Georgia's License to Kill . .. Its Endangered Animals
If you're on a hunting trip in Georgia and happen to kill the last animal of its kind in the country, no need to worry. Just make sure to pay for the license and the fee for each kill, and you can go wild massacring any unfortunate animal you bump into, endangered though it may be.
Desperate to attract tourists, Georgia has decided to allow the hunting of animals listed on the country’s Red List of protected species. Some critics think the controversial decision is another manifestation of the Georgian government’s obsession with deregulation and money-making. When environmentalists look at the tur, for instance, they say they see a beautiful mountain goat antelope found (decreasingly) only in the west of the Caucasus, but economic development ministry officials, they claim, see thousands of lari they can charge for its killing.
Georgia’s environment minister has tried to convince journalists that the rare animals can be killed for their own good, and that the new rules will introduce order into the hunting sector and somehow help reduce poaching.
“A revolutionary government takes revolutionary decisions to find solutions,” preached Environment Minister Goga Khachidze to a journalist who pressed him about why the government had given the green flag to hunting endangered animals without first estimating the size of their population. “I am not an idiot,” Khachidze added, in an attempt to reassure the unconvinced audience. The decision, he claimed, was not made on the fly and population estimates will be made in the future.
(Trivia tidbit: Khachidze, a onetime pop singer, is the author of President Mikheil Saakashvili's pop-inspired 2008 campaign theme song, "Misha magaria"/"Misha Is Cool," and a co-author of the similarly syncopated Georgian police anthem.)
But perhaps the decision to allow hunting for endangered species should not come as a huge surprise.
Georgia ranked an unimpressive 75th place in terms of environmental performance on the United Nations' 2011 roster of international human development indicators. Earlier last year, the Georgian government curbed the powers of the environmental ministry and transferred some of its key functions, such as managing biodiversity and natural resources, to the economy and energy ministries.
Nevertheless, the functionally-reduced environment minister declared at a recent environmental conference in Tbilisi that Georgia “is a Mecca for environmental education.” He did not opt to throw a slaughtered mountain goat into the conference hall to illustrate his point.