Magazine article Geographical

A Dangerous Game: A Growing Appreciation for the Intrinsic Value and Beauty of the Natural World Has Seen Humanity's Attitudes towards Wildlife Undergo a Radical Change over the Past Century. This Month's Images from the Archives of the Royal Geographical Society Hark Back to a Less Enlightened Time

Magazine article Geographical

A Dangerous Game: A Growing Appreciation for the Intrinsic Value and Beauty of the Natural World Has Seen Humanity's Attitudes towards Wildlife Undergo a Radical Change over the Past Century. This Month's Images from the Archives of the Royal Geographical Society Hark Back to a Less Enlightened Time

Article excerpt

The severed head of a lion lies at the foot of a tree, the animal's majesty robbed in an instant by a piece of lead shot. In Antarctica, two men batter a seal to death with clubs in a distressingly one-sided fight. Just two images that show how much our attitudes towards wildlife have changed in the past 100 years.

In the 19th century, wildlife was literally fair game. Colonial settlers engaged in hunting on a huge scale, both as a commercial activity--for ivory, skins and furs--and as a sport. But they fired indiscriminately in order to bag the most kills, with no real notion of 'sportsmanship'.

In Africa, it wasn't uncommon for hunters to kill 90 elephants in a single trip. The South African Jan Viljoen shot 210 in one safari in 1867 and one of the most famous hunters, Englishman Frederick Selous, claimed to have killed 548 animals between 1877 and 1880. Indeed, European settlers have the dubious distinction of being responsible for the first known African mammal extinctions--the blaubok, a type of antelope, and the quagga, a zebra, both of which had been wiped out by 1860.

In India, hunting was an important part of statecraft long before the British arrived. It involved displaying power, gathering intelligence and receiving tribute, and was embraced wholeheartedly by the British. …

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