Thropy Hunting: You Don’t Have to ‘Catch Them All’

2016_09_05_11209_1473060651-_largeMy newest article in The Jakarta Post on September 5, 2016:

The complete article:

Trophy Hunting: You Don’t Have to ‘Catch Them All’

Pokemon Go has been booming since it was released last month. Everybody seems to be playing the game, which involves the player walking around and throwing Pokeballs to catch the digital monster, called Pokemon. The logic of the game is simple enough: The player simply needs to catch, collect and use the Pokemon to battle Pokemon gyms.

The game has become an obsession, to the point where it has been banned in almost all workplaces and at many schools.

The Indonesian government has decided to place a blanket ban on the game for students. The internet is now a war zone between Team Mystic and Team Valor, and it is all about struggling to catch the exclusive Pokemon in a certain regions, and Pokemon found in neighbor’s backyards. A gamer’s list of Pokemon caught is a proud collection to show off to other people.

In the heat of Africa, it is not Pokemon that has caught the eye of the hunters: it’s wild animals, species that have evolved and survived on the face of the Earth for thousands of years—impalas, wildebeest and maybe even elephants. The sport, which involves killing animals legally, is called trophy hunting. The hunter has a license that allows him to kill every animal except for certain protected species in a specific open area. Unless the above criteria are specified, it is not trophy hunting. That sport is called poaching.

On July 1, 2015, Cecil, a 13-year-old dominant male Southwest African Lion was killed just outside of the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. Cecil was a very popular lion, well known by tourists visiting the park and the object of an Oxford University study. He had a black-fringed mane that made him easy to identify and was a leader of his pride, along with another male lion named Jericho.

The killer was identified as Walter Palmer, a US dentist who went out of town to join hunting games. Cecil’s case went viral on the internet, and Palmer went to court after being repeatedly abused by the ire of every animal enthusiast stumbling on the news. He came out innocent, along with his guide Theo Bronkhorst, while two other people in Zimbabwe were arrested instead.

In a short summary, Cecil was wounded with an arrow shot by Palmer. When that did not kill him, Palmer tracked Cecil down before finally killing him with a gunshot. Palmer was at the center of the blame, while Bronkhorst managed to dodge the public’s anger. He was prosecuted a few months later after getting caught for trying to smuggle rare sable antelopes out of Zimbabwe and into South Africa, then later put on trial over Cecil’s case.

Trophy hunting is a sport that involves killing the biggest and best-looking animal in its group, to keep it as a souvenir. Trophy hunters like to show off their kills of wild game by posing beside the animal corpse or by the animal body part in pictures, leading to a war with people opposed to their etiquette. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done about it. Every legal trophy hunter has a hunting permit and has paid a large sum of money to specifically hunt a single species of animal. Some of the money will eventually go to conversation projects, providing corruption does not get in the way. Cecil the lion was worth US$55,000.

Pokemon Go is a little bit like trophy hunting itself, as the game is currently focused on collecting more and more Pokemon. The more Pokemon you catch, the stronger and more respected you are. To some people, the game is not really a game anymore. It has become their life, and they would do anything—even a small vacation trip to Europe, to become a Mr. Mime—to be the very best. This, in my opinion, is hoarding.

Hoarding is a mental disorder of people who are unable to discard things and tend to keep collecting them. It usually starts with the person collecting various objects for a fun collection or scrapbook, but it can turn into a complete obsession. Hoarding does not only apply to old stuff like stamps, or bottle caps. There are people who would hoard certain animal trophies from the market and others who would hoard illegal items.

Many hunters feel no remorse about the trophies they collect over time. The same goes for Pokemon Go players. And there are people out there, including trophy purchasers and Pokemon Go players, whose life is spiraling out of control due to extreme hoarding. Hoarding is a behavior that involves the need to see a nearby psychiatrist.

Meanwhile, Cecil’s case remains unsolved for the public. Many people are angry at the thought of Palmer walking away freely. It is worth mentioning that it’s not only Cecil. Millions of animals have been killed for parts of their body to add to collections of people around the world. The motto ‘gotta catch them all’ should not apply to animals the way it applies to Pokemon Go. Cecil didn’t deserve to die. As a lion he was part of the ecological pyramid. He was loved by many and would have guarded our future on this blue planet.

Fourteen-year-old Elysa loves life science and literature dearly. She has been actively doing her part as a partner in supporting animal health and wildlife conservation. Elysa can be found on Twitter @elysa_ng or on her blog


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