'Hunting is not about killing for me': Trophy hunter sees shooting big game as form of conservation
Controversial practice attracts widespread criticism but also limited support from some nature groups
A British Columbia woman well-known for her trophy hunts of lions, bears and giraffes says she sees the killing as an ethical form of wildlife conservation.
Jacine Jadresko of Victoria has found herself a target of online hatred for her trophy hunting around the world.
- Watch the fifth estate on CBC-TV Friday at 9 p.m: The Hunter and The Hunted
Jadresko, who appears in the fifth estate's "The Hunter and The Hunted," said that after being on a show like the fifth estate, "I'll get up to 200 or more death threats a day."
"Things so vile as people telling me they're going to kidnap my son and I and they're gonna skin him alive and hang him from a tree."
Trophy hunting — or hunting big game for recreation and not for food — has existed for centuries.
While it has been the focus of much criticism from animals rights groups in recent years, it also has support from some conservation and nature groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Jadresko said she is an ethical hunter and sees hunting as a form of wildlife conservation.
"Hunting is not about killing for me," she said. "I have a huge respect for each species that I hunt and each animal that I hunt and they're each very special to me. "
Jadresko has been trophy hunting for the last three years. In 2014, she paid thousands of dollars to a South African outfitter to hunt a lion that she has since had mounted.
"In about a year and a half I hunted in nine countries and I successfully hunted 29 species," she said. "It's very primal and natural."
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She's become a sort of poster girl for female hunters — Jadresko is a sponsored "Global Girl" for camouflage apparel company Realtree.
Her Instagram account, where she goes by the name the "Inked Huntress," is full of photos of herself posing with dead animals — what she calls her "harvests." Some pictures show her hands and face covered in blood.
"When I've successfully harvested an animal, I want to remember that and … you take a picture because it's a respect to the animal, to remember that animal and remember the whole hunt and the whole day and everything."
She's become an online target for anti-hunting activists and says that the hate she receives encourages her to hunt more.
"The more you hate, the more I kill," Jadresko wrote on her Instagram account.
Hunting by women has virtually doubled in the past 10 years, according to Realtree, and marketers are anxious to prove that even bloodsport could use a touch of glamour.
Jadresko said she thinks part of the reason she gets so much online hate is because she's a woman.
"I think if people saw a picture of a man and he had just finished cleaning out the animal, he had blood all over him, they'd be like, 'Oh you know, whatever.' But because I'm a woman and I have my hair in pigtail braids, they just feel this extra shock that it's a woman doing these things."
While Jadresko has attracted criticism for her actions, trophy hunting has support from some quarters that might be unexpected.
The World Wildlife Fund, whose mandate is "to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature," does not always oppose trophy hunting.
"In certain limited and rigorously controlled cases, including for threatened species, scientific evidence has shown that trophy hunting can be an effective conservation tool as part of a broad mix of strategies," the fund says.
On its website, it cites a community-based conservation strategy that included "tightly regulated" trophy hunting in the mid-1990s in Namibia.
The recovery of wildlife has been remarkable.- World Wildlife Fund
"The recovery of wildlife has been remarkable. Namibia now boasts the largest free-roaming population of black rhino, as well as expanding numbers of elephants, lions and giraffes and the world's largest cheetah population. Local communities have also benefitted substantially from the program."
Other arguments in support of trophy hunting suggest that the money hunters pay to kill these animals goes to local communities, especially in places such as Africa.
But the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says that while hunters pay roughly $200 million each year for big game hunts in Africa, only about three per cent of those funds go to local communities in the hunting area.
The African lion population has fallen by more than 40 per cent in the past three generations and many elephant and tiger species are now considered endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
In early 2016, in an interview with ITV News, Prince William said "there is a place for trophy hunting," and "that the money that goes from shooting a very old infirm animal goes back into the protection of the other species."
Many animals rights and wildlife groups say that kind of thinking is flawed.
In a 2015 article, environmental activist David Suzuki said humans are "nature's most dangerous and destructive super predator."
Suzuki, host of CBC's The Nature of Things, says that predation is a natural, necessary part of animal existence, but non-human predators target the weak, the young and the old. Humans engaged in trophy hunting are often targeting the largest males, Suzuki says.
A Science magazine report from 2015 titled "The unique ecology of human predators" says that humans kill large predators at nine times the rate at which carnivores typically kill each other.
The report says humans are becoming a kind of "super predator" and are killing animals at a frequency that will lead to unprecedented rates of extinction.
Part of this, the study says, is because humans are killing mature animals that would not often come across any predators in the wild.
Cecil the lion
Much of the recent controversy over trophy hunting began with Cecil the lion in July 2015.
Cecil was a popular African tourist attraction that was lured from a protected national park in Zimbabwe and killed by Walter Palmer, a wealthy American trophy hunter. Cecil's killing triggered outrage around the world.
Since then, the United States has banned the import of African lion trophies.
Canada does not ban the import of African lion trophies, but Environment and Climate Change Canada told the fifth estate that that Canada "diligently upholds" the terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which deals in part with the importation of trophy animals into the country.
The agency said that international trade — including trade in hunting trophies — is controlled by a strict permitting system that "obliges the exporting country to ensure that the harvest was legal and that the harvest and export are not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild."
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To many, Palmer became public enemy No. 1 in the fight against trophy hunting. But for some like Jadresko, Palmer was the victim.
"It's really unfortunate that he had to go through what he went through I think," Jadresko told the fifth estate. "It's unfortunate that the media portrayed him in the way that they did."