Preservation by eliminating? Documentary asks if commerce can save threatened types

LONDON (Reuters) – Could a hunter’s bullet be a tool in conserving Africa’s endangered types from extinction? The question is among the many complex ethical issues raised by “Prize”, a documentary that examines whether commerce can assist wildlife conservation.

The movie, directed by Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, assesses some of the manner ins which threatened types are used for industrial gain, from elephants being auctioned to hunters as victim, to rhinos being farmed for their horns.

While Schwarz and Clusiau started the project with the intention of shaming the searching market, they soon found that scenario was more complex and nuanced than they had imagined.

“In Africa, for instance, their relationship to animals is extremely different from our relationship to animals in the sense that, we have this concept that a lion is an adorable, cuddly animal – a Disney character,” Clusiau told Reuters.

“There, a lion eats your kids. An elephant is a bulldozer for your crops and your community.”

The movie, which opens in British movie theaters on Friday, follows Texan hunter Philip Glass as he works towards bagging “The Huge Five” trophies – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo.

The footage of his kills will be troubling to many viewers, however the film likewise makes sure to reveal that the industry does benefit the local neighborhood, in regards to both meat and cash – an argument that the market presses strongly.

The film demonstrates how impoverished residents in the area of searching locations are enabled to take meat from slaughtered animals for eating. Hunting services also utilize locals and in some areas purchase community tasks.

“I believe we have to be extremely sensible that if we desire individuals to safeguard wildlife we have to provide a reason. And as unfortunate or hard as it sounds an economic reason is a crucial problem,” Schwarz stated.

A less violent but similarly controversial mix of commercialism and conservation is found in rhino breeder John Hume. The documentary delves into his resist poachers on his South African rhino farm. It is home to over 1,500 rhinos whose horns he harvests every 2 years.

“Offer me one animal that’s gone extinct (in the wild) when farmers were reproducing it and making cash out of it. There’s not one,” Hume states in the film.

He regreted that despite successful legal fights against the South African federal government, he still can not offer his rhino horn legally, meaning that his farm has actually lost him huge quantities of cash.

“If I could sell all my rhino horn now at a rate which I estimate to be a reasonable wholesale cost, I would get about half of exactly what my job has cost me to this day. So far, if I’m in it for the money, I’m extremely, very stupid.”

Illegal rhino poaching in South Africa eliminated 1,054 animals in 2016, down from a 2011 high point of 1,215, according to conservation group Save The Rhino.

In spite of the obstacles confronting a number of the species depicted in the documentary, Schwarz and Clusiau have some hope for the future, depending on their work to motivate individuals to take a more comprehensive view of the issue.

“I think there is hope. I believe we simply need to have a discussion and understand that our solutions might not be what we initially expected them to me,” Clusiau said.

Composing by Mark Hanrahan in London; modifying by Mark Heinrich