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A killing sport
This week I was confronted online by a profoundly distressing image. A friend of mine took a photograph of something while driving through Santa Cruz which she assures is an increasingly common sight.The picture was of a battered neo-tropical porcupine restrained by its batterer at the side of the road.
The obvious intent of this macabre enterprise was to entice a passing wild-meat fanatic to make a reasonable offer for this poor creature, or at least something to compensate for the trouble of having stood at the side of the road in the sweltering heat.
The photograph was posted on Facebook and attracted little comment; that is itself a damning comment on our society, in which a video short of a woman “twerking” usually gathers thousands of LMAOs and ROTFLs. The porcupine appeared to have been clobbered on the head or stoned out of a tree where it was sleeping. Wobbly and disoriented, it could scarcely offer any resistance to its fate.
Good luck to the person who bought that porcupine. Killing and cleaning a porcupine is as much trouble as cleaning and cooking cascadura; it is an absolute pain in the a-- and not worth the therapy. Also posted this week on Facebook was a photo album chronicling the camaraderie of a group of hunters in their forest camp.
The pictures attracted no comment whatsoever! Perhaps, while many of us are happy to eat agouti, we don’t necessarily want to see the process of roasting the hair off its flesh on an open fire and the dismemberment of this now hairless, bizarre looking carcass.
Hunters have long argued that they are unfairly condemned for contributing to declining populations of our wildlife, insisting we should instead train our guns on “commercial hunters.” These riflemen would have you believe that when a small party goes into the forest with a couple shotguns and a couple shot glasses, the activity revolves around the experience and not the wild game.
They say they never kill more than they can carry, that their prey is usually just fodder for a fireside lime after an exhilarating day-long trek in the prickly bush.
Setting aside that study in semantics, let’s say for argument’s sake that one hunting party on a typical expedition would only kill two or three agoutis. The hunting season spans five months, from the beginning of October to the end of February. During that time, hunters and their dogs will be in the forest every weekend.
I have gone places in the forest where there are more trails made by humans than animals: that should give you an idea of the sort of traffic through our fragile wildlife habitats. Additionally, sprawling development has had the unintended effect of opening up previously inaccessible areas to hunters.
The Ministry of the Environment recently announced an adjustment in the sale of state game licences from a maximum of five to a maximum of three categories per hunter. This, they anticipate, will have the net effect of a 40 per cent reduction of the negative effects of hunting on wild-game populations.
This is, of course, rubbish. I can’t be sure what magic hat that number was pulled from but on the face of it, any such measure must hinge on rigid enforcement. The Government proposes to increase the number of game wardens in this country. Our record on that, though, has been abysmal.
I would like to ask whether game wardens visit (or propose to visit) hunting camps to assess not only what the hunters have been killing but how many animals are taken. Are there quotas on how many animals a hunter can kill in one season? If so, what are these numbers based on? Have any studies determining just how much hunting wild populations can sustain in this country?
Our inability to look at the long game has always been our Achilles heel. Costa Rica recently advanced legislation to ban all sport hunting. Why? Well, eco-tourism in that “biogem,” as it is called, is a billion-dollar industry. The Costa Rican congress voted 41-5 in favour of the measure; it was seen as just good economic sense.
With Jaguars, pumas and sea turtles as part of their wealth of biodiversity, the Costa Ricans are investing in their economic future by installing the necessary environmental protections now. We, however, are yet to get the message.
Our oil reserves are like that tube of toothpaste that is rolled up right to the end, yet we remain at the other end of the evolutionary ladder, still drillin’ and killin’. While I don’t anticipate an all-out ban on hunting here, I would like to see another moratorium on hunting to allow proper studies to be conducted on wildlife populations.
When the echo calls back to us from the last dry oil well, we are going to find ourselves in a very tight spot. We can either preserve our eco-tourism product now, or ready ourselves for unending street riots when the gravy train reaches the last station.
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