Theunis Both. 51, was a big-game hunter until he passed away in 2017. His cause of death was being crushed by an African elephant during a hunt. As he led a group of hunters in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, they stumbled upon a herd of breeding elephants. Three elephants charged at the party, and Botha shot at them. However, while the people were distracted, a fourth elephant rammed into Botha from the side. She picked him up with her trunk as another hunter shot her to death. She collapsed — right on top of Botha. 
Death of a Big Game Hunter
Botha began leading hunts in the 80s to support himself through his Psychology and Anthropology degree. He later turned this into his own business, Theunis Botha Big Game Safaris. According to their website, they specialize in hunting with hounds for leopards and lions in Africa. This technique uses packs of trained dogs to draw prey toward the hunters. His company often posted pictures and videos of Botha and his fellow hunters and their kills. His business spread from Zimbabwe to Botswana, Namibia, and Mozambique.
Botha left behind a widow and five children. After his demise, his community posted their condolences on social media. But these heartfelt posts were met with controversy by those who disagreed with his profession. 
The Threat Against African Elephants
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, African elephants are listed as vulnerable. Out of the several million that lived in Africa at the start of the 20th century, only about 350,000 are left today. This is largely due to the loss of habitat as humans encroach on their land. This robs these creatures of resources and prevents them from migrating across large territories. Climate change also threatens their habitats and sources of food and water.
Another reason for this dramatic decrease is the conflict with humans. The clash between farmers and elephants eating their crops results in hundreds of deaths for both parties involved. Then there are the poachers. Unsustainable hunting, often for their ivory tusks, plummets the African elephant population. The illegal ivory trade affects African elephants in particular, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which states that thousands of elephants die from poachers every year. 
Trophy Hunting African Elephants to Save Them?
A counterintuitive idea came about saving African elephants: Have rich trophy hunters pay to shoot a number of elephants and use that cash for conservation and helping the local communities. According to the theory, the locals won’t need to turn to poach for a livelihood.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature supports this plan. “Well-managed trophy hunting can provide both revenue and incentives for people to conserve and restore wild populations, maintain areas of land for conservation, and protect wildlife from poaching.” 
Hunting trips in Zimbabwe can cost over $37,000. Additionally, hunters pay about $14,500 per elephant killed.
According to Melville Saayman, a tourism and economics professor from North-West University in South Africa, animal populations increase in areas where hunting isn’t banned. The creatures are more threatened where hunting is outlawed.
“From a conservation point of view, wildlife is not doing well, and one of the reasons for this is because hunting creates huge value. People protect what is valuable to them. And if hunting helps them get money and other goods from the animal, it is certainly in their best interests to look after the animals,” he wrote.
Supporting Photography Safaris
However, conservation advocates attest that more money comes from tourists who want to see live animals. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust estimates that a live elephant can bring in about $23,000 a year.
“It’s impossible to sustainably harvest a species that’s declining,” Sebastian Troeng, executive vice president of Conservation International, said. “The notion that killing elephants is helping elephants doesn’t hold water.”
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, agrees with this sentiment. “You shouldn’t be conducting unethical activities to create commerce,” he said.
Additionally, he points out that using money from hunting to support locals and conservation isn’t the reality. For instance, Zimbabwe’s government contains corruption and its villages remain poor.
“It’s laughable to think that somehow they have strict controls in Zimbabwe,” Pacelle said. 
- “Veteran big game hunter crushed to death by elephant in Zimbabwe.” CBS News. Cydney Adams. May 22, 2017
- “African Elephant Kills Big Game Hunter Theunis Botha By Falling On Top Of Him.” All that’s Interesting. Annie Garau. May 22, 2017
- “Why Elephants Are Under Threat.” Tree Hugger. Russell McLendon. June 18, 2020
- “Is Trophy Hunting Helping Save African Elephants?” National Geographic. Adam Cruise. November 17, 2015
- “Does hunting elephants help conserve the species?” ABC News. Stephanie Ebbs. November 18, 2017