The former president poses with a slain elephant in Meru, Kenya, in 1909. Although Roosevelt hunted for sport, he also advocated for the protection of bison because they were an endangered species.
Can a hunter be a conservationist? Teddy Roosevelt thought so.
The president famous for both founding national parks and shooting hundreds of animals has been invoked more than once this week in the wake of the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion, which has sparked a debate about trophy hunting.
But Roosevelt isn’t the only conservationist who hunted or killed for reasons besides sustenance. So did John James Audubon, the famous artist and naturalist.
“What a lot of people probably don’t realize is that in order to collect the paintings that he did of birds, [Audubon] had to go out in the field and shoot those birds,” says James Powell, Director of Communications at Ducks Unlimited.
Audubon and Roosevelt lived during a time when many conservationists also hunted, and didn’t think of the practices as opposed. Like contemporary naturalists, Audubon killed birds so that he could accurately depict them in his art, and used this art to spread information about wildlife.
Today, some hunter-conservationists argue that hunting controlled game, including lions and rhinos in Africa, is an effective way to raise money for conservation. And they say that hunting certain groups—such as elderly male rhinos, who can prevent younger ones from mating—helps promote wildlife populations.
This wasn't the case for Cecil the Lion, who was killed illegally in a protected area. But his death has fueled conversations about whether any trophy hunting should be legal, even the kind practiced by people who think of themselves as conservationists.
Here’s a look at some famous conservationists who hunted—some of whom may surprise you.
(Read our magazine article about conservationist hunters.)