Every year, trophy hunters kill thousands of exotic wild animals, representing hundreds of different species, in foreign countries, primarily in Africa. They prefer to kill the most beautiful, the biggest and the rarest.
Wealthy trophy hunters pay big bucks to local cash-stripped governments for permits that grant them a choice of which animal to kill—Donald Trump’s two sons just killed several wild animals, including a giraffe and an elephant in Zimbabwe. The list of “huntable” species is usually very long and includes more common species such as impala, black bears, common zebra, giraffes, and baboons, but also endangered species such as elephants, leopards and white rhinos (the Western African black rhino was recently officially declared to be “extinct”).
There is also no regard for species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) such as the African elephant or leopards. In fact, the more rare the animal, the more thrill to kill for the “big game” hunters, and the higher the price for the permit.
Competition and Bragging rights
Trophy hunters do not care about conservation, the struggle for survival of many animals. What they care about is killing the biggest and the best, and bringing home full trophy mounts or body parts. Heads, horns, tusks, and other body parts of most of these animals are legally, and sometimes illegally, imported as trophies to the United States by the hunters.
Trophy hunting hurts conservation
The mantra of trophy hunters is that their killing “benefits conservation”, but not only are individual animals brutally sacrificed, trophy hunting poses a significant threat to the very survival of African lions. Similarly, considering that African elephants are already endangered— by some estimates facing extinction in 50 years—it is ludicrous to argue that trophy hunting benefits elephants.
The ESA allows importation of endangered species only for scientific research, enhancement of propagation, or survival of the species. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which implements the ESA, has broadly interpreted the term “enhancement” to include trophy hunting of protected species, and trophy hunters often take advantage of the loopholes to find ways to take “their trophies” across the U.S. border, under the guise of scientific research and other permits for exemption.
In 1997, Kenneth Behring, millionaire, trophy hunter and former president of the Safari Club International (SCI), paid the government of Kazakhstan to allow him to shoot an endangered Kara Tau argali sheep, of which only 100 individuals were left. He then donated $100 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and solicited the help of the museum for an import permit. A public outcry ensured and USFWS withdrew the permit. This is not an isolated case and the reality is that many museums have been involved in facilitating the killing and import of endangered species by trophy hunters in the past.
The Safari Club International (SCI)
Trophy hunting is an elitist hobby for those excited to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a safari with the goal of killing a beautiful, large or rare exotic animal. Many trophy hunters are members of powerful and wealthy organizations such as the Safari Club International (SCI), which promotes competitive trophy hunting throughout the world, even of rare and sensitive species, including in cowardly “canned hunts”, through an elaborate awards program.
SCI members kill particular species of animals to win so-called ‘Grand Slam’ and ‘Inner Circle’ titles. The list of macabre ‘contests’ include the Africa Big Five, (leopard, elephant, lion, rhino, and buffalo); the North American Twenty Nine (all species of bear, bison, sheep, moose, caribou, and deer); and the Antlered Game of the Americas, among many other contests. SCI members take short cuts in their hurry to beat competitors by killing captive and defenseless animals in canned hunts, both in the United States and in other countries. Corruption and unethical behavior is rampant in this bloodthirsty competition. “Hunters” lure animals to their guns with bait, shoot them from helicopters or vehicles with spotlights, or in or near national parks. There are 29 awards in all, and in order to win all of them, at the highest level, a hunter would have to kill 322 animals of different species or subspecies.
The “Holy Grail” for SCI members
The “Holy Grail” for SCI members is the club’s record book, a three-volume compendium of thousands of pages listing names of who killed what animal, where and when. The list spans more than 1,100 species, some of which have since become extinct. Meticulous scores and rankings are recorded for the biggest tusks, horns, antlers, skulls and bodies, with photographs of grinning men and women posing with their high powered rifles or archery gear next to dead animals, often holding the animals heads up to display their “prize”.
SCI contributes large sums to mostly Republican candidates, and supports those who are eager to help further the club’s shameful agenda to weaken and to circumvent the intent of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and to legally import once-banned trophies of endangered and threatened wildlife.
Examples of the SCI’s efforts to derail wildlife protection include fighting a current petition to protect the African lion under the ESA. Along with the National Rifle Association (NRA), SCI intervened with a law that directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the Northern Rocky Mountain wolves from the endangered species list. In 2007, SCI testified at a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service hearing opposing the proposed listing of polar bears as a “threatened” species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The SCI continues to create and feed a culture glamorizing death and violence globally, across political lines, international borders, and against wildlife and even people. Fortunes are made on the back of millions of animals whose lives are taken by trophy hunters for the sake of killing in an endless spiral of competition.
And while most empathic people prefer to simply watch these magnificent animals, already struggling to survive in human-dominated landscapes, trophy hunters fulfill their lust to kill the largest animals and the most exotic animals to rack up SCI awards. Underlying these actions are futile efforts to transcend weak character, arrested emotional development, narcissism, sexual perversion, anger and finally, a misguided attempt to overcome their own disconnect to nature.
What you can do:
- Contact IDA if you are interested in helping to end trophy hunting.
- Before you vote for a legislative representative, find out if he/she is supportive of trophy hunting, canned hunts or even involved in the killing of “big game” or any exotic animals. If yes, do not vote for this person!
- Before booking a safari in foreign countries, make sure the outfitting company does not endorse safari hunts and has no ties to any trophy hunting organization such as the Safari Club International and others.