US hunters import almost one million hunting trophies including skulls, mounts, and teeth

US hunters import almost one million hunting trophies including skulls, mounts, and teeth

“The tremendous influx of hunting trophies into the United States indicates massive animal exploitation at a time when the world is facing extinction.”

Over the course of five years, American hunters imported more than 700,000 hunting trophies, including skulls, mounts, and teeth, among other things.

According to data collected by the Center for Biological Diversity from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, hunting trophies — mostly of exotic animals like giraffes, rhinos, and zebras — were brought to the US from 2016 to 2020.

In a news release, Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the organization, said, “The large number of hunting trophies streaming into the United States reflects a tremendous exploitation of animals during a global extinction catastrophe.”

The center said that the data reveals “disturbing U.S. trophy trends,” noting that some wealthy trophy hunters were still likely traveling during the pandemic.

There was a decline between 2019 and 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first began and travel restrictions were in place. However, even with coronavirus travel restrictions, 2020 still saw a significant number of imports, with 55,990 hunting trophies brought into the U.S. during this timeframe. Giraffe trophies dipped only slightly in 2020, the group says, despite the pandemic.

“While most people in the United States were on lockdown, with many living paycheck to paycheck, elite trophy hunters were still jet-setting around to kill wildlife for skins, skulls, mounts, bones, wings, teeth and feet,” said Sanerib.

Data show a largely “steady and sizable annual increase” of trophy imports between 2016 and 2019, excluding a minor decline in 2017.

  • 2016: 109,579 imports
  • 2017: 108,490 imports
  • 2018: 212,393 imports
  • 2019: 234,532 imports

Though the overall number of imports saw a considerable decrease between 2019 and 2020, some species were still significantly affected. For example, there was an increase in zebra trophy imports, with 3,795 imported in 2019 compared to 7,199 in 2020.

According to the Humane Society International, the U.S. is the largest importer of hunting trophies, bringing in roughly 345 trophies per day. Conservationists hope the eye-opening data will spur the U.S. government to enact stronger conservation measures.

“Giraffes, rhinos and other imperiled animals are gunned down for trophies, along with animals from wallabies, zebras and porcupines to birds and lizards,” Sanerib said. “The Biden administration should take a hard look at how greenlighting trophy imports contributes to the biodiversity emergency.”

This article by Jenna Romaine was first published by The Hill on 14 March 2022. Lead Image: (Associated Press photo/Elaine Thompson).

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