There is much nattering among the ARista lobby in the UK over this photo.
Prince Harry killed a buffalo.
Won’t someone please think of the children?
The big outrage is that his father, Prince Charles, just recently made ending the illegal wildlife trade a major public campaign of his. Prince Charles and Prince William are going to be in a film that talks about wildlife conservation.
And I think this is wonderful.
But then Prince William is seen hunting wild boar in Spain, and people lose their minds. Never mind that wild boar are actually overpopulating in large parts of their range on the European continent. They were actually extirpated from the British Isles but were accidentally restocked when a few escaped English game farms. The animals are still very uncommon in the UK, so most people have no idea what wild boar actually do when they exist at very high numbers. Namely, they destroy crops and forest land, and without large numbers of wolves– their only real natural predator– the only way to manage them is through culling or hunting. Hunting raises some funds for wildlife conservation, but if you cull, you have to pay for the professional cullers.
So it would be much more sensible to allow hunting, don’t you think?
But the real outrage I’ve seen is about Prince Harry killing this buffalo while the whole family has pledged to support wildlife conservation as their major campaign this year.
He must surely be a hypocrite! Right?
Well, behind the outrage there is a story.
The buffalo that Prince Harry killed was an Asian water buffalo. These animals exist in both wild and domestic populations in Asia, and there is a bit of debate as to whether there is only one species of water buffalo in Asia or two of them. The two species are not split between wild and domestic, but rather, there is a river population and a swamp population that differ in chromosome number and almost never interbreed in their native range in the wild. They are both sources for the domestic water buffalo, and in captivity, they do cross and produce fertile offspring despite the chromosome number difference.
Prince Harry did not kill a wild water buffalo of any species.
He wasn’t even in Asia when he shot it.
He was in Argentina.
What are water buffaloes doing in Argentina?
Well, they were brought to South America as meat, dairy, and draft animals. Now, it’s certainly true that certain game ranches in South America do raise water buffalo to hunt, which is certainly a problem, but killing an invasive species– especially a feral domestic animal– is one of the best things that can be done to protect wildlife.
In the Southern Cone of South America, there are big game ranches that have stocked their lands with water buffalo and even red deer. Now, these ranches may be criticized for many things, but they do keep some areas wild that would otherwise be used for agriculture or development, which winds up being good for at least some native species. Would it be better to have these ranches with a few small herds of managed feral buffalo or to have them filled with Indicus cattle?
And this is not much different from the English sporting tradition of managing the legendary wild park cattle as a game species. At least, no one in Argentina made up any nonsense about these buffaloes being an ancient native species. According to legend, these wild white cattle were the original wild white aurochs of England, when in truth they were nothing more than feral domestics that were selectively bred through culling to have the white coloration. And they were bred as game animals in exactly the same way the Argentines breed water buffalo.
Not a single royal is going out and shooting endangered species. They are not going to Africa and shooting “Cape” buffalo or elephants.
They are not shooting tigers or rhinos.
And by campaigning for real wildlife conservation and not animal rights outrages, they are actually doing the world a lot of good.
Real conservation is not anti-hunting. It sees hunting as an important management tool that can be used to reduce populations and generate revenue at the same time.
This is where the animal rights outrages come into total conflict with scientific management and sound economics. You cannot save animals because you get enough people in your wealthy, developed country to look down their noses at hunters. You can only save animals when you can create some economic value for the animals in their native countries or, at the very least, be able to find some intelligent way to mitigate any damages caused by such animals.
This is the big problem in conservation.
We have many people in the West who want to save species, but they don’t live in the countries or regions where these animals exist. Westerners are outraged at the poaching and habitat destruction, but they fail to understand that these issues are the symptom of greater human problems. When you have people living on the edge, your morals as well-fed Westerner really don’t mean much. You can be outraged all you want, but unless you address the human problems with conservation, all you will have is outrages and bromides.
I wish the royal family the best of luck in their venture in trying shed light on the need to conserve wildlife, but i also hope they can talk some sense into their citizens about the importance of hunting in conservation. I think this would be a great opportunity.
Otherwise, people are going to go on and on complaining about the supposed hyprocrisy of the royal family.
Of course, I’m not even a monarchist, and I’m very happy to live in a republic!