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Big game hunters welcomed at the Calgary Zoo?
Published Thursday, July 30, 2015 7:07PM MDT Last Updated Thursday, July 30, 2015 8:15PM MDT
Recent outrage over the killing of a cherished lion in Zimbabwe has prompted an international hunting organization to suspend the memberships of Walter Palmer, an American dentist, and his hunting guide pending the result of an investigation.
Officials with Safari Club International say ‘those who intentionally take wildlife illegally should be prosecuted and punished to the maximum extent allowed by law’.
The organization, including its members in southern Alberta, is receiving significant exposure around the globe following the release of the decision.
Safari Club International’s Calgary chapter is set to host a fundraiser in 2016 at the Calgary Zoo, a location that has raised eyebrows and questions on whether conservation and hunting can coexist.
David Little, a Safari Club International member, successfully claimed a lion while bow hunting a leopard. The self-proclaimed animal lover believes legal hunts help contribute to the success of the species.
“The lion hunt that I took in Mozambique effectively conserved a million acres of Mozambique from animal poachers and log poachers for two months,” explained Little.
The Calgary Zoo has been the beneficiary of financial donations from the Safari Club International’s Calgary chapter and the big game hunters have rented space at the zoo for their scheduled gathering next April.
Animal activists, including Michael Alvarez-Toye of the Calgary Animal Rights Coalition, question the zoo’s acceptance of groups that promote the killing of wildlife.
“No zoo should be allowing that on their property,” said Alvarez-Toye.
Calgary Zoo representatives say the money from rentals provides a large portion of its annual revenue and the zoo does not meddle in the affairs of those who book venues.
“Our message is we want people to go out and communicate and appreciate nature,” said Calgary Zoo spokesperson Trish Exton-Parder. “To bring people in to learn about conservation the way we do it.”
Little say conservation is a goal of many hunters.
“They’re not incompatible,” said Little. “I think more dialogue would help make that clear.”
The death of Cecil the lion prompted the United Nations General Assembly to adopt its first ever resolution to tackle illegal animal trafficking.
The resolution is non-binding but all member countries are urged to take steps to prevent, combat and eradicate wildlife crime.
With files from CTV's Rylee Carlson and the Associated Press