In 2015, trophy hunting generated a storm of social media outrage, and the press hit high-level frenzy. The events that mesmerized the anti-hunting fraternity kick-started when Texan, Corey Knowlton shot and killed a rhino in Namibia in May. He had paid out $350,000 for the permit to hunt the animal. The permit that was issued by the Namibian Ministry of Environment was auctioned through the Dallas Safari Club. Knowlton told CNN at the time that the hunt was a way of showing people that the hunt is not just about having bloodthirsty fun, but “is a vital component … to save the animal from extinction.”
The professional hunter who guided the participants said in response to criticism from Animal Rights Organizations, "There will always be activists and that's how they make their money.” There is a definite gap between the hunter-conservationist of Africa, and the aims of activist organizations, resulting in many a social media platform row over trophy hunting this year. Proponents accuse activist organizations of doing little beyond raking in the cash. The opponents to hunting accuse the hunter-conservationists of making money at the expense of wildlife.
The proponents of hunting were further battered by the death in July of Cecil the lion who was shot and killed by American hunter Walter Palmer in Zimbabwe. The reaction from the death of Cecil was extreme, and the USA even moved to change some of their laws to make it more difficult for hunters to kill lions. Speaking to the Times, a representative for the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle said that the killing of the lion Cecil had "changed the atmosphere on the issue of trophy hunting around the world.” Cecil’s death has made trophy hunting a top topic on Twitter. According to Rite-tag statistics, Twitter hashtag #Cecilthelion was used over 600k times within the first twenty-four hours of the breaking #News. Spin off hashtags followed and included record hashtag #Lions getting exposure of 2,882,858 per hour. The hashtag #BanTrophyHunting skyrocketed and months later is still generating more than 11k hashtag exposures an hour.
#Facebook was inundated with the anti-hunting sentiment, with those against trophy hunting cheering the deaths of hunter-guides in the bush, and a series of posts naming and shaming celebrities who hunt. It was a hard year for the hunters on social media, but that has not stopped them from traveling to Africa. There are rumors and reports of American hunters heading out to Africa to bag their lion before USA laws make it more difficult for them.
Hunting operators still insist that they are generating a large income for conservation, but the 2013 report for the African Lion Coalition, published by Economist At Large, debunked many of their claims. According to their findings, hunting contributes a fraction of the GDP to national economies and is far less than other nature-related tourism activities. #Buzz