HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” aired a report Nov. 24, 2015, that focused on dwindling numbers of the African elephant. The episode focused needed attention on poaching as a primary cause of the animal’s decline, but in doing so also linked regulated hunting with poaching, confusing viewers who otherwise are ignorant of the issues.
In response, Houston Safari Club (HSC) pointed to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which on Sept. 28, 2015, published a report indicating African elephant numbers decreased from approximately 550,000 to 470,000 from 2006-2013, primarily as a result of “increased ivory poaching pressure,” according to HSC. “Habitat loss and fragmentation due to landscape-level land use changes also pose significant immediate long-term challenges to elephant conservation,” said the group.
HSC also took issue with a reference in the episode to an “HBO Real Sports”/Marist poll, and responded as follows:
Poll Statement: “A majority of Americans, 56 percent, oppose hunting animals for sport; most Americans, 86 percent, consider big-game hunting to be especially distasteful; 65 percent of hunters disapprove of big-game hunting.” HSC Response: “Of the 1,095 adults surveyed, only 11 percent were actually hunters or had hunted within the past two years.”
Poll Statement: “Seventy-five percent of gun owners disapprove of big-game hunting.” HSC Response: “The survey question was posed as follows: ‘What about big game hunting, do you think hunting big game such as lions and elephants for sport is wrong and should be prohibited by law, is something you personally disapprove of but don’t feel it should be illegal, or it is acceptable to hunt big game for sport?’
“The ’65 percent’ was derived by combining responses from two separate questions: ‘Wrong, should be prohibited by law (34 percent)’ and ‘Disapprove but don’t think it should be illegal (31 percent).’ To classify and represent big-game hunting by two species (lion; elephant) is not an accurate representation of the category. Also, not all gun owners participate in hunting. HSC adamantly objects to any inferred connection of regulated, ethical hunting with poaching.”