The term “safari” usually congers a notion of big game hunting in Africa or some far-flung destination in the primitive outback. But that isn’t always the case.
This definition is all too limited, according to Don Giottonini, owner of Valley Lumber in Stockton and president of the nonprofit Sacramento Safari Club, which has donated more than $1.53 million to improve natural habitat and preserve wildlife.
From funding deer and wild pig studies to restoring populations of native bighorn sheep to historic ranges in Yosemite and herds of tule elk throughout the Central Valley, the Safari Club has accomplished so much for wildlife in California.
It’s the perspective of being purely a hunting group that needs to be changed, said Giottonini, who is trying to get his message to the public.
Safari Club programs attempt to educate the public about the important role sport hunting plays in managing wildlife in our state. Others support on-the-ground projects and studies to rebuild species that are in decline, or balance wildlife abundance with the amount of available habitat.
Preconceived ideas, especially among urban dwellers, and blatant false claims by narrow environmental groups make Giottonini’s challenge difficult.
“It’s tough to get the truth out there,” he said. “Our citizens are more removed from the land than ever and bombarded by mistruths on social media.”
Here’s a question: Did you know that legal sport hunting never has caused the extinction of any animal in California, or anyplace else in the United States?
“Don’t take my word for it,” Giottonini said. “That’s a claim made by the state Department of Fish and Game.”
Since its inception in 1978, the Sacramento Safari Club not only has given direct support to wildlife projects in the state, but also supported critters nationally and internationally, such as the re-propagation of the black rhinoceros in Zimbabwe and wood bison in Alaska.
In Sacramento, the group helped the Effe Yeaw Nature Center build an animal and riparian habitat display area, funded Scholastic Youth Shooting Programs at Stockton’s Waterloo Gun and Bocci Club and paid for films on mountain lions, bighorn sheep and disappearing wetlands that aired on PBS.
Get the idea? This outfit really cares about wildlife.
Safari Club International has more than two million members and affiliates. Giottonini said the group’s emphasis continues to focus squarely on habitat and conservation programs, and proper game management through hunting and legislation.
“Recently, we sponsored field studies of wild pig and deer herds at Angel Island State Park, Railroad Flat, Round Valley and the eastern Sierra,” he said. “At the same time, we’re underwriting youth scholarships, public school teacher trainings and research in biological conservation through the Cal State University system.”
As a passionate conservationist who believes in ecosystem management and the principles of sustainable use, Giottonini understands that hunting is not just part of his heritage.
“It is not just a pathway to connect with the land and the natural resources surrounding us,” he said. “And hunting is not just a sport or recreation. It is part of my identify and personal desire to conserve wildlife for generations to come.”
Now, if he could only get the Safari Club message out.–Peter Ottesen
This article is reprinted with the permission of Recordnet.com where it originally appeared. It was written by Recordnet.com Outdoor Correspondent Peter Ottesen.