That there is a great deal of negativity surrounding hunting is more than obvious. The outcry comes from a variety of sources including people who do not understand the activity and those who see it as morally wrong. While there is a distinct difference between hunting and poaching, the outcome is generally the same – the animal is dead – but the methods used are completely different. Every aspect of the two acts are completely different from each other.

At Zingela Forwarders, a company which specialises in the freighting and forwarding of hunting trophies, we are advocates for legal hunting which we see as an extension of the conservation activities which take place in South Africa and around the world. Elsewhere on our website you can find articles which explain this stance.

Let’s look at poaching first.

Poaching is an illegal act which is defined as ‘the illegal practice of trespassing on another’s property to hunt or steal game without the landowner’s permission’. This brings into focus two main factors, The land and the game. Poachers have no rights of access to the land or the game.

Poaching also, generally, takes place on land set aside for conservation purposes which means that the animals on that land are not intended to be hunted. This is sometimes due to the fact that they have become partially desensitised to human presence. It is also linked to the fact that the animals there are intended for the purpose of protecting bio-diversity or genetic viability.

Poaching activities are often carried out by extremely poor people who feel that they have no option. The plight of these people is often exploited by criminal syndicates who prey on the desperation of the poor local communities. These people are often paid very badly – if at all – for their illegal activities on behalf of organisations which stand to make a lot of money. It is very seldom that poaching activities in and around major conservation areas are done purely in search of food.

Poaching also has very little to do with the act of killing the animal but is usually motivated by the desire for a specific part of the animal – think of elephant tusks, rhino horn and lion teeth. To obtain these, poachers will often kill the animal in the most inhumane of ways, often under the cover of darkness. Often the animal is not even dead before the process of harvesting the required part is undertaken. Animals sometimes survive these horrendous acts and are either left seriously injured and scarred or have to be euthanised. Scientific studies have shown that many rogue elephants were orphaned by poachers and have been left traumatised.

So, what about hunting?

Hunting is always organised. That is to say, that to be part of a hunt, hunters will have to obtain the necessary permits and authorisation. Permits are specific to the type of animal being hunted, to the location where the hunt will take place and even to the time frame during which the hunt can take place and the time of day during which the hunt must take place. The hunt cannot take place without the permission of the land owner. These permits and authorisations come at a cost and thereby contribute to the economy of the country in which the hunt takes place.

Hunting is done in areas designated for hunting. These are usually areas which are not suitable for other forms of tourism or conservation or which are not suitable for other activities such as agriculture. Land which has been set aside for conservation will only ever be used for hunting purposes as a means of controlling populations. In these cases, the hunting – or culling – will almost exclusively extract the ageing or ill animals rather than harvesting the strongest individuals. This is a conservation act designed to ensure the strength of the remaining group. Often the animals taken during a cull of this nature will be given to the local population for food once the trophy elements have been harvested.

In non-conservation areas, the animals which are hunted have been specifically bred and reared for the hunt. They are allowed to live without human intervention which means that they are not acclimatised to human presence. There are instances of ‘bagged’ hunts where captive animals are shot, but that is a topic for another article.

Hunting seeks to use the entire animal. It may be that the hunter only wants the head or even just the horns for example, but none of the animal will be wasted. Those parts which are not wanted by the hunter will be given or sold to the local community for food – in the case of grazing animals.

Hunting is also an active sport in which the hunter – either with or without the aid of a knowledgeable guide – will have to find and kill the animal. Hunters generally have to show proof of their ability to make a clean kill – that is one shot for a kill. Also there is usually a qualified hunter on site who can ensure that the animal does not suffer.

So, when does hunting become poaching?

Hunting animals when not in season is poaching.
Hunting without permits, using illegal weapons, spotlights, stun guns or hunting from a moving vehicle is poaching.
Using bait which adversely affects the animals health – such as poison – is poaching.
Hunting without the land-owner’s permission or on private property is poaching.
Hunting an animal which has been tagged by a researcher or that appears on an endangered list is poaching.
When the animal or animal parts are sold for profit constitutes poaching.

While both hunting and poaching result in the animal dying, the differences are varied and substantial and cannot be denied. Whether you like hunting or not, you should always be against poaching.