Tag Archives: Trophy

Antlers.

Men trophy hunt to show off to the ladies, new research found

Why do some humans go after the biggest animals they can find? And how can these hunters be turned away from killing what are often endangered or threatened beasts? One trio of researchers found it’s all about bragging — or shaming.

Antlers.

Image credits Michael Bieri.

For a really long time in human history, supermarkets surprisingly weren’t a thing. So if you wanted some meat to go with your nuts, berries, and assorted veggies, boy you were in for an adventure — it was either hunting something alive or scavenging (which usually meant fighting something alive which had fangs). Long story short, it was dangerous, but we had to do it for the food.

There is one kind of hunting that flies in the face of this risk-reward dynamic animals have with subsistence hunting, however. Some human hunters go after the biggest, meanest, most dangerous animal around, even when they don’t want to eat it. Needless to say, such hunting can have devastating consequences for wildlife populations. So why do some people spend huge sums of money to kill big game that’s usually on the brink of extinction anyway? It doesn’t make any sense.

The answer, according to a trio of researchers, is sex.

What.

The fact that it doesn’t make sense is half the point here, the team explains. The other one is that it is expensive. Put them both together and what you get is “this costs a lot, I get nothing out of it, and now I am going to do it. Look how cool I am.” In short, it’s all about getting bragging rights. The pricey hunt is meant to show off a male’s high social status to competitors and potential mates. The theory would offer an evolutionary explanation for why humans kill animals they don’t need to, and suggests a possible tactic for discouraging that behavior in the future.

“Policy debate about [trophy hunting] benefits and costs focuses only on the hunted species and biodiversity, not the unique behaviour of hunters,” the authors write.

Lead author Chris Darimont, Hakai-Raincoast professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and his team describe human beings as “superpredators” because they’re not bound by the typical rules of other carnivores in the animal kingdom. The average predator “typically picks prey that are newly born (the juveniles) or nearly dead (the sick and weak animals, the substandard animals in populations) and they eat them,” they added. “And this really bizarre, unique predator, [the] human being, kind of does the opposite. We target the large; we target animals for characteristics that have nothing to do with their nutritional value; we target animals with big horns or antlers.”

To find out what evolutionary drive powers trophy hunting, the team compared this behavior to the habits of “traditional hunter-gatherers” — modern populations whose lifestyles resemble those of ancient humans. Darimont pointed out that in the Meriam population of Australia, men and women both hunt for green turtles but employ different methods.

We can do it the sensible way, or the right way

Ego.

Look at this handsome guy!
Image credits cortto / Flickr.

Whereas the women employ a safe and easy method, by capturing turtles who come ashore to lay eggs, men take a complicated, expensive, and dangerous route. They take to the sea on boats then dive in dangerous waters to hunt the same turtles on their own turf. Even worse, the men often have to share the meat they hunt with the community, rather than keeping it for their family.

Still, the men keep hunting this way because they get another (more evolutionary relevant) advantage. They show that they can mobilize the resources to undertake such a costly and dangerous task, which shows they can provide for their offspring, potentially making them more attractive to mates. This behavior is known as “costly signaling behavior,” and the Meriam males use it to gain social standing. The team reports that the turtle hunters get married earlier, to “higher quality” mates, and generally have more surviving children than their peers.

With the advent of social media, these hunters have more opportunity to brag — but they’re also opening themselves to shaming by critics. Public outcry, the team points out, may be a key tactic to stemming such behavior.

“If these hunters are hunting for status essentially, there’s nothing like shame to erode status,” Darimont said.

“So where the internet might fuel this kill-and-tell generation, it might also provide a vehicle for those opposed to trophy hunting to emerge with a powerful strategy.”

The full paper “Why men trophy hunt” has been published in the journal Biology Letters.

Romania clamps down on hunting big carnivores for sport

An unexpected governmental decision comes to the protection of large carnivores in Romania, after years of rising hunting quotas since joining the EU.

Image credits Albert Lew / Flickr.

The country’s government has imposed an unexpected ban on trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynxes, and big cats on Tuesday. The move will give remaining populations of carnivores a respite from the abusive hunting practices that have been threatening it. Future incidents of damage by wildlife will be handled by the soon-to-be-created Serviciul de Urgenta pentru Animale Salbatice (The Wild Animal Emergency Service / SUAS).

Romania is home to the largest population of big predators in Europe — and, sadly, the Union’s most sought-after hunting spot. Over the last decade, hunting for sport has grown into an industry worth millions of euros in the country, with hunters shelling out up to €10,000 (£8,800) to claim a single trophy from the Carpathians, the Guardian reports. So it’s not hard to see why Romania has been setting higher and higher quotas of large carnivores to be taken down each year since joining the EU in 2007. The largest one yet, set in 2016, called for the shooting of 550 bears, 600 wolves, and 500 big cats over the year.

To put it into perspective, that’s equivalent to killing the entire brown bear population in Slovakia, the population of wolves living in France, Norway, and Sweeden, and four Poland-worths of lynxes — in one country, in a single year. Official data shows that 2,374 bears, 1,586 wolves, 898 big cats, and 120 lynxes have been shot in Romania between 2007 and 2015, local media reports.

While these species are technically protected in states of the EU under the habitats directive, legislative loopholes allow for the hunting of dangerous wild animals — those that have attacked a person or have damaged public property. Hunting associations across the country are responsible for reporting the total number of large carnivore in the country and how many of them are likely to cause damages, to governmental agencies each year. Based on the second number, authorities would decide on a hunting quota for each species which would be divided up between hunting associations to be sold to hunters as permits.

Hands up if you spot the conflict of interest there.

I do, and I’m just a bear.
Image via Wikimedia.

Even worse, since every association tends to a particular area of the country many animals are counted more than once, potentially inflating the total reported population by thousands of individuals.

“[…] there has been some controversy regarding the method by which these species’ populations are calculated or numbered, [as well as] suspicions regarding the utility of preemptive intervention and rectitude of intervention,” said environment minister Cristina Pasca-Palmer for local media. “The question was if these species really are [intervened upon] because of an underlying human-animal conflict, or if it’s just a cloacked hunting practice.”

In her interview with The Guardian, she added:

“How can hunting associations count how many animals are causing damages a priori – before the damages have happened? By introducing the ban, what we are doing is simply putting things back on the right track, as the habitats directive originally intended.”

“Hunting for money was already illegal, but it was given a green light anyway,” she added “[The dangerous animal clause] acted as a cover for trophy hunting.”

There is some concern that Tuesday’s decision will divide the country’s population — with urban residents welcoming the decision, and those living in the countryside opposing it. Wildlife protection group NGO Milvus’ bear specialist with Csaba Domokos says that damages by wildlife “are a very real concern in the countryside.” He adds that while the hunting system up to now definitely didn’t work, locals see killing the predators as the only real option. The success or failure of the law hinges on how well SUAS will handle future incidents.

But overall, the Romanian people put great value on maintaining the wilderness wild and welcome the decision. There are strong traditional ties to the wilderness and the environment, and in recent years anti-corruption officers have convicted dozens of foresters, hunters, and local officials for abusive practices that led to environmental damage.

“The Carpathian mountains are home to more biodiversity than anywhere else in Europe, but for too long they have been ruthlessly exploited for forestry and hunting. Let’s hope the government’s decision is a sign of things to come,” said activist and conservationist Gabriel Paun, who gathered 11,000 signatures for a petition in support of the ban.

The option of exporting excess wildlife to other countries interested in ‘re-wilding’ is also being discussed.