The chief executive of Randgold Resources, Mark Bristow, is a trophy hunter. He likes to shoot African lions and leopards and any other iconic animal that he can get permission to shoot by paying large sums of money. He is also an advisor to a leading big cat conservation charity, Panthera. This looks like (and is) a bad conflict of interest. Mr Bristow was born in South Africa but lives in London. He has regularly featured in the newsletter for Hunters & Guides Africa, a leading hunting tour operator.
Panthera’s mission statement is that they are the only organisation in the world which is devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cats species. They have a $750,000 a year “partnership” with Randgold.
I’d argue that this is not a genuine partnership but a gift by Randgold to allow its chief executive to shoot iconic wild cats. This is my assessment. It’s a sell-out. It is a corrupting influence upon Panthera. And it also shines a light on the unethical people involved in conservation.
Buying access to trophy hunting dressed up as conservation donations?
The Times newspaper features Bristow sitting next to a dead elephant alongside his young son. He has shot zebras and buffaloes, and as mentioned, a leopard and a lion. Last year Mr Bristow was appointed to the conservation council of Panthera.
Unsurprisingly, Panthera are now under pressure to remove him because of Mr Bristow’s desire to hunt lion and leopard. Mr Bristow as chief executive off a multibillion mining company, has the resources himself and the authority to ensure that gifts are made to influential people to allow him to continue to hunt trophy animals.
With respect to the elephant hunt, Randgold made a $100,000 donation to the Mali Development Program run by the Wild Foundation. It looks very much like he is making a donations through the company which he runs in order to buy access to trophy hunting.
However, a Randgold spokesperson denied that the large catalogue of animals that Mr Bristow has shot for his pleasure represents a conflict of interest to the company’s links to conservation charities.
They state the usual platitude that legal, well regulated hunting benefits conservation. Only a very small percentage of money given to buy access to trophy hunting finds its way into genuine conservation. It is simply not a good argument. It is a poor excuse and a weak justification for an activity that many people find highly objectionable: trophy hunting of iconic wild species when they are endangered.
Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation said that trophy hunting “sends entirely the wrong message”. He has urged Panthera to review Mr Bristow’s position on its council. He questions whether Mr Bristow is the sort of person that should be leading the “charge for wildlife or is living in some sort of bygone age”.
A spokesperson for the While Foundation said that the organisation had been unaware of Mr Bristow’s hunting when Randgold resources made its donation last year. The Times newspaper sought a comment from Panthera without success. Update: about five days later Bristow ‘resigned’. Success.