A big-game hunter is facing international controversy for shooting dead a ‘big tusker’ elephant.
Leon Kachelhoffer is a professional hunter who is paid by clients around the world to help them track and hunt some of Africa’s most dangerous animals.
Most recently, he was reportedly paid $50,000 (£38,312) to kill the biggest elephant professionally hunted since 1996. The elephant is known as a ‘big tusker’ or a ‘hundred pounder’ for its size and its iconically huge tusks.
A second elephant was also killed, thought to weigh 90 pounds. The hundred-pounder was reportedly in his 50s – past breeding age – and was killed with a single shot. Mr Kachelhoffer was instantly hit with criticism online and has since made his Facebook profile private. But he went on to defend the hunt to podcast Blood Origins host Robbie Kroger.
When you take a bull like that, there’s a lot of remorse, there’s a lot of sadness, you think about the great life that this elephant has led. You know, there’s more to it than shooting a bull, taking a photograph, becoming a hero and all this other nonsense. He argued that hunting is a sustainable conservation tool which also helps to fuel the economy by creating jobs and food for the country’s locals while attracting tourism there.
Indeed, Mr Kachelhoffer’s hunt provided work for his trackers and meat for 350 surrounding villages. Elephant hunts reportedly raised $2.7million for the country’s economy last year.
Hunters have long argued that they are contributing to conservation, mostly because they create a financial, commercial incentive to manage and protect wildlife. Activists say that animal population numbers should be more of a priority and believe that financial incentives can be provided in other ways. Botswana has famously chopped and changed between different policies on trophy hunting.
It was only reintroduced in 2019 when current president Mokgweetsi Masisi made a U-turn on his predecessor Ian Khama’s ban.
Mr Khama said: This was one of the largest if not the largest tusker in the country. An elephant that tour operators constantly tried to show tourists as an iconic attraction. Now it is dead.
How does it being dead benefit our declining tourism [industry]? Incompetence and poor leadership have almost wiped out the rhino population, and now this!
Founder of the Campaign To Ban Trophy Hunting, Eduardo Goncalves, stressed that Mr Khama’s ban was responsible for how Botswana was able to stablise its elephant population while numbers in the rest of Africa declined.
Mr Goncalves said ‘Botswana is now home to one-third of all Africa’s elephants. It is key to the survival of the species, which is now classed as Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. More elephants are killed by poachers and trophy hunters than are born every year.
Elephants are going into genetic decline as trophy hunters shoot the biggest animals with the largest tusks. This means they will be more prone to diseases. Elephant tusks are now getting shorter and more adult elephants are tusk less thanks to persecution. This means they will be less able to survive the increasingly fierce droughts resulting from climate change as they will no longer be able to source water from under dry river beds.
Mr Goncalves went on to blast British trophy hunters for being among the world’s most prolific elephant hunters. He then called on the British government to ban trophies of elephants and other vulnerable species.