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Hunting was for aristocrats and poaching for the poor

By Hudson Gumbihi | July 27th 2021

Poaching and game hunting are two sides of the same coin. When privileged individuals kill wildlife, it is considered game hunting but not poaching as attributed to disadvantaged people.

The reality however is, poaching in Africa was normalised by Europeans who prided themselves as professional hunters while exterminating thousands of animals in the name of seeking pleasure.

Africans only hunted small animals like rodents, squirrels, rabbits and antelopes for food; a practice that was later criminalised. On the other hand, Europeans killed elephants, giraffes, rhinos and buffalos just for fun.

White settlers in Kenya carved for themselves hunting blocks in game reserves where they had unrestricted access unlike Africans whose presence in search of mere terminates and birds to eat, was deemed illegal. And just like that, poaching, an old-time vice that refuses to die was entrenched in Kenya where meat and trophy merchants have turned into a profitable venture.

It remains debatable whether JA Hunter was a game hunter or poacher. But what is certain is the Kenyan born Scottish had killed about 1,400 animals in his lifetime.

Across the border, Hunter earned a living in Uganda where he was hired to kill lions for uninterrupted construction of Uganda railway.

During his time, elephant hunting in Kenya was a sport for the aristocracy with the bull being the most sought after animal. The hunters preferred aiming at the brain than heart.

Between 1944 and 1946, Hunter is said to have killed more than 1,000 rhinoceros in a misguided campaign to clear fauna in parts of Makueni for human settlement.

Pitiful at it sounds, many hunters were indiscriminate in their choice of elephants to kill. They had no respect for the young, old and female elephants.

Government put breaks on this activity in 1977 when Tourism and Wildlife minister Mathew Ogutu banned hunting to the disappointed of hunters who forewarned an increase in poaching.

The prophesy came to pass. Bush meat is a constant menu on dining tables in Kenya with the latest case being the arraignment in court of three men found selling Zebra meat at Burma market. 

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