The hashtag #BoycottJimmyJohns was trending on Twitter after old photos of company owner Jimmy John Liautaud surfaced of him posing with an elephant he killed during a hunting trip back in 2010.
Mark Hamel of Star Wars fame retweeted the picture, which states: “Thumbs up to a boycott of all @jimmyjohns restaurants! (with apologies for posting this obscene photo)” has over 85,000 “likes” and 26,800 retweets.
Many other people threw their opinion into the ring and voiced their disgust. As I read the tweets, it became very apparent that most people do not even have a basic understanding of conservation and why hunting elephants is necessary.
In my first book Why We Hunt: The Five Motivations of a Modern Hunter, which will be out later this year. I explain the basics of conservation in Africa and specifically elephant hunting.
Elephant populations are indeed declining, but hunting them is still very important to ensure their survival. I know it seems counterproductive to save an animal by killing them, but there is a reason.
The reason goes back to what I mentioned earlier. Habitat destruction is the greatest threat to African animals. Because of the habitat destruction elephants can no longer migrate the same way they did in the past. The development has restricted these animals to smaller chunks of suitable habitat.
These smaller chunks of habitat can only sustainably hold a certain amount of elephants. If the elephant populations get too large for that specific piece of land, they overeat that habitat making it able to sustain fewer elephants. In time past the elephants would move on, but now they are stuck.
If left unmanaged, they would eventually eat themselves into a habitat cycle that would support far fewer elephants than an elephant herd managed by hunting. Elephants would eat their habitat to the point where it could not support them; elephants would subsequently starve, allowing vegetation to recover, which would enable elephants to start recovering and restart the cycle.
This scenario is the best-case scenario if the populations are left unmanaged. What could happen is that the unmanaged population could damage the habitat to such an extent that it never recovers and we are eventually left with no elephants.
Elephant hunting is strictly regulated. Only excess elephants are allowed to be taken by hunters. Excess elephants are usually males and females past breeding age, but some young males are also taken. By selectively taking only individual members of a population, you keep the population at roughly the same size. This management style creates a balance of habitat and animals that is sustainable.
As you can see, the shooting of some elephants is necessary for preserving the habitat and sustainability of the herd. Now comes the question of how best to perform these essential killings. The obvious answer is regulated hunting. It is the same thing we do in North America. The only difference is who is making the kill.
In North American, we rely on local hunters to control wildlife populations. In Africa, they rely on foreign hunters to do the same thing. The reason is simple economics. Local Africans cannot pay as much as foreigners. Many have trouble just getting by, let alone having the resources to participate in regulated hunting. The rates are high because they have to be able to offset the cost of not developing habitat and keeping locals tolerant of animal interactions.
This is just a small excerpt from the book where I dive into what motivates modern hunters and why hunting is just as important to modern man as it has ever been.
If this book interests you please follow my Facebook page The Sportsman’s Party, I will be putting out more information there when it becomes time to publish.