Hunter” by Ray Morris. CC BY-ND 2.0

So you like to hunt for “sport.” Why not try the most dangerous game?

The internet is aflame with pictures of Cecil the Lion and Walter Palmer, the American who lured the lion out a wildlife preserve, killed him with a rifle then beheaded and skinned him. Pictures of hunters grinning ear to ear and sitting on top of beautiful, endangered* dead animals are hard for me to take. They make my fists clench as I choke back tears. Why are these psychopaths so delighted with themselves for bringing yet another species one step closer to extinction?

The most honest explanation of hunting for “sport” I have seen is this one: Conrad Evarts says it’s evolution. The desire to hunt is a primordial feeling; we are all descended from hunters and you never feel as alive as when you are hunting.

But Evarts excuses his grisly indulgence of primordial feelings by arguing that “sport” hunting brings in enough revenue to help countries conserve other animals that aren’t killed. That’s rarely true. In any case, non-lethal tourism brings in 50 times more money to the local economy and conservation efforts than trophy hunting.

Lion Snuggle by Tamako the Jaguar, CC BY-ND 2.0

If a country wants a way to create a reliable stream of revenue from wealthy Americans to help preserve its wildlife , bolster the local economy, and give people an alternative to poaching, the country’s best bet is to invite people to see live animals and bring home photos, not to help them kill animals and bring home heads.

But let’s say some people just need the rush of hunting a large, intelligent animal with a rifle. I have just the hunt for you: an animal that is big, smart, dangerous, and not (just yet) close to extinction.

Trophy hunters could hunt each other.

Let’s set up a preserve and invite trophy hunters to play The Most Dangerous Game. For an appropriate fee, hunters can participate in one of two games:

  1. Non-lethal. You shoot the other guy (or gal) with a tranquilizer and take a picture of yourself grinning over the unconscious body.
  2. Lethal. For those who want a real thrill and real bragging rights, and to bring home a trophy. Now that would be evolution.

But seriously.

If you are heartbroken about Cecil and want a more realistic course of action than getting trophy hunters to hunt each other, you should write to the Fish & Wildlife Service and ask them to finalize their listing of African Lions as “threatened,” but modify the rule to outlaw American hunters from bringing African lion trophies into the US.

*African lions may be extinct by 2050. The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed to list them as “endangered” which would make it illegal to bring lion trophies into the US. Instead, the agency opted to list them as “threatened” and allow American hunters like Walter Palmer to kill lions under the protection of US law. Most African lions killed for “sport” are killed by Americans.

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