The Last Rhodesian Politicians

The murder of Cecil in Zimbabwe has revealed to the world the true nature of trophy hunting.

Whatever feeble excuses hunters make about feeding their families or the homeless clearly has never applied to lion hunting. Who seriously thinks that Palmer planned to feed Cecil to his own family, or to poor Africans?

In accordance with the hunter-conservation ethic embodied in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, Walter Palmer rationalized his kill as a way to protect wildlife. Originally devised during the administration of big-game hunter Theodore Roosevelt, and perfected by professional game managers like Aldo Leopold, the ethical hunter rationalization has spread around the world. Like state game departments in the USA, Zimbabwe sells hunting permits both to raise funds and to protect cattle ranches.

In the USA the model asserted that wildlife belongs to sovereign states, as a democratic alternative to the model of feudal Europe that limited hunting to the landed aristocracy. In Zimbabwe this model is rationalized as more democratic than system inherited from the old colonial Rhodesian regime.

In fact, of course, the vast majority of hunting permits are sold to great white hunters, largely from the USA, not to native Zimbabweans. The white American appreciation of the old colonial regime of Rhodesia continues among people like Dylann Roof, the presumed Charleston killer of African-American churchgoers. Roof, who was photographed displaying the flags of the former white colonial states of South Africa and Rhodesia along with the battle flag of the Confederacy, called his website “the last Rhodesian.”

A recent Jacobin article raised the question: “How on earth, one might ask, does a young kid in 2015 know or care about these receding historical moments? The answer is that for white supremacists, these sites of antiracist struggle register as profound losses. Although the South African case is better known, the 1965–1979 flag of Rhodesia is a symbol of a similar defeat, resonating with those like the suspected Charleston killer who subscribe to a paranoid, self-pitying ideology of white victimhood — an ideology that has more traditionally been symbolized by the Confederate battle flag, the ultimate emblem of white loss.”

One of the real-life last Rhodesian politicians is Allan Savory. Now known for his TED talk promoting ranching as the answer to climate change, Savory started his career as a game ranch biologist working for the white colonial government of what was then known as Rhodesia, now the independent nations of Zambia (where he worked at the time) and Zimbabwe (where he was born). In order to set up areas, misleadingly called national parks, for the benefit of great white hunters, Savory and his colleagues saw the need to “remove the hunting, drum-beating people to protect the animals.” This ultimately led to what Savory now calls “the saddest and greatest blunder of my life,” the killing of 40,000 elephants.

Savory applied his game tracking skills to establish the Tracker Combat Unit of the Rhodesian Special Air Service, and later went on to politics, attempting to save the white Rhodesian regime from itself by making a few concessions to the native African population. When his efforts to save white Rhodesia failed, he moved to New Mexico where he founded the Holistic Management Institute.

We now have a chance to protect lions in New Mexico. Unfortunately the true lions who once lived here were wiped out during the Sixth Mass Extinction when humans first arrived in the Americas. Now that we are in the midst of the Seventh Mass Extinction, it is time to protect remaining wildlife, including mountain lions. The professional killers of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish are now proposing to expand cougar hunting and trapping. As with African lions, no one can seriously claim to hunt cougars to feed their families, so the department game managers, who claim to be “biologists,” have been forced to admit that the purpose of their so-called research is to increase paid sport hunting opportunities and “Sport harvest is the primary tool used to regulate both ungulate and

cougar populations keeping predator-prey relationships in balance.”

While the game department staff works primarily for sport hunters, they face oversight by the political appointees of the Game Commission to insure that the interests of their fellow ranchers are taken into account. The Commission will be holding a public hearing to approve the department cougar rules on August 27 at 8:30 AM at Santa Fe Community College. Comments can be sent to