24 Apr 2015

Happy hunting ground

12:02 pm on 24 April 2015

Kane Bodman is not the type of guy who enjoys being in the city “drinking lattes and eating croissants.”

Kane Bodman


The 30-year-old from Mangatawhiri, near Auckland, spends his spare time hunting wild pigs and deer, something he’s been doing since he was six years old.

“One of the main reasons is obviously food and I just enjoy it, being in the outdoors,” he says.

Hunting has long been a contentious sport and this month, English actor and comedian Ricky Gervais, propelled the issue into the limelight after he slammed trophy hunters on Twitter.

About two weeks ago, the animal rights activist tweeted a photo of a hunter with a dead giraffe arched over her head to his 7.6 million followers.

The post went viral, garnering a firestorm of disgusted responses.

Unlike poaching, trophy hunting is legal and people can pay thousands of dollars to harvest animals like lions, buffalo, and leopards in countries all over Africa.

Kane Bodman says while he’s not comfortable shooting that type of wildlife, since “the planet’s not exactly crawling with them”, he thinks it’s essentially no different from killing a stag.

Kane started hunting ducks with his dad when he was a child and believes animosity between hunters and non-hunters comes down to life experiences.

“I guess some people just haven’t been brought up the way I have.”

“A lot of people hear one side of the story, jump on the bandwagon, and stick with that,” he says.

Last week Gervais tweeted another photo, this time of trophy hunter Rebecca Francis, lying smiling next to a giraffe she killed in 2010. The post was retweeted over 46,000 times.

Francis responded via Facebook saying the giraffe was “inevitably going to die soon” and she “chose to honor his life by providing others with his uses.”

“I was approached toward the end of my hunt with a unique circumstance. They showed me this beautiful old bull giraffe that was wandering all alone,” she said.

 “They asked me if I would preserve this giraffe by providing all the locals with food and other means of survival.”

Gervais hit back, posting photos of Francis’ other kills and mocking the American hunter's claims of doing the giraffe a favour.

But Kiwi hunter Brian Elwarth says trophy hunting plays an important role.

“You and I might not want to eat a giraffe but we’re talking about two tonnes of meat and every ounce of that gets consumed by the local village.”

“Those people saying that it’s bad, well when was the last time they donated a tonne of meat to a local village?”

Elwarth, who’s been hunting since he was 15, travels around the world as a professional hunting guide and spends up to 10 months a year hunting.

“When I was in Mozambique, we harvested a couple of Cape buffalo which are huge animals, about 800 kilos,” he says.

“All we wanted was the experience of hunting these dangerous animals and the skin and horns as a memory of the hunt, but the villagers took all of the intestines, the stomach, everything."

"We actually felt really good because we knew how many people were going to benefit from that protein.”

Living in Taupo with his wife and two dogs, Brian argues the “huge money” hunters pay is vital to conservation of wildlife.

Brian Elwarth with a sika deer


“Just take the Cape buffalo for instance. It’s about 13,000 US dollars for a 13-day hunt.”

“The money is used in conservation to improve the herds and the habitat. Without money from the hunters, there is no money for that sort of thing so the animals actually suffer when there is no hunting,” he says.

He says in New Zealand, Europe, US and Canada, "all the money generated from hunting is used in the local economy" and in Africa, locals are employed as part of hunting teams. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says trophy hunting, when well-managed, can further conservation objectives “by creating the revenue and economic incentives for the management and conservation of the target species, as well as supporting local livelihoods.”

But a 2013 report by Economists at Large argues that while hunting supporters claim their sport generates $200 million annually, companies contribute only 3 per cent to the communities living in hunting areas.

“The vast majority of their expenditure does not accrue to local people and businesses, but to firms, government agencies and individuals located internationally or in national capitals.”

“Trophy hunting is insignificant. Across the investigated countries, trophy hunting revenue was only 1.8% of tourism revenues.”

Rebecca Francis, the hunter at the centre of the controversy, accused Gervais of using his influence to specifically target females.

On her blog, the mother-of-eight says she hunted “even through pregnancy, and nursing babies” and lists the animals she's killed, including zebras, bears, lynxes, and elk.

The 41-year-old from Utah is also pictured with a stag, possum and the rare Arapawa ram while hunting in New Zealand.

“I believe that the anti-hunters specifically attack women because they view women as an easier target. That simply is not true,” she said.

Francis says she received a barrage of death threats following Gervais’ tweets but refuses to back down.

“I am proud to call myself a hunter. I am proud to be a woman in the hunting industry. I am proud to be a mother. I will never apologise for these things.”

Last year, 19-year-old hunter Kendall Jones sparked outrage when her Facebook photos of hunting lions, rhinos and cheetahs went viral. 

Hunter Brian Elwarth thinks there is a misconception about how hunters view and treat animals. 

“I specialise in hunting Sika deer yet I absolutely love them,” he says. “They’re incredibly smart and incredibly beautiful. Once I’ve actually pulled the trigger and killed one, I feel quite sad about it really.”

“Hunters do not want to wound and punish animals. We want it to end as quickly as possible for them. We’re not horrible people, we actually love the animals that we hunt. It’s just funny that we want to kill them and non-hunters don't.”

Kane Bodman agrees, saying he spends hours watching deer through his binoculars.

"I’ve probably let hundreds of deer and pigs go that I could’ve well and truly killed. I’ve got the utmost respect for them.”