Outside magazine, March 1995
You say you've always dreamed of shooting a bull elephant in the African bush, but you don't want to kill it? Well, you're pretty mixed-up, but two Zimbabwe-based entrepreneurs are ready for you with a new sport they call eco-hunting.
Professional guides Adrian Read, 32, and his partner Dave Rhodes, 39, owners of a flagging Victoria Falls "paintball combat" operation, have begun leading $700 outings for bush-bound tourists on the Woodlands Ranch, a 30,000-acre game ranch near the falls. Armed with CO2-powered rifles, clients blast the tuskers with nonpiercing pellets containing red dye. Splatball safaris will not only be a thrill, says Read, but the commerce they generate may help save the species.
How, exactly, is murky. The push to add "economic utility" to endangered wildlife is increasingly popular in parts of Africa that once rejected Zimbabwe's approach, which often allows regulated sport-hunting to boost local economies. But Read offers no details on how his profits would benefit locals, saying only that "if wildlife doesn't pay its way, it's not going to be left in 15 or 20 years." To Ike Sugg, a proponent of the "utility" approach who works at the Washington, D.C. - based Competitive Enterprise Institute, it's just silly. "Splatball hunters," he says, "are about as likely to save elephants as the CO2 guns they use are likely to add to the greenhouse effect."