BY JOHN NASH
People, particularly sane, level-headed people, typified by readers of CSM, may often wonder how large numbers of apparently normal, everyday people can be whipped into a mob capable of monstrous and inhuman acts.
May I introduce you to a particularly evil monster of such outrageous proportion that you may suffer the vapours simply reading about him. He is called Ron Thomson, mass murderer of at least five thousand elephants plus large swathes of other iconic African wild animals, an eco-criminal of the most heinous kind and for whom the vilest adjectives and calumniation are richly deserved. Even when interviewed, this sociopath impertinently claimed that his murderous activities were “culling, part of his job” and even added that it was “thrilling and he had no regrets”. Surely the endangered animals of Africa need protecting from such sociopaths. I’m not making this up. Those among you with a sensitive disposition better don sunglasses or read on with only one eye, because here’s evidence:
On 9th April, 2019, The Mirror exposed this evil man as “A man who has been branded one of the world’s most prolific trophy hunters”. So now we knew what Thomson really is. A bloody trophy hunter. One of those swine who kills innocent animals and hangs their sorry heads on his wall.
On 9th April, the Express also exposed “this unrepentant cruel trophy hunter.” Corroboration. Not only a trophy hunter but unrepentant and cruel with it, too.
Also on 9th April, The Sun reported on this murderer, noting his prolific hunting in a report that named the UK “among the deadly dozen nations of trophy hunters”. He is obviously a cruel, trophy hunter and there are more like him lurking in the UK.
The same day, The Daily Mail ran their exposé, telling us that Thomson “admitted” it, adding ominously that, “’management culling’ is often used as a cover for trophy hunting”. Clearly, Thomson is a lying, cruel trophy hunter.
Also that day, Sky News got involved saying, “The trophy hunting industry is slaughtering elephants left, right and centre….Killing elephants for ‘fun’ is unacceptable, even more so because of the serious threat to its survival. Trophy hunting is a cruel and abhorrent hangover from colonial times.” Of course, they are right; this evil, lying, cruel, colonialist trophy hunter who kills elephants for fun and threatens their survival deserves to ostracised.
On 10th April, The Independent reported – under the strap line “news you can trust” – that “Zimbabwean Ron Thomson has been identified as a prolific wildlife hunter in a new report revealing how elephant populations have plummeted by about two-thirds”. Obviously, he’s an evil, lying, cruel, colonialist trophy hunter whose “fun” killing spree is responsible for a large part of Africa’s elephant decline.
That day, even the The South African reported him, adding, “just a friendly reminder that real men help animals, not harm them. It’s a mantra Ron Thomson has ignored for 50 years, killing anything in his way”. Clearly, the man is an evil, lying, cruel, colonialist trophy-hunting sociopath who murders any animal he comes across.
You get the message. In fact, if you Google “Ron Thomson trophy hunter”, you will get about a million results. He is infamous. Surely, it must be true. Half the world and the fourth estate can’t all be wrong. That swine Ron Thomson is, without a doubt, an animal-killing, trophy hunting bastard who deserves to be lynched.
Except for one teeny-weenie, itsy-bitsy, little thing: Ron Thomson has NEVER been a trophy hunter. Never. Not once. I know all about Ron Thomson. The only things he hates are fools and the deranged zealots who revel in that intellectual rat’s ring-piece called animal rights. It really was his job to remove surplus and dangerous animals on behalf of the Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) government. What he did was wild animal management hunting, and the objective of animal management is a very different proposition to that of hunting, let alone trophy hunting, even though we don’t have words to draw a distinction between them. Think of the difference between weeding and harvesting. Of course it was thrilling. Of course he enjoyed his important work, and of course, having served well, he has no regrets.
Being intelligent people, you will know that Africa is a HUGE place, but may not know that elephants are unevenly distributed across the vast landscape. Some places have none, while other places have far too many, especially where reserve fences prevent migration. Where there are too many elephants, they eat all the greenery (up to 300 lbs each per day), working their way further and further from water. An elephant can walk 25Km to and from water, so where there are too many of these wonderful pachyderminous giants, they steadily munch away the habitat up to 25Km from available water. This is OK for an adult elephant, but smaller things can’t walk that far – its a bit much to ask, say, a tiny gazelle, let alone a tortoise or a caterpillar, to trek that far for drink every day. If the destruction goes too far, you start to lose all the things smaller than an elephant that have not evolved to exist on a diet of dust. People who say elephants “trim their own numbers by overeating and limiting their food supply, so they don’t need management” conveniently overlook the fact that elephant starvation or death from thirst is a drawn-out, (viewer warning) ghastly affair, and when they do die, they are the last to do so. Their floppy-trunk babies die first.
So, before habitat damage goes too far, any responsible management programme will reduce the number of elephants to something closer to the carrying capacity of the land. It is monitored, not by counting elephants, but by watching the condition of the habitat. As Ron says, it is a simple rule: if the greenery is disappearing, there are too many elephants, so reduce them by half and watch again. If it is still disappearing, repeat. If the habitat is stable, they are about right. If the habitat is growing denser, the place could carry a few more elephants. Elephants increase at around 7 or 8% annually, meaning in normal times, their numbers will double about every twelve years, so in reserves where they are well fed and protected, they soon breed up again and will need managing once more.
It’s not a matter of loving or hating elephants – its all about conserving the habitat, the one thing that Ron Thomson is passionate about and you can read it here if you really want know about elephants. If the habitat is degraded, the animals are not the only thing to suffer. If the ground cover is completely destroyed, when rain eventually comes, the topsoil gets washed away and desertification replaces former forest and savannah. When that happens, nothing will come back – no plants, no animals. Hence the need to manage elephant numbers. Today, it is possible to translocate numbers of elephants, but thirty or forty years ago or more, it was technically difficult and there were few safe places to put them – it’s a bit stupid putting fresh elephants into places where they have already been wiped out by ivory poachers because it will happen again. Culling was the only real option in over-populations, and still is in many places.
Culling elephants is a really tough business. Elephants are intelligent and dangerous creatures. If you are going to cull their numbers, you can’t poison them because if you did, local people couldn’t eat the meat (if you have a very robust disposition, see how the locals do eat elephants). Practically, they have to be shot and it would be cruel to shoot one or two, traumatising the intelligent and sensitive other members of the herd. It is unfortunately more humane to shoot the whole family group, males, females and youngsters, as quickly and effectively as possible, in mass confusion. Who could you find to do such a demanding, highly skilled task, requiring a degree of quick thinking and ferrous testicular fortitude?
May I introduce you to the real Ron Thomson. Now 80, he is a qualified, science-based, field experienced professional, involved with Africa’s great national parks and wildlife management systems for 58 years. For 24 of those years he was employed by the Rhodesian Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Important past posts held by him include Provincial Game Warden-in-charge Wankie (now Hwange) National Park; Chief Nature Conservation Officer, Ciskei; and Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board. When the government changed in Zimbabwe, he and many others were replaced by “comrades”, so he tried working as a Professional hunter guide for three years. But he was never a hunter in that sense and didn’t like it, so for the last 27 years he has been a full time author and wildlife journalist – investigating and reporting upon wildlife management affairs in Africa.
Also, rather importantly given the nasty pictures painted by the media, he is a university-trained Field Ecologist (cum laude); a long time member of the Institute of Biology (London); and, after 20 years, he retired from being a Chartered Biologist for the European Union. He pioneered the capture of black rhinos in Rhodesia and led Rhodesia’s black rhino capture operations (1965 – 1970) capturing and translocating 140 rhinos. That work contributed to modern, safe methods of conserving black rhinos being discovered. He has published 15 books (some in use as university text books) and uncountable magazine articles – all about the principles and practices of wildlife management and big game hunting. He has completed a six volume memoir book series of his experiences. He has a website and his books that are still available here are a tremendous read for those interested in the excitement of the real “old” Africa.
It turns out that this is a decent, very brave, hard-working and intelligent man who has spent his whole working life in the service of the governments and wildlife of Southern Africa; a man who risked his life perfecting techniques to save animals and manage their numbers so that we could enjoy wildlife today. I am extremely privileged and proud to call this important man a friend. Yes, he shot many animals, which entailed “hunting” them in order to do so, although in the UK, we would probably refer to it as “game stalking” or “eradication”. But he was NEVER a trophy hunter. Never. Culling animals was part of his job, just like a vet or pest controller has a job that partly requires killing animals. While poisoning rats is probably quite a mundane occupation after a while, the mass removal of elephants up close and personal with a high powered automatic rifle is guaranteed to be exciting enough to leave most of us lesser mortals needing Tena Lady pants with some urgency. He has lived an exciting, useful, significant African life that sedentary metropoles merely dream about.
So how did this honest, well-qualified, hard-working man become so outrageously vilified across the globe? Well, it turns out that the cluster of media reports that appeared in a rash around the early part of 2019 have something else in common, besides Mr Thomson. They all mention the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (Ltd), run by Eduardo Gonçalves, whose campaign of uberhatred is supported by the likes of pious Pinocchio Packham, the celebrity truth-bending zoo operator (“Me, a zoo? Nah – it’s a sanctuary, honest, gov…”)
The horrid media reports were all precipitated by one cruel and misleading press release issued by the perfidious propagandist Gonçalves on April 8th, disgracefully “exposing” Ron Thomson. Gonçalves compounded the deceit with his ridiculous “book” entitled, “Trophy hunters exposed”, a title that would suggest it “exposes” trophy hunters, yet it features Ron Thomson prominently, thus tainting him (by juxtaposition) as a trophy hunter in a weaselly way (Trophy hunters exposed doesn’t have page numbers, but you will find the account around annotated reference number 524. If you read it, be warned; you will probably need to turn off your mental lie-detector and sanitise your eyeballs afterwards).
The press release, presented like pure heroin to click-bait media junkies, was a clever puff for Gonçalves’ toilet tissue “book”, and went on to blame modern hunters for the extinction of wild animals when he knows full well that, where wild animal numbers are falling across Africa, it is because of the bushmeat trade, revolutionary war-funding, habitat loss, organised criminal government and cartel ivory poaching and the expansion of human population, resulting in conflict.
By contrast, in Southern Africa, where most UK hunters and trophy hunters go (and where Ron Thomson worked and lives), the numbers of ALL large wild animals, including elephants, is increasing, not falling, thanks in large part to dedicated people like Ron Thomson. Deceit and hypocrisy hardly begin to describe the outrageous unfairness perpetrated by Eduardo Gonçalves.
Gonçalves “book” trumpets his “forensic investigation”. Forensic, my fundament, dear readers. Since Ron Thomson’s fine career is a matter of public record, Gonçalves, the capo di tutti capi of cunning, must have known he was being parsimonious with the truth regarding this decent man, by rubbishing Ron in his propagandist tract against trophy hunting. So why would Gonçalves do it? The answer is easy; for donations, of course. His whole fundamentalist campaign is less about trumpeting the truth and more about trumped-up evils, so that he can pose as the saviour of animals and sucker you into donating your hard-earned dosh to his obnoxious crusade “to save wildlife”. In fact, his less than truthful company campaign (CBTH Ltd) and his eco-fascist disciples are damaging the wildlife and rural people of Southern Africa. In effect, he is deviously intercepting money better spent on the poor rural people and wildlife of Africa, regardless of the damage he is inflicting. Of course, it’s easy when his victims are foreign and the problems are not well understood in the UK.
Gonçalves is a messiah of misinformation. His disgraceful treatment of unsuspecting Ron Thomson answers the question that I started with – that it is easy for an unscrupulous but skilled propagandist and a handful of truth bender friends to feed the press with emotional trash and gather a host of gullible celebrities to use as click bait across the unsupervised social media to turn normally nice and reasonable people into a howling global mob, ready to lynch a perfectly innocent man. A glance at some of the alarming public comments about Ron Thomson that followed the stories proves the point.
Meanwhile, behind this commotion, the real villain walks away grinning, counting his political and financial loot.
John Nash grew up in West Cornwall and was a £10 pom to Johannesburg in the early 1960’s. He started well in construction project management, mainly high rise buildings but it wasn’t really Africa, so he went bush, prospecting and trading around the murkier bits of the bottom half of the continent. Now retired back in Cornwall among all the other evil old pirates. His interests are still sustainable resources, wildlife management and the utilitarian needs of rural Africa.