A shocking undercover investigation released by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International exposed the hypocrisy that the trophy hunting industry uses to promote the killing of imperiled species.
The undercover investigation was conducted at the annual Safari Club International (SCI) convention in Nashville, Tennessee. The convention ran from February 22 through 25 and hosted over 850 exhibitors from over 140 countries.
The exhibitors were flaunting trophy hunts and products made from animal skins and claws. The Humane Society revealed that the event brought in about $6 million in revenue for the SCI to continue lobbying to roll back laws and regulations that protect vulnerable species from trophy hunting, including Endangered Species Act protections.
In a press release shared with One Green Planet, The Humane Society said that trophy hunts were offered in at least 65 countries, with the majority in South Africa, Canada, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and New Zealand.
In addition, almost 100 outfitters offered elephant hunts, at least 115 offered leopard hunts, 98 offered lion and giraffe hunts, 89 offered hippo hunts, and 39 offered rhino hunts. On exhibitors’ websites, critically endangered animals were also available to hunt, as well as captive animals.
The undercover investigation found that hunting trips sold from $2,500 to $143,000 with almost menu-like options so that hunters could “add on” animals in addition to their primary targets.
Most African carnivore hunts were advertised to include baiting, which is the practice of placing carcasses of other animals to lure the target species. This cruel practice violates the fair chase ethics and causes conservation issues as they are drawing out animals from protected areas into hunting zones.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said: “Despite the public’s growing disdain for trophy hunting, Safari Club International’s convention celebrates the senseless killing of animals, putting their deaths up for sale around the world, all to be turned into nothing more than trinkets and stuffed trophies.
Make no mistake: This is an industry that threatens our most imperiled and ecologically important wildlife. As one of the world’s largest consumers of hunting trophies of imperiled species, the United States government has the responsibility to end hunting trophy imports.”
A gut-wrenching conversation was recorded at the convention with an exhibitor who encouraged the undercover investigator to schedule a white rhino hunt before it is too late as the species is on the brink of extinction.
The exhibitor reported said, “The one that’s gonna be closed down the soonest to import to the United States because of the numbers going down is the rhino… and if you want something Africa[n], you have to get the rhino as soon as possible.”
Outfitters were not quiet about breaking the rules and broke policies to make a sale. One vendor reportedly violated the convention’s own policy against promoting captive lion hunts.
He told the investigator, “You can hunt…captive bred lions in South Africa, cause this way you’re not impacting the wild lions…but they…catch their own animals; they’re as wild as can be.” Another told the investigator, “…we’ve got hunters that really can’t walk at all…we do bend our own rules a little and we shoot them from the truck…we don’t have a problem with it.” Hunting from a vehicle is illegal in many places because it violates fair chase ethics and invites numerous safety hazards.
Hundreds of luxury items were offered at the convention, including elephant skin luggage sets ranging from $10,000 to $18,000 and jewelry made from leopard claws, both of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Exhibitors also offered lynx coats for $14,000 and purses made from zebra for $2,350.
Hunting trips for auction ranged from a lion, leopard, and plains game hunt in Zambia valued at $143,000, a hunt for a brown/grizzly bear, Dall sheep, moose, black bear, and caribou in Alaska valued at $100,000, a white rhino hunt in South Africa valued at $100,000, a canned hunt for a bongo antelope in Texas valued at $41,870, and a polar bear hunt that sold for $100,000.
Dr Matthew Schurch, wildlife specialist for Humane Society International/Africa said, “We are disgusted by the nonchalant offers to hunt endangered and critically endangered African species at the 2023 Safari Club International convention.
It is unacceptable that in this critical time to preserve iconic wildlife, trophy hunting outfitters are still legally selling trips to shoot and kill protected lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, giraffes, hippos, and other animals for fun. It is unethical, cruel and an absolute disgrace to brand South Africa.
Being legal does not make something right. We urge the government to acknowledge the harm that trophy hunting causes to individual animals, their populations and to the conservation of our beautiful animal kingdom, and to take action to protect these imperilled species and the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.”
It’s important to note that trophy hunting not only kills animals but can also disrupt entire ecosystems and cause population declines of certain species. Additionally, trophy hunting does not contribute to conservation efforts and often results in financial gain for a select few rather than benefiting local communities.
As a society, we must recognize the importance of protecting these animals and their habitats for future generations. We can do our part by supporting conservation efforts, speaking out against trophy hunting, and promoting sustainable ecotourism as an alternative.
Let’s work together to ensure all wild animals have a chance to live and die a natural death.
This article by Hailey Kanowsky was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 9 March 2023.
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