As many of you know, I am no fan of such trophy hunts. I often hike in remote spots to see bears and other animals in their natural habitat. We have previously followed the controversy over the shooting of “Cecil the Lion” by an American dentist Walter Palmer from Minnesota as well as subsequent controversies of an Idaho hunter taunting animal advocates and killing giant elephants or giraffes or famed wolves for trophies. Now, American trophy hunter Bryan Kinsel Harlan, an entrepreneur from Texas, has triggered an outcry in Pakistan after paying over $100,000 for the joy of shooting a rare mountain goat (a national symbol of Pakistan).
I cannot understand the joy of killing one of these animals or the challenge of shooting them with a high-powered rifle. I seek out these animals and take pictures with the same ease it would be to kill them. Yet, many feel a tremendous release in killing these animals and posing with their dead bodies. As I have previously stated, as an avid hiker, I often go many miles to see such animals in their natural habitat. The idea of then pulling out a rifle to kill one of them is as foreign a notion for me as would be cutting a painting out of its frame at a museum to possess it.
The markhor is a magnificent species of wild goat with long hair and spiralled horns. It is a protected species in Pakistan but Harlan paid for the thrill of killing one in the Sassi-Harmosh community conservation area in Sassi village of Gilgit. Harlan went up a hill and shot a mountain goat with a high-powered rifle and then bragged about it. He said “it was an easy and close shot and I am pleased to take this trophy.” I bet it was. It was a mountain goat grazing when he blew it away for the thrill kill.
The video shows Harlan being helped up the mountain by numerous guides and then positioned to shoot the goat. He then expresses joy at the rather unimpressive act of shooting a grazing animal.
There is of course nothing illegal in what Harlan did. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped trophy hunters return with these animals by changing their status from endangered to threatened. Pakistan has an awful record on such hunts. We previously discussed how officials allowed Saudi princes to massacre rare birds in such a hunt.
As a result, the markhor populace had rebounded enough by 2015 that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature upgraded the species from endangered to “near-threatened.” According to the conservationist website Green Global Travel, the comeback of the markhor is “one of the world’s great but little known conservation success stories.”
The money raised from trophy hunters goes to the locals. I can understand their interest in getting a huge amount of money. I just do not understand the joy on Harlan’s face like he just accomplished something by pulling a trigger from a safe distance from a goat. However, I watched this video repeatedly to try to understand the thrill in killing such a defenseless animal.