The pictures are shared across social media frequently, and are met with an almost overwhelming negative response. The hunter, beaming with his kill. Sometimes it’s a lion, perhaps a cheetah, and even sometimes it’s an elephant. People become upset at the death of such majestic animals, and cannot understand why someone would hunt and kill such revered animals.
Meet Adam Clements, one of the world’s premier hunting guides that specialize in taking hunters to Africa and hunting these very animals. While you might think that you have your mind made up about these types of hunts, let him tell you his side of the story. As we think you’ll find, his passion for these hunts has very little to do with a desire for bloodshed or for a “trophy”, but rather, the very preservation of the animals that he is hunting.
Clements, the owner of Safari Trackers which is headquartered locally, was born and raised in Tanzania, Africa. Growing up with an intense respect and passion for the animals of Africa, Clements always intended to open his guide business, however, his father wanted him to have a degree, so he came to the States in 1988. While working as an undercover narcotics officer, Clements started Safari Trackers part-time in ’94, and by ’96 was working it full time.
He begins by explaining that the “kill” is the smallest part of the adventures that he sells. “Hunting is not just shooting and killing animals. That’s the anti-climactic part. The point is to get away from everyone and everything and have an adventure that you otherwise would never have. It’s an attitude – it’s Africa. Things don’t always go the way that they are supposed to go. You simply experience it. This is my art and it’s all that I ever wanted to do.”
So how can a man hunt and kill animals that he claims to want to protect? Because quite simply, without people like Clements and his clients, there would be no animals at all.
He begins, “The wildlife in Africa is only there when there’s a value attached to them. If nobody bought a Ford 150, nobody would make them, and it’s the same thing with wildlife in Africa. If there’s no value behind a lion, the African government will not invest the money in preserving them. So the money that clients spend on lion hunts and the other hunts that we do makes it possible for the government to preserve the land for these animals. Otherwise it would all just be grazing land for the cattle, because the villagers, for the most part, want cattle more than they want lions and cheetahs.”
The men and women in this hunting industry are essentially charged with the management of the populations of these animals, and in turn, ensure that the animals are around for future generations. To do this, they must work with the local villages to contain the areas that are designated for the exotic animals, and promote a healthy relationship between man and beast.
He continues, “The wildlife will always expand and will break into new areas. That’s where the quotas on their populations come in as we have to keep things in balance. Sometimes the lions will come out and kill a cow. Cows to the villagers are the most important things they have. So when a lion kills a cow, they’ll frequently poison that cow so the entire pride dies. It’s the same things with elephants. We’ll zoom in and give them money to replace their cows, and we’ll buy them a new one and deal with the lion and elephant populations to limit these altercations.”
And that population management is something that Clements and his team takes extremely seriously. “When a hunter is with you, you’ll see a lot of lions. What we look for is a lone male, 6 years or more, because at that age, they’ve gone through their main prime mating seasons. After 6, they tend to go out on their own…they’re not breeding, they’re not with the pride, and they’re good ones to harvest. We scout the prides constantly and track them year round. We literally know them all, so we can know which ones are good to take. Those are also the ones that will go in and kill cows because it’s easy for them to take them.” The elephant populations are just as delicate. He continues, “Elephant numbers are just as important. They eat so much all day long. If you have too many, they will literally destroy the entire ecosystem. They’ll knock over 100 year old trees just to nibble a few leaves at the top. Overrunning elephants makes the area look like a bomb went off. Then their damage affects the lions, the tigers, etc…..it’s balancing a very fine ecosystem. There’s only so much room for these animals, and they’ll overeat themselves if you don’t manage their population and they’ll starve to death. The animals are surrounded by people, and they have nowhere to go. How do you keep that balance? You show the government that there’s a value to these animals otherwise they would just destroy the entire ecosystem. Let’s be honest: the governments over there could care less. If they can make more off of mining, they’ll do mining. So we provide a value to the animals, and this enables their populations to live on.”
As this industry is his passion and his “art”, Clements also invests heavily in fighting poaching. He explains, “I spend 30k-50k a year on anti-poaching. Our vehicles, fuel, staff to police the anti-poaching. ..it’s extremely expensive. They want the skin for lions. Lion legs and gallbladders are also very valuable to some of the villages. Some of the animals it is about the meat. With elephants it’s all about the ivory. Zebras and leopard skins are taken frequently. But we work tirelessly to stop these people and it’s a never ending battle that we fight.”
As to the intro about the social media backlash that Clements sees and hears frequently, Clements again explains that there is a complete side of the story that most people are missing. “A lot of people judge us based simply on what they see. They see a dead animal. What we see is the poaching and the tears that we shed over the damage that these people can do. But nobody is doing anything about it but us. The work that we do to cull some of these animals is strictly done due to the passion that I have for these animals, and I know that the money we bring in is the only thing that is ever going to preserve these beautiful animals. You have to kill in order to save. It’s a huge battle, and it’s easy to sit behind a desk and say ‘I can’t believe you killed a lion!’ but when you see what we see…it would change your mind. If you want us to stop hunting, then open your checkbook and cut huge checks so that the government can pay to keep them safe and the poachers away. ..you do that, and we stop. Until that happens, I’ll keep saving these animals the only way I know how.”