When Melissa Bachman, TV personality on the Outdoor Channel, posted a picture to Twitter of herself and a dead lion, she sparked a big debate. In the photo, Melissa is wearing an army green tank top and toting a huge gun. The caption said, “An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt!” (Chances are it was much more beautiful when it was alive!) It’s completely alarming to see what appears to be a lovely young lady in a sparkly necklace grinning over the body of a huge dead lion.
Most people who saw the photo were absolutely fuming. Brian Pomp wrote, “Worst human ever!” A man named Don wrote, “I have no problem with people hunting as long as they eat what they kill. Hunting for fun is just despicable.” It’s hard not to see the picture and get angry. Looking at a beautiful lion dead at somebody’s feet pulls at your heartstrings. And the truth is, the lion never even had a chance. Lions are large cats, and they act like them too; they often spend time lounging around in the sun, and many are so used to humans that they don’t even blink when one is near.
However, the group that Melissa Bachman worked with, the Maroi Conservancy, says that controlled hunting is legal in South Africa. The 21,000 acre preserve along the Limpopo River hosts multiple safari hunts (recently outlawed in Botswana) every year. (It’s questionable whether a human with a high-powered rifle with a scope against a defenseless animal is even ethical or can be called a “safari.”)
The Maroi Conservancy posted their motto on their Facebook page: “Our motto is ‘conservation through sustainable hunting.’” They claim they use any meat from the kill to feed locals in the community. They use the money collected to fix fences and guard against illegal poachers. (So they’re using money from an animal kill to protect against people who don’t want to pay for a kill. It’s a little unusual – even paradoxical.)
To further complicate matters, lions do not naturally live on the preserve. So, they had to bring one in when Bachman told them about her desire to kill a lion. So, the Maroi group contacted another hunting organization in Zeerust, the Northwest Province; they imported the lion.
To animal lovers, this just seems completely inhumane. To knowingly bring an animal of which there are few left in the wild for the purposes of hunting and killing it seems insane and cruel. The group claims it didn’t benefit financially from the hunt.
While Bachman had permits and the group argued that “the lion was not drugged or enclosed in a camp. It was free roaming on more than 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres). Melissa is a professional hunter and in no way is she involved in dubious practices.”
But just because it’s legal, that doesn’t make it right. The slave trade used to be legal. That didn’t make it right, either.
There are thought to be about 32,000 to 35,000 lions living in 27 African countries, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has spent the recent months debating whether to upgrade the animal’s status to “endangered.”