Botswana lions are ex-President Bush meat

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2001:
Botswana lions are ex-President Bush meat: Old George Bush lobbies for Safari Club; young Bush attacks ESA

GABORONE, Botswana; JOHANNESBURG, South Africa; HARARE, Zimbabwe; WASHINGTON D.C.–“You might call the lions of southern Africa potential Bush meat,” wrote Manchester Guardian correspondent Chris McGreal from Johannesburg on April 27. “Former U.S. President, George Bush, father of the current President, and his old Gulf War ally, General ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Schwarzkopf, are pleading with the government of Botswana to be allowed to revive their old alliance,” McGreal explained, “this time in pursuit of Africa’s endangered big cats. Bush is among the prominent members of Safari Club International who have asked Botswana to lift a ban slapped on the trophy hunting of lions in February. Bush’s former vice president, Dan Quayle, is also a signatory.”

Said Botswana-based National Geographic filmmaker Derek Joubert, to Fiona Macleod of the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian, “This is a defining moment, not only for the lions but also for our government. If the hunting fraternity manages to overthrow this law, there is no turning them back.”
Joubert explained to McGreal that, “I’ve been studying lions in northern Botswana for 20 years and watching them systematically decline in population size and health, primarily and perhaps even solely, as the result of hunting. Hunters target the primary males,” Joubert continued. “When they disappear, the male cubs don’t leave the pride, because they are not chased out. So we’ve seen these young males breeding with their sisters and their mothers because the trophy males have been killed.”

“We clearly have a problem,” agreed wildlife artist David Shepherd, 70, who funds the David Shepherd Conservation Foundation with the proceeds from his paintings. “It is unbelievable that lions in Botswana are still killed by U.S. trophy hunters. There are probably fewer than 5,000 male lions left in Africa,” as the African lion population has dropped by more than two-thirds in less than a decade, “and those are getting smaller and smaller as the best genes are shot out. It seems,” Shepherd said, “that the hunting lobby has little or no consideration for the future or health of lions. They are concerned with the loss of $5 million per year in hunting income,” of which only $100,000 would be paid to Botswana in license fees.

Shepherd urged that letters supporting the lion hunting ban be faxed to the Botswanian Office of the Vice President, 267-350-888, and Minister of Commerce, 267-372-539. Even if Botswana stands firm, however, Zimbabwe planned to cash in on trophy hunters’ constant quest for novelty with a May 5 bloodbath seemingly lifted from several centuries ago.

Explained Sue Burr and Meryl Harrison of the Zimbab-we National SPCA, “Zimbab-we will be hosting 51 hunters from abroad: 39 from the U.S., eight South Africans, two from Denmark, and two from Egypt. They will be hunting big game with handguns and bow-and-arrow, and will hunt leopards with dogs, which has in the past been banned. No one knows how many leopards there are in Zimbabwe, but they were in the past protected.” Goats were likely to be used as live bait, Burr and Harrison added.

“The trial hunts are a spinoff from Environment and Tourism minister Francisco Nhema’s recent trip to Las Vegas, where he wooed rich American hunters,” wrote Vincent Kahiya of the Zim-babwe Independent. “Nhema promised the Americans that the hunting safari would not be adversely affected by the invasion of private conservancies” last year by landless self-proclaimed veterans of the Zimbabwean war for independence–many of whom are reportedly too young to have had any involvement. The Zimbabwean killing orgy was expected to earn about $1.3 million U.S.

Right to sue

While George Bush the father moved to undercut African wildlife conservation, George W. Bush, the son, moved to gut the U.S. Endangered Species Act by proposing an amendment to strip advocacy groups and private citizens of the ability to sue seeking ESA enforcement–which has been the main means by which species have gained protection ever since the act was adopted in present form in 1973. The lawsuits take two basic forms: petitions to add species to the endangered and threatened lists, and petitions seeking designation of “critical habitat” for species already listed.

Endangered species advocates have repeatedly resorted to the courts because no U.S. President or Congress has ever given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the budget it says it needs to do the scientific work necessary to list endangered and threatened candidate species and designate critical habitat in a timely manner. The Fish and Wildlife Service, in turn, has been notoriously slow to list species whose protection might have political fallout–especially at budget time.

As of April 6, 507 animal species and 736 plants had received ESA protection; 249 candidate species were awaiting review; and the Fish and Wildlife Service was facing 76 lawsuits involving 440 species, with another 95 lawsuits involving 600 species pending, said spokesperson Mitch Snow. Bush had requested $112 million for fiscal 2002 endangered species programs, a cut of $9.1 million from current funding. The Bush fiscal 2002 budget also axed the federal Wetlands Reserve Program, an incentive to farmers to preserve wildlife habitat, but proposed increases of $12 million in the USDA budget for researching exotic pests and diseases, and $900,000 in the budget for the Interagency Bison Manage-ment Plan at Yellowstone National Park. Directed by the National Park Service, the Interagency Bison Management Plan is the current federal effort to eradicate brucellosis in the Yellowstone bison herd, through a combination of vaccination, containment, and culling.

The Bush budget assumed leasing revenues of $1.2 billion from oil well leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by 2004. Bush, a Republican, may have the votes to get his proposals through the House of Represent-atives, where the Republicans hold a  majority, but will meet opposition in the Senate, split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats.


Wildlife took also hits from Interior Secretary Gail Norton. Almost immediately upon appointment, Norton allegedly pressured the Bureau of Land Manage-ment into reneging on an out-of-court settlement which required the removal of livestock from 504,000 acres of the California Desert Con-servation Area, to protect critical habitat for endangered desert tortoises. On March 29, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Public Employees for Environ-mental Responsibility charged Norton with contempt of court.

On April 11, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler upheld the December 2000 settlement of a lawsuit by the Bluewater Network, of San Francisco, in which the Interior Department agreed that by 2002 it would ban jet skis from 21 National Parks, Seashores, and Recreation Areas. Sixty-six other National Parks, Seashores, and Recreation Areas have already banned them.

Within two weeks, however, Norton lifted newly imposed bans at the Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina and four National Parks, to allow jet ski owners another summer of use.On April 25, Norton hinted in a Washington Post interview that she would scrap plans many years in development to reintroduce grizzly bears to the Selway-Bitterroot region of Idaho.

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