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Anti Trophy Hunting
Gestapo 3, Grizzlies 0

April 1, 2000
Global Visionary
by Anthony Marr
Tel: 604-222-1169, Fax: 604-682-4107

What happens when you cross a weak environment ministry with a powerful hunting lobby? Censorship, punishment.

I refer first to the 1998 confiscation by the BC Environment Ministry of a dissenting research paper by ministry biologist A. Dionys DeLeeuw on Grizzly bear conservation strategy and hunting policy, 80 copies of which he previously distributed to key ministry personnel, all confiscated.

Second, I of course refer to a similar confiscation of his second paper on March 15 this year. This plus the suspension-without-pay and the gag order, make me wonder if I'm in Canada or Tienanmen Square or maybe the Middle Ages.

It has struck me that suppression is a desperate measure stemming from fear.

So, what is the BC Environment Ministry afraid of?

First, the wrath of the hunting and guide-outfitting community if the hunt is banned.

Second, the accountant - for loss of hunting-oriented revenue.

Third, truth. If the truth requires that the hunt be banned, they would have to crush it, or at least bend it, to save them from their First Great Fear, which they probably do not relish doing.

Truth-wise, this second confiscated paper reportedly suggested that "up to 200 per cent more bears have been killed than should have been under the ministry's own sustainability guidelines." Such a statement, especially if true, is tantamount to heresy in the eyes of the ministry, and I'm glad to see that the confiscation backfired right off the bat. What it accomplished is to propel the heretical statement on to the limelight.

Between the lines, the statement also says that government scientists have no freedom of inquiry nor of speech, and that, indirectly, freedom of the press is curtailed from fully reporting on DeLeeuw's findings. So if he is forbidden to speak, then I will.

Demographics and projections

"So just lower the quota a little next year. What is the big deal?" some say. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If overhunting is indeed the case when following the government's policy guidelines, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the policies themselves. In the case
of Grizzly bear conservation, it is something as fundamental as the population and poaching estimates.

Independent biologists estimate only 4,000-7,000 Grizzlies in BC, and so did the BC government back in the1970s. In the mid-80s, however, criticized for overhunting, instead of reducing the hunt, the government raised the population estimate to 10,000-13,000, and 10,000-13,000 it has stayed.

This relatively high estimate is what is used to calculate the "huntable 4%" which, if the true population be in fact lower, could work out to be 8% or more. Even the 4% is considered by many biologists to be unsustainable, especially with habitat loss factored in.

Long-term-viable breeding populations

The bears and tigers alike need 200-250 breeding animals in one unfragmented habitat to prevent inbreeding. The Bengal tiger needs about 3,500 sq. km. to sustain 200-250 breeding tigers. The Grizzly bear and the Siberian tiger need many times that. Therefore, Grizzly bear and Siberian tiger habitats can be fragmented much more easily than Bengal tiger habitat.

Habitat loss

The habitat of the Grizzly bear, in both BC and Alberta, has been and are being rapidly eroded, degraded and fragmented - by various human activities such as BC's clearcut-logging of Grizzly bear habitat (again the Environment Ministry losing to the Forest Ministry), and mega-developments in the centre of prime Grizzly bear habitat such as Alberta's Banff (a classical
example of a "Grizzly dam").

Hunting

Tiger hunting, mostly for head-and-hide, was permitted until 1973. At the beginning of the 20th Century, there were an estimated 80,000 tigers in India. In half a century, it was cut down to about 30,000. The stunner came when a count in 1972 produced a country-wide estimate of only 1,800 tigers. The world and the Indian government reacted swiftly and in 1973, 25 tiger reserves were established and tiger trophy hunting was banned, but perhaps too late. If trophy hunting was banned when there were still 30,000 tigers, even 10,000, there would have been a much greater fighting chance for the Bengal tiger.

We can still do this for our own Grizzlies, but we have to do it now.

Poaching

As of the rise of the Asian economy, which induced a skyrocketing demand for tiger bone, bear gall and rhino horn, the Asiatic bears were quickly decimated, and the poaching pressure has moved across the ocean. It is estimated that by the late 1990s, Canada-wide, one or two bears are poached for the gall and paws for every bear legally hunted for trophy (head-&-hide - also bear parts by the way). (e.g. Leggett, 1996; Servheen 1996, Slobodian, 1996; Knights 1996). In contrast, the BC government's poaching estimate, supported by the powerful prohunting lobby group the BC Wildlife Federation, is as low as its total population estimate is high - about one bear poached for every 3-4 legally hunted - to again convince the general public that the bears are doing fine and should continue to be hunted.

On the contrary, the Canadian Wildlife Federation considers BC and AB the two most poached provinces in Canada.

All in all, many non-BC-government bear biologists estimate 300-600 Grizzly bears poached per year in Canada. Add this to the 300 or so legally hunted, and the hundred or so shot at garbage dumps How long can they last?

The public has the right to know and make their own decisions on this important matter and the BC government must release the Deleeuw paper for public consideration.

Anthony Marr
Founding Director
Heal Our Planet Earth Global Environmental Organization
604-222-1169

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