Theunis Botha, 51, from South Africa, met his end Last week after a wounded elephant collapsed on top of him.
Botha was leading a group of hunters near Gwai, a village in the western part of Zimbabwe. Afrikaans media outlet Netwerk24 says Botha came across a herd of elephants, the herd was spooked, and they ran towards him. While Botha was flung into the air by one of the Elephant’s trunks, the charge isn’t what killed him.
Instead, another member of the group shot the elephant. The elephant then toppled over, crushing Botha under its bulk.
While Mr. Botha’s death is certainly tragic, there’s been an outpouring of vitriol against him instead of the expected grief. Many are saying that “he got what he deserved” for being a big game hunter. C.J. Prinsloo, a big game hunter, and friend of Botha, says that he had to delete his memorial Facebook post for his dead friend after a flood of rude comments. Prinsloo says “People have been saying it’s a good thing that he died, and it makes me so angry.” It frustrates him even further knowing that Botha’s wife and five children may be subjected to the hate.
Prinsloo also offered a compelling defense for big game hunting. According to him, the meat from any elephants killed by hunters goes to feed local communities. Furthermore, big game hunting boosts the local economy through licensing and tourism revenue. Also, big game hunting essentially raises the value of wild animals, giving local agencies more money and incentive to protect the ones that remain from poaching. Lastly, big game hunters often specifically target big game that have become a danger to itself and others, such as aggressive older males during mating season.
Obviously, others object. They condemn the practice as cruel. They also point to the fact that many popular big game species are also endangered. Elephants are specifically at risk, as there’s little over 400,000 living in the wild today. This is a far cry from the several million that roamed the continent just a century ago.
It’s possible that there’s no correct answer here. But the debate still rages on, with Mr. Botha’s death at its center.