back in 2012 the South African (DEA) Department of Environmental Affairs banned the use of M99 a very powerful large mammal veterinary tranquiliser of for commercial use by farmers and ranchers of which only veterinarians are allowed to administer the agent 1000 times more powerful that Dihydrocodeine (DHC).
Whilst many veterinary associations within Africa list green hunting as an “unethical practice” then we can only herby list few points out of many that are not only “unethical” but have been highlighted widely within the trophy hunting industry of which is supported by many welfare and wildlife organisations as “sustainable utilization”..
- Professional hunter Peter Thormahlen was hit with a “token fine” in 2006 for illegally hunting a Rhino (on behalf of a Vietnamese client), before he was brought to court again two years later on identical charges. It is worth noting that Thormahlen’s Rhino hunts have frequently taken place on Mauricedale Game Reserve.Professional hunter Christaan van Wyk had already been twice convicted of Rhino horn offenses when he was found guilty of illegally hunting a Rhino (also on behalf of his Vietnamese client) in 2010.Prior to the 2011 arrest of professional hunter and game farmer Hugo Ras for unlawful possession of scheduled veterinary drugs and an unlicensed firearm, he had thrice been fined for assault and “crimen injuria” convictions, as well as for contravening conservation and customs laws.Suspected syndicate mastermind Dawie Groenewald’s criminal history is remarkably extensive — including a long list of international complaints, lawsuits, and criminal allegations and convictions — and far pre-dates his 2010 Rhino-related arrest. Among other things, he was terminated from his job as a police officer for involvement in an organized crime ring that was smuggling stolen cars into Zimbabwe and also has a felony conviction in the US for unlawfully importing a leopard trophy (a violation of the Lacey Act).
Let’s not forget to mention the “Boere Mafia” — an unsavoury gang of safari operators, hunters, game farm and lodge owners (allegedly) masterminded by Saaiman Hunting Safaris owner, Gert Saaiman, and Sandhurst Safaris owner, George Fletcher, along with Frans van Deventer. Despite (allegedly) organizing the killing of at least 19 Rhinos in national parks and on private game reserves, and facing multiple charges (including racketeering, money laundering, various counts of theft, malicious damage to property and contraventions of the various provincial Conservation Acts and the Aviation Act), they walked free in 2010, when their case was “struck from the roll”. (See pic below and click for more information)..
Whilst were on the subject of alleged misconduct and abuses within the “green hunting practice” we need to bring to your attention the number of people injured during trophy hunting operations too.
- Canadian outfitter Bob Fontana being killed by a buffalo. Well, there has been another buffalo mishap. This one is in Zimbabwe, and it involves PH Howard Hunter of HHK Safaris. Seems Hunter and an unnamed client were following up on a wounded buffalo on the Lemco Concession this past Sunday when the animal burst out of thick brush in front of them. Hunter fired and hit the buffalo, we are told, but the animal was so close Hunter had to grab it by the horns with both hands in an attempt to keep it from goring him. As he wrestled with the animal, a bullet fired either by an HHK tracker or the client penetrated the buffalo and struck Hunter in the arm.
- Back in 2007 over in Botswana we have news of a PH being killed in the field. South African PH Christo Andre Kaiser, owner of Unico Hunting Safaris, was killed by an elephant on May 11. He was in the field with Spanish clients in NG42 in northern Botswana, on an elephant safari booked through Johan Calitz Safaris, when the fatal accident occurred. It seems Kaiser and his tracker left the safari vehicle to look over some elephants in a pan when a cow elephant they had not seen charged without warning. Kaiser, who for some reason was unarmed, and the tracker ran back to the vehicle for cover, but the elephant overtook Kaiser, mortally wounding him.
- Some our readers may have seen this video before but to those that haven’t and yet call (green hunting) unethical and dangerous for both animal and human then surely a male Lion charging four hunters wounding one seriously is of course not unethical. The Lion was shot a number of times (pain would have been prolonged) then hunter wounded too (pain and insurance claim would have been quite significant)..
Above we have shown all arguments of which trophy hunting accidents, abuses of permits, corruption, poaching, pain and suffering heavily outweighs that of (green hunting) which brings us to the conclusion that green hunting may be generating more profit than has originally be portrayed. Furthermore we have also made evident the need for veterinarians and ranch owners to undertake animal husbandry which is an essential part of species survival and good health.
Ethical practices – Green Hunting is no different to that of a veterinary officer undertaking mammalian husbandry;
Rhino poaching for the year 2014 has thus far beaten statistics for 2010, 2011 and 2012 with a total number of Rhino poached for 2014 – June standing at a skyrocketing 501 Rhino dead. Asia continues to drive the demand and as yet there seems to be no end in sight to protect the second largest land mammal – Africa’s heritage. Since poaching has increased more security measures have been implemented to protect the Rhino and other large mammalians. Micro-chipping, horn dying and poisoning, DNA extraction, shaving of horns to de-horning and Rhino ear notching too.
Rhino ear notching (pictured below) is a method of security that helps security services, veterinary officers and ranchers identify a single Rhino live or dead. The notching process is required and also helps Anti Poaching Units and SAPS (South African Police Service) identify a poached Rhino by the markings taken from the notching process. No notching is identical and because all Rhinos like humans do not appear identical notching is seen as a valuable method of herd identification and protection that can also be used in green dart hunting too.
Whilst we at International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa agree with some aspects documented on by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) and Veterinary Councils regarding green hunting such as that of green hunting exploitation, Rhinos darted more than once in one week and green hunters injured as too “some” animals that have been shot dead to protect clientele, we disagree with the Veterinary Council and that of the NSPCA with regards to the majority of their concerns. Whilst the Veterinary Council both in South Africa and Namibia stated M99 (Entorphine) and other veterinary tranquilisers were being supplied to hunters and poachers to poach Rhino and other big game allegedly (within the green hunting industry) the arguments that were put forward stating green hunting is “unethical” is totally ridiculous for reasons we have shown above. In a way more or less both the NSPCA and Veterinary Councils seem to be forgetting that there are by far more abuses within trophy hunting operations compared to that of green hunting of which the animal survives. Yes we do consider “continued animal darting” for just sheer fun completely unethical however if the mammal is in need of medical assessments and income can be processed that would be ploughed directly back into anti poaching measures then why should green hunting not be allowed? South Africa holds an abundance of White Rhino of which the last assessment of species has placed them in a non-threatened status with species in the increase rather than decreasing.
For those who are not familiar with the green hunting concept, it entails the challenge of hunting the animal as you usually would, but instead of using a rifle as your weapon, you back yourself with a dart gun. Instead of taking home a trophy, you take home your pictures and memories of the experience of reviving the animal to see it stand up and walk away. All green hunts “did” take place in accordance with the Nature Conservation and “was then” supervised under the watchful eye of a wildlife veterinarian ensuring the safety of the animal at all times with ranch owners and dangerous game specialists ensuring health and safety to clientele is paramount.
Back in 2010 Wendell Harsanyi joined JohnxSafaris Green Hunt for a White Rhino and Elephant to complete his Big 5 and help us in the management and conservation of these species on our reserve. Wendell got lucky on the first day of his safari, taking the opportunity when it presented itself. A good Elephant bull crossed his path. No animal was harmed within this hunt and when the tranquilised animals were finally sedated vitamins were administered, medications too plus measurements and other clinical studies were also observed. Finally the pictures were taken of green hunter and animal, the hunter left knowing he has not killed the animal but HAD aided a conservation project that is normally undertaken monthly by ranchers, veterinarians and conservationists. The animals lived and everyone is happy. Money generated from the green hunt was utilised for ranch and mammal management too. Most importantly a green hunter does not require thousands to take down a Rhino, Elephant or any animal and least forgetting this type of hunt which in theory is no different to that of a veterinary scientist going into the field undertaking his or her daily work is seen as an attractive conservation practice by many members of the public wanting to learn more about the animal they have just darted. Lastly the money generated helps to decrease poaching so why has this practice has been banned we do not know. Maybe it was actually decreasing poaching. Although there is no evidence that can be placed into the public domain that clearly indicates green hunting has helped to decrease poaching what we can state now is that when green hunting was banned coincidentally poaching from 2010 began to skyrocket steadily out of control.
The picture below is of Mr Wendel that green hunted this elephant. Looks dead doesn’t it? Actually its alive and well and under the influence of Entorphine (M99) which was used in the practice of green hunting within South Africa (now banned). The picture depicts what an everyday veterinary specialist would do in the field with other mammals. Rhinos, lions, buffalo are just a handful of large wild and ranch animals that are surveyed by conservationists and veterinary specialists. This large bull will feel no pain, will only be under the effects of Entorphine for no fewer than 15 minutes due to its sheer size and the dangers that come with tranquilising large mega-fauna.
Measurements, skin surveys, growth checks, investigative clinical analysis and tusk growth would all be checked as well as medications administered should a disease be present both internally or externally. How can one do this to any Rhino or Elephant may we dare ask when their still conscious? So why the need to ban green hunting within some African countries when in theory it could quite easily be utilised to protect and monitor herds as too train and educate potentially new conservationists and trainee veterinarians is beyond us. There is little evidence within the filed to suggest that green hunting is just as “unethical” to that of trophy hunting which makes us somewhat very suspicious. The South African government and environmental welfare agencies must take more responsibility in keeping a watchful eye over then such practices. They are only at blame themselves for any such exploitations occurring and abuses of the system. Not those that want to learn more about wildlife without the need for killing it. We personally believe that photographic tourism and green dart hunting (if practiced accordingly and within the law) would bring more revenue into South Africa (example) than that of hunting alone. Unfortunately for now its either hunting or photographic tourism – Department of Environmental Affairs refused to comment back to us when questioned via phone.
Green hunting if practiced safely and is not under any circumstances exploited with careful eyes watching over the entire process ensuring that no veterinary medications go a stray could reduce poaching as more Rhino are chipped and cared for on a wider scale. As you can see in the film below the Rhino is not just tranquilised for a mere picture. Rhino is micro chipped and as explained in other practices ears are notched, DNA samples are taken from the horn too. Using signage and other anti poaching communications that poachers can read in many languages poachers would think twice about entering ranches or fields. By restricting such practices of which was (helping to secure) the Rhino then our suspicions are raised even more as to what extent the South African government and other agencies for example are actually involved with the poaching of the Rhino or money making scams.
The brainchild of green dart hunting Dr Paul Bartels, head of the Wildlife Biological Resource Centre of the National Zoological Gardens stated, green hunting requires more skill and precision than hunting with a rifle. Not only must the animal be shot from close range, but darted animals are also highly unpredictable – sometimes charging or bolting. Code of ethics Importantly, animals are only earmarked for darting for specific scientific or research purposes, never for commercial reasons alone. Purposes can include the translocation of animals to a new environment, ear notching or fitting microchips for identification, blood and tissue collection, radio collaring for tracking animal movement, and operating or treating wounds. White Rhino are most frequently darted, but lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard are also regularly hunted. Black Rhino were not then open for darting probably due to high poaching, intelligence relating to the exploitation of the system and the fact they were on the verge of extinction.
Most green hunters are traditionalists who “then” saw dating as a new challenge and to aid conservation. Green safaris were then available to both individual clients and groups. Careful planning was done before each dart safari, taking note of the species, terrain and time of year. Green darting was done early in the morning, when it’s cooler for animals. “At the end of the day,” says Bartels, “we want the animal to jump up and run into the sunset, with the hunter having experienced the thrill of the hunt while also having played an important role in conservation. “So from an ethics point of view, it’s important that the hunter has the same goals.” Before the actual hunt, clients practise with the dart gun until they are proficient and confident, because the dynamics of the gun are somewhat different to those of a traditional rifle.
Darts are heavier than bullets, so the hunter has to be very close to the animal before firing, while anticipating where and how the dart is going to fly. It’s something of a combination of archery and shooting. Green hunters were also able dart Rhino using a bow – with the dart attached to the end of an arrow (see picture below). For this, client hunters are sent the dart a few weeks before the hunt, and use water instead of the immobilisation drug to practise shooting. The type of bow to be used is also stipulated, so that the dart injects the drug and the arrow falls off the animal.
On the hunt In the cool of early morning, trackers locate the animal to be darted. The decision to dart or not is then finally taken, based on the ambient temperature, terrain and safety of all concerned. If the hunt is on, the vet fires the dart in a group dart safari, or in an individual safari the client and professional hunter stalk the animal on foot to get as close as possible. After the dart is fired by the client, the vet mobilises the rest of the ground team and everyone waits quietly for the animal to go down. This can take from three to 15 minutes, and if the animal bolts a helicopter tracks it until it drops. The immobilised animal’s ears and eyes are covered to reduce the stress of external stimuli. If necessary, the animal is moved into a safe resting position where it can breathe freely.
Then the vet takes tissue, blood and hair samples for genetic and disease studies, while constantly monitoring the animal’s health. Sometimes radio collars are fitted or, in the case of Rhino, horns are microchipped or ears notched for identification purposes. At the same time, the professional hunter takes the required trophy measurements and photographs for the client, as Safari Club International accepts darted animals for entry into their record book and hunting competitions. Immobilisation drugs and antidotes When all procedures and measurements are done, equipment and people are moved to safety and the vet injects the antidote to reverse the effect of the immobilisation drug.
Different immobilisation drugs are used for different species. Elephant, antelope and Rhino make a quick and complete recovery, sometimes within 30 seconds. But for cat species there isn’t a complete antidote (This is considered risky). The drug has to leave their system for complete recovery, so cats are guarded for 24 hours until fully awake and aware. In an individual hunt the client pulls the trigger him- or herself, a professional hunter and a game capture vet must be in attendance, and the hunt has to be booked and organised through a registered hunting outfitter, just as for a trophy hunt.
The outfitter had to acquire the darting rights to the animal before it’s marketed, and must have in place an experienced and professional team to carry out the hunt. Sometimes a commercial game capture helicopter pilot is also required. The client hunter must have had training and practice in the use of the dart gun, and must be briefed on all aspects of the darting safari and the course of events – the safety of both people and animals is paramount.
Team building and training Group dart safaris are for team building and training, and for nature lovers who want to help with conservation research. Here the vet fires the dart into an animal that needs to be ear-notched, medicated or moved and so trophy quality is not a consideration. Those in the group are there purely to witness the event and give assistance where necessary. Each group safari has a ranger in charge, and there’s also usually a photo opportunity to record the event. Bartels says a downside of dart safaris is that you can’t just “pick up a gun and go hunting”. There is more planning, many people and precise coordination needed for a dart safari. Still, it (was then) growing in popularity among conservation-conscious hunters, who (then) green-hunted in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and North West province. According to Bartels, there was initially a negative reaction from the traditional hunting community, but they have since seen that there is a place for dart safaris and that nothing is taken away from professional hunters, as one is always required to be present at individual client dart safaris. Along with hunting associations, the South African Veterinary Society DID ensure strict ethics and controls on dart safaris to ensure the well being of wildlife at all times. However the SAVS has since banned the practice which has left us somewhat puzzled as like explained green dart hunting is no different to a vet traveling into the field sedating the animal, medicating, and ensuring survival – just the vet has a few more people present.
Pictured below is Joella Bates an avid hunter that did not shoot this Rhino dead. Must be the only animal that she never killed. Joella green hunted this Rhino using a dart and arrow. The arrow is used just to propel the dart at the Rhino of which is not like your usual arrow. Once hitting the Rhino or other said animal the arrow falls from the animal without any harm. The only arrow penetrating the skin is that of the dart that is laced with Entorphine.
There will always be critics and opponents that are for and against many conservation projects that are actually helpful – green dart hunting within South Africa was indeed seen as a professional method of animal husbandry as too education for those that wanted to learn more about wildlife yet without slaughtering them.
We as a professional land based conservation and environmental company fully understand and recognise the issues that surrounded the “then exploitation of green dart hunting. However there is as explained by far more illegal activities with regards to trophy hunting than what has ever been seen within the then legal dart green hunting industry. So our next question is why is trophy hunting still legal?
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa are still open on this subject and do not agree nor disagree with the then legal green dart hunting. We have to though use everything at ones disposal to ensure that maximum safety of our species. Should that mean siding with Professional Hunters or hunting organisations then so be it, should we lose supporters or be seen as “supportive of hunting practices” that do not harm nor kill animals but have been by few condemned then so be it. We are losing every nine hours 1-2 Rhino – something has to give. WE personally believe that green hunting was banned because it 1. generated much income and was seen as a more lucrative yet cheaper safer alternative to that of hunting and 2. Hunting outfitters recognised that green hunting was taking off quite rapidly thus placing their own hunting projects in danger of going bankrupt. SHOULD this ever be proven to be true then the few well known and trusted animal welfare organisations that state they are 100% against trophy hunting have a lot of answering to do.
For now we will leave this debate as an open one – we will be investigating though what the real reasons were for banning green dart hunting in South Africa that is custodian to the worlds largest Rhino population.
Thank you for reading – For further information or to place a comment to us on this subject please email our main Europa office here at;
International Animal Rescue Foundation does not support any form of hunting to kill nor do we recognise green hunting as a sport. We do though see Rhino green dart hunting as a lucrative method to raise funds for conservation and to preserve our beloved natural heritage. Every effort has to be seen to stop the indiscriminate and senseless killing of our species or should we fail we will lose the entire Rhino species in under five to ten years.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa also recognises the “exploitation” of such green hunting that led to its complete ban within South Africa. Immobilising a Rhino or any species just to gain more funds is totally unacceptable however to immobilise for research, to preserve the species, and protect ensuring that the same species of Rhino for example is not taken down more than once in any six months we do agree with or should the Rhino need emergency or life preserving treatment.
Green hunting also needs a new name. Hunting is seen by many as killing – Whilst we do not agree nor disagree with such green hunting based on the facts presented as explained we are losing our Rhino on a truly high level now. EVERY SAFE and non-abused strategy needs exploring and working on. Until this is seen we will lose more Rhino.