Each year tens of thousands of lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, leopards, and other rare species are killed by trophy hunters for pleasure or sport. The hunters target the biggest and most beautiful animals, many of which are endangered, so they can display their stuffed bodies and body parts as trophies or souvenirs. Until recently, most people were unaware of the devastating impact of trophy hunting on dwindling animal populations in Africa and throughout the rest of the world. However, the media coverage surrounding the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe by American trophy hunter Walter Palmer in July 2015, has brought this cruel and barbaric sport into the global media spotlight.
Each year tens of thousands of lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, leopards, and other rare species are killed by trophy hunters for pleasure or sport
Trophy hunting, generally speaking, is a hobby for those wealthy enough to pay tens of thousands of dollars to travel to Africa with the goal of killing a rare animal, often an endangered or threatened species. American trophy hunters who can not afford an expensive trip to Africa will instead visit a “game reserve” where canned hunts allow the hunters to shoot and kill an exotic animal in an enclosed area. Trophy hunting is sometimes called a “sport” as an attempt to justify the killing of a defenseless animal as a socially acceptable, wholesome activity. However, a true sport involves a fair competition between two consenting parties. Trophy hunting, as with all hunting, is an activity based upon the desire of a hunter to kill an animal that has no desire to kill him or her. Hunters shoot the animals with rifles, shotguns, and bows and arrows—weapons that no animal can either use or defeat. Most trophy hunters claim that by obeying hunting laws and regulations, trophy hunting constitutes a “fair chase” and is fully ethical.
Many trophy hunters are members of the Safari Club International (SCI), a powerful and wealthy organization that promotes competitive trophy hunting throughout the world through an elaborate awards program. SCI members hunt and kill particular species of animals to win inclusion into specific SCI designation groups like the “African Big Five” (leopard, elephant, lion, rhino, and buffalo) and the “North American Twenty Nine” (all species of bear, bison, sheep, moose, caribou, and deer). There are more than 30 awards in all, and in order to win all of them a hunter would have to kill 322 animals of different species or subspecies. This award program encourages the killing of endangered or threatened species by rewarding more points for killing rarer animals. The highest achievement for SCI members is to be listed in the club’s record book, a three-volume set of thousands of pages, listing names of members who killed the largest animals. The book includes more than 1,100 species, some of which are now extinct. Detailed scores and rankings are recorded for the biggest tusks, horns, antlers, skulls and bodies, with photographs of the hunters next to dead animals.
This award program encourages the killing of endangered or threatened species by rewarding more points for killing rarer animals
SCI contributes large sums of money to political candidates who are willing to further the club’s objectives to weaken and circumvent the intent of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). SCI has actively campaigned to keep the African lion and the polar bear from being designated “threatened” under the ESA. It has also spent millions campaigning to delist the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf as an endangered species.
American museums sometimes facilitate wealthy trophy hunters in the killing and importation of endangered species. The hunters donate large sums of money to the institutions in return for help importing the trophies of the endangered species they have killed on safari trips. In 1997, a former president of the Safari Club International paid an undisclosed amount to the government of Kazakhstan to allow him to shoot an endangered Kara Tau argali sheep, of which only 100 were left. He then donated $20 million to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History and solicited the help of the museum for an import permit.
Most hunting clubs and organizations say that the killing of trophy animals benefits the conservation of the animals’ species and promotes economic growth in the local communities where the hunting take place. However, scientific and economic studies have disproved these claims. The assertion that trophy hunting maintains the conservation of wild animal populations is not only incorrect, the exact opposite is true. The greatest declines in lion populations have occurred in African countries with the highest concentration of trophy hunting facilities and operations. The number of lions in the African wild has declined by more than 50% in the past three decades, with only 32,000 or fewer remaining today. In the 1940s, upwards of 450,000 lions roamed freely. In the early 1900s, up to five million elephants lived in Africa; today approximately 500,000 are left, a reduction of 90%. Between 2003 and 2013, almost 16,000 African elephants were killed and exported from Africa as hunting trophies.
The assertion that trophy hunting maintains the conservation of wild animal populations is not only incorrect, the exact opposite is true. The greatest declines in lion populations have occurred in African countries with the highest concentration of trophy hunting facilities and operations.
These hunting organizations claim that trophy hunting is essential for economic growth of African countries, particularly in small rural communities. Again, this assertion is incorrect. Only 1.8% of all African tourism revenue comes from hunting. A staggering 98.2% of the tourism revenue comes from other forms of tourism such as wildlife viewing and photo safaris. In Zimbabwe, the African country with one of the highest concentrations of trophy hunting, only 3.2% of all tourism revenue comes from trophy hunting. South Africa is another popular destination for trophy hunters, yet only 1.2% of tourism revenues come from trophy hunting. A 2013 study conducted by the economic research organization Economists at Large revealed that trophy hunting revenues never exceed 0.27% of an African country’s GDP, and hardly any money ever reaches indigenous communities. Even economic studies undertaken by pro-trophy hunting organizations have concluded that, at most, only 3% of the money generated by trophy hunting actually reaches the rural communities where the hunting occurs. The Economists at Large study reveals that almost all trophy hunting profits stay with the trophy hunting operations, and the rest frequently end up in the bank accounts of corrupt government officials.
In 2014, the Obama Administration announced proposed rules to revise the Endangered Species Act to ban nearly all imports and sales of elephant ivory. The National Rifle Association (NRA) immediately began lobbying Congress to stop the rules from going forward. Despite the global cry to end the sale of ivory and the population of elephants declining to terrifying levels due to poaching, the NRA continues to publicly oppose any laws that would curb the demand for ivory products. When legislation was introduced in California in 2015 to close a state loophole that still allowed the importation of elephant ivory and items made with it prior to 1977, the NRA argued against the legislation.
Another claim made by many trophy hunting organizations is that trophy hunting weeds out the weaker animals, leaving the stronger ones to mate and strengthen the species. Again, science is showing the exact opposite to be true. Trophy hunting is causing a “backward evolution” because the largest and most impressive animals are being hunted down and killed. The Safari Club record books list the largest animals killed, not the smallest. Hunters want to kill animals with the largest antlers, tusks, and manes. A study reported in Newsweek in 2009 revealed that trophy hunting is leading to a reduction in size and overall health in the offspring of remaining animals. The most robust members of endangered and threatened species are disappearing, not by the process of “natural selection” but by the bullets and arrows of hunters. Bighorn sheep rams in Canada have experienced a 25% decrease in horn size since 1985. The strongest rams with the largest horns have been killed, and the remaining smaller rams are now propagating the species with a weaker gene pool.
African elephants are also drastically changing for the worse. The strongest elephants have the largest tusks, which they use both as defense weapons and as foraging tools. However, because elephants with large tusks have been targeted by hunters and poachers over the last 50 years, tuskless elephants, products of a genetic fluke, have become the more consistent breeders. They have grown from around 2% among African elephants to more than 38% in one Zambian population, and 98% in another South African herd. Tusked elephants, like bighorn rams with large horns, are genetically stronger individuals who give the species the best chance of survival for generations to come, but they are being wiped out by hunters.
According to a report released by the World Wildlife Fund in October of 2014, the number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish throughout the world is about half what it was in 1975. Exploitation, including trophy hunting, is the biggest contributor to the population decrease.
A study reported in Newsweek in 2009 revealed that trophy hunting is leading to a reduction in size and overall health in the offspring of remaining animals
Canned hunting is trophy hunting where the animals are captured from the wild or raised and released into a confined area to be hunted. This type of hunting is also called “captive hunting” or “high-fence hunting.” Canned hunting facilities exist throughout Africa and have become popular in the United States, where more than 1,000 facilities operate, including over 500 in the state of Texas. Trophy hunters pay the ranch operator a large fee for a guaranteed successful hunt where they can perch safely in tree blinds or move about in vehicles, targeting animals that have been caged, lured to feeding stations or drugged. Many canned hunts feature exotic and endangered species, including African antelopes and lions. Ranch owners or operators often acquire these animals from breeders, dealers, auctions, or even zoos or circuses. Animals in canned hunt facilities are usually housed in unregulated conditions. Diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, and chronic wasting disease (which is similar to Mad Cow Disease) have been discovered in different facilities and can spread to nearby cattle, local wildlife, and even humans.
Amazingly, there is no federal U.S. law that specifically oversees or regulates these facilities. Authority over private hunting activities is left to state wildlife agencies, and because they most often take place on private property, requirements and restrictions are loose and vague. There are no bag limits on the number of kills allowed, and the hunters are not required to carry hunting licenses or prove that they have experience with firearms.
Zebra shot at a canned hunting facility in Texas
Canned hunting is becoming more and more popular in South Africa. Trophy hunters from around the world flock there to kill numerous threatened and endangered species, the lion being the most popular. Working hand-in-hand with the canned hunting industry is an associated business marketed to families and children: cub-petting. Cub-petting offers tourists the opportunity to interact intimately with lion cubs. Tourists and volunteers pay handsomely to pet and feed the cubs, not realizing they are the product of multi-million dollar lion-breeding farms that supply lions to the canned hunting ranches. The very cubs the tourists feed and pet will eventually end up dead at the hands of a trophy hunter on a canned hunting ranch. At the breeding farms, the cubs are taken from their mothers a few hours after birth (the mothers are scared away from the cubs with a screeching loud horn) and within days are placed into the hands of starry-eyes tourists at a cub-petting parks.
Canned hunting facilities are an integral part of the worldwide trophy hunting industry because they offer the experience of killing an exotic animal at a fraction of the price that would be necessary to kill one on a safari expedition.
Cecil was a very popular lion who lived in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was the co-patriarch of a pride that consisted of about 20 lions, including six of Cecil’s own cubs. Since 2008, he had been studied by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University as part of a project in which all of Cecil’s movements were tracked and his behavior observed. Cecil was the best-known animal in the park, was revered for his relaxed demeanor, and was easily identifiable by his unique black-fringed mane and a GPS tracking collar secured around his neck.
In June 2015, Walter Palmer, an American trophy hunter, paid approximately $50,000 to Theo Bronkhorst, a professional African guide based in Zimbabwe, who guaranteed him a lion kill. In the darkness of night Bronkhorst and Palmer lured Cecil out of the protection of Hwange National Park with a dead animal carcass attached to their jeep as bait. Once out of the park, Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow. The arrow didn’t kill Cecil, so he and Brockhorst were forced to track him for approximately 40 hours as he suffered from his near fatal wound. When they finally tracked him down, Palmer shot him with a high powered rifle, finally killing him. They then skinned Cecil and removed his head from his body. When Cecil’s headless skeleton was found by park investigators, his tracking collar was missing.
Of the 62 lions that have been tagged as a part of the Oxford study at Hwange National Park, 24 have been killed by trophy hunters, including Cecil. The public outcry surrounding Cecil’s death has brought trophy hunting into the global media spotlight and inspired millions to call for an end to trophy hunting. Unfortunately, in November of 2016, Zimbabwe officials announced that all charges against Bronkhorst were being dropped.
Cecil the Lion
The death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe by American hunter Dr. Walter Palmer in July 2015 has unleashed an unprecedented global outcry against trophy hunting. Never before have so many people at one time stood up and voiced their anger over this murderous “sport”. Hours after Cecil’s death was reported by news outlets, hundreds of thousands of people around the world posted about it on social media sites. Within a week, over one million people had signed a petition which led to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s decision to temporarily suspend all trophy hunting in the country. Celebrities from around the world, including Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Kimmel, publicly condemned the senseless killing and called for governments to stop the killing of endangered and threatened species in Africa by trophy hunters. Support to end this barbaric tradition is more galvanized than ever before. It is clear that Cecil’s death was not in vain. Within several months of his death, sweeping changes have already been made around the world to help bring trophy hunting to an end.
Since Cecil’s death, over 40 airlines have introduced bans on wildlife trophies on their carriers. Delta Airlines, which has the most flights of any U.S. carrier in and out of Africa, announced in August 2015 that they would no longer allow the transport of “African Big Five” (lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo) trophies on their airplanes. American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines, JetBlue, and Virgin have also banned shipments of African Big Five trophies. Numerous other airlines have banned the shipment of animal trophies altogether.
Airlines that do not transport African Big Five trophies: Air Canada, United Airlines, American Airlines, United, Delta, Air New Zealand, CargoJet, Condor, WestJet
Airlines that do not transport any hunting trophies, including the African Big Five: Etihad Airways, KLM, Air Europa, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Virgin America, Brussels Airlines, Qatar Airways, Air France, British Airways, IAG Cargo, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Binter Canarias, JetBlue, Turkish Airlines, Comair, Hawaiian Airlines, CityJet, LOT Polish Airlines, Aer Lingus, Ethiopian Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Finnair (including no skins/hides), Air Berlin, Vueling Airlines, Aeroméxico, FastJet, The Mediterranean Shipping Company, SriLankan Airlines, ParcelForce.
Emirates Airlines does not transport any CITES Appendix I listed endangered species, including elephant, rhino, tiger, or lion hunting trophies. Lufthansa does not transport any animal trophies out of Africa. Swiss International Air Lines does not transport any CITES Appendix I listed endangered species or lion trophies. (CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.)
Of all the major airline carriers, only South African Airways, UPS, and FedEx have not enacted some sort of hunting trophy ban, but pressure is mounting on them to do so, too.
Cecil's death has resulted in a massive increase in public awareness about trophy hunting and how it is impacting threatened and endangered African animal species. Numerous celebrities, including Miley Cyrus, Piers Morgan, Shannen Doherty, Olivia Wilde, Debra Messing, and Ricky Gervais have publicly denounced Cecil’s killing and called for an end to trophy hunting. Their outspoken, passionate concern has brought the issue to a much wider audience. Visual artists from around the world have created and dedicated art to Cecil, including former Disney animator Aaron Blaise. Late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel raised $150,000 in less than 24 hours for Oxford's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, the educational organization that had been tracking Cecil's activity and location. Palmer’s murder of Cecil has sparked a very public discussion among conservation organizations, animal rights activists, and the public at large about the ethics of big-game hunting. Animal welfare activists are now vocally calling on African countries to ban the cruel practices of bow hunting, lion baiting, and tracking from hunting blinds if an outright hunting ban can not be achieved. In addition, emphasis is being focused on increasing revenue from African photo tourism safaris as a way to push out trophy hunting operations altogether.
Since Cecil’s death, several American lawmakers have introduced bills to restrict wildlife trophy imports. The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act was introduced into the US Senate in August of 2015 by New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. If enacted, the CECIL Animal Trophies Act would make it illegal to import any body part of any animal species listed as threatened or endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In the House of Representatives, Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-TX, plan to sponsor a bill, called The Cecil the Lion Endangered and Threatened Species Act, to amend the Endangered Species Act to ban all trophy killings. “The conservation of rare and threatened species is critically important to the sustainability of our ecosystem...It is appalling and shameful when vulnerable species are intentionally abused, killed and exterminated,” said Representative Lee. At the state level, legislators in New York and New Jersey have introduced bills to restrict intrastate sales and transportation of animal trophies. In Washington state, Measure I-1401 was signed into law in November 2015, making it the most stringent illegal wildlife trade law passed at the state level. It increased penalties for buying and selling products made from lions, elephants, rhinos , tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, sharks, rays and pangolins. And in California, Assembly Bill 96 was signed into law in October of 2015, making it it illegal to sell nearly any kind of product containing elephant ivory or rhino horn, including antique guns and chess sets.
A massive step was taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) in October of 2016 when it announced a ban on all trophies taken from South African captive-bred lions. The significance of this decision cannot be overstated as it will certainly have a noticeable economic impact on South African lion-breeding and canned hunting facilities.
Amazingly, more tigers exist in captivity in the United States than wild tigers throughout the world. Due to the highly unregulated canned hunting and tiger breeding industries, many conservation experts believe that American canned hunting facilities are a major factor in the global demand for tigers poached from the wild. In July of 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services enacted a new law that requires a permit be obtained for the interstate trade of all captive tigers in the US. Moreover, the law makes the handling of any big cats under the age of four weeks illegal at all roadside zoos, traveling circuses or entertainment venues.
European conservationists, activists, and politicians have called on the EU to ban the import of lion trophies from African countries. In November of 2015, a giant step forward took place when France’s environment minister, Ségolène Royal, announced that France would became the first European country to ban the import of lion trophies. This move could very well have a ripple effect with other European Union countries. Furthermore, she revealed that France is considering stricter controls on trophies from other species, as well. Less than a week after France’s announcement, Great Britain declared that unless drastic improvement in the African trophy hunting industry takes place, and African countries can prove their lion populations are stable, it too will ban the import of all lion trophies beginning in 2017. Australia was the first country to ban lion trophies in March of 2015.
Following France’s lead, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in December 2015 announced that Central and West African lions were being added to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) endangered list, making it illegal to import lion trophies from these regions. Lions from Eastern and Southern Africa were added to the threatened list, making it more difficult to import lion trophies from those regions.
In January of 2016, South Africa announced a one-year moratorium on leopard hunting, until the Department of Environmental Affairs can obtain accurate leopard population figures. Many wildlife experts see this as a positive step in the direction of limiting and, eventually, stopping trophy hunting in South Africa. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society and the Center for Biological Diversity are petitioning the U.S. government to place the southern African leopard on the endangered species list, which would result in banning all southern African leopard imports. Currently, almost all subspecies of leopards are on the endangered species list except for the southern African leopard. American big game hunters often import parts of their carcass as mementos from their South African safari hunt. In the last ten years, U.S. trophy hunters have been responsible for half the wild leopards killed in South Africa.
A massive step was taken in August of 2016 by Botswana when the government banned all trophy hunting within the country and implemented a shoot-to-kill policy on suspected poachers. In addition, in October 2016, Romania—home to Europe's largest population of brown bears, lynx, wolves and wildcats—also announced a ban on all trophy hunting.
Numerous global and national animal advocacy groups have been galvanized by the worldwide outrage over Cecil’s death. Many have been working for an end to trophy hunting, wildlife poaching, and habitat loss for decades. Organizations like Born Free, Panthera, Lion Aid, Four Paws, Annamiticus, Saving Rhinos, Humane Society International, League Against Cruel Sports, PETA, and International Fund for Animal Welfare have turned the tragedy of Cecil’s death into an opportunity to both educate the public about trophy hunting as well as lobby federal and regional governments to regulate this industry that has, for so long, escaped any significant governmental oversight.
Born Free Foundation is a high-impact animal rights organization at the forefront of putting an end to trophy hunting and poaching. They are also very active in protecting natural wildlife habitat in Africa and the rest of the world. Founder Will Travers and the Born Free staff work tirelessly to halt the race to extinction by protecting rare species in their indigenous environment and educating regional governments and populations. Working with local communities through effective initiatives, they aim to find compassionate solutions so people and wildlife can live together in harmony. Born Free is headquartered in the UK, but their major work takes place in Africa through Born Free Kenya and Born Free Ethiopia. Born Free USA educates millions of people in the Americas about the dangers facing wildlife through all types of media to reach the widest possible audience. They are also actively working to phase out animal zoos and circuses worldwide.
Born Free Foundation have declared 2016 the Year of the Lion. 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the award-winning 1966 film Born Free, which featured the story of Elsa the lioness and starred Will Traver’s parents, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, who, with Will, founded Born Free. Bill and Virginia were early pioneers of the movement to protect wild animals in their natural habitat. Through Born Free they have created the Zoo Check Campaign, Elefriends Campaign, Wolf Campaign, Dolphin Campaign, Primate Campaign, Big Cat Campaign, and Bear Campaign.
Since the death of Cecil the Lion in July 2015, there has been a massive global effort to expose the effect trophy hunting is having on African endangered and threatened species like the African lion, African elephant, black rhinoceros and African leopard. Please stand up and join the effort before it is too late and these magnificent animals become a thing of the past. When you speak out on behalf of these extraordinary creatures, you become an important part of the movement to protect them from hunters and ensure their place in the African landscape for future generations. Here are some ways you can help.
The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment in Botswana, Tshekedi Khama, is sounding the alarm about trophy hunting in his country. While Botswana banned trophy hunting in 2014 and has taken the lead on wildlife conservation in Africa, the country is coming under immense pressure to reverse the ban from the pro-hunting lobby in Europe and neighbouring pro-hunting countries.
The House of Representatives just voted to allow hunters to kill bears hibernating with their young. If their decision passes into law, hunters will be allowed to enter dens where bears are hibernating and kill their entire families. They would also be allowed to shoot and kill wolf families, including their pups.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has a track record of slaughtering Colorado's wildlife instead of saving it.
Just recently, the Colorado Wildlife Commission passed a ludicrous policy allowing CPW to trap and shoot bears and mountain lions to "experiment" with predator control in order to increase deer populations.
On July 1, Cecil the lion, one of the most famous animals in one of Zimbabwe's national parks, was shot by a bow hunter. The hunter was a dentist from Minnesota who paid $55,000 for a hunting permit before shooting the 13-year-old big cat.
Please sign the petition to demand justice for Cecil! Tell Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits to kill endangered animals!
Zimbabwe’s most well–known and much–photographed black–maned lion, affectionately named Cecil, was killed by sport hunters last week. This lion, whose head and skin were removed, is only one of about 200 such lion 'trophies' that hunters legally import to the EU each year. Germany, France and Spain are the biggest importers.
To finally stop trophy hunting. These beautiful, living, breathing creatures are murdered for fun. This must stop. Let the tragic murder of Cecil be a wake up call, as it has provided so much media attention. If any good can come out of this, it will be to prevent other animals being murdered in this despicable way. Do not let his murder be in vain, let's call for a ban on licences provided for this disgusting and needless passtime.
A German national has been accused of killing one of the largest elephants ever seen in Zimbabwe. But the hunt organizer is defending the hunter and refusing to disclose his name.
The elephant had reportedly never been seen before in the area where he was shot - near the border of Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. Chairman of the Zimbabwe conservation task force Johnny Rodrigues told the Guardian that “Such old, large elephants” are “very, very rare” and “almost never sighted.”
US Congressman Don Young of Alaska has introduced legislation to end the ban on importing polar bears trophies to the US. Will you help stop him?
Polar bear numbers increased after the US and other countries adopted limits on hunting and trapping in the 1960s and 1970s. But declining sea ice — which polar bears need to hunt — and other stressors point to a far grimmer picture.
Trophy hunters are abusing Facebook to show off their killed lions, jaguars, giraffes etc. Facebook doesn't want to remove the pictures because they say it's not cruel enough and it's not against their policy...
In the 1960s, it was estimated that there were 200,000 lions on the African continent. Sadly, only 20,000 are left today. Sport hunting is still permitted in the wild and South Africa specifically breeds lions for captive hunting,- "canned hunting".
Three sub-species of giraffe are in serious decline or endangered- the West African giraffe, Rothschild's giraffe and the reticulated giraffe. Yet, tourist trophy hunters are paying $3,800 to go and shoot giraffes with high-powered guns and bows, and then posting ridiculous and offensive selfies for the world to see their inhumanity. In South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe killing them for sport trophy hunting is legal.
Trophy hunting is cruel! People capture wild animals and place them in an enclosed environment where animals can’t escape. Most are exotic. This has to stop.
Every year it is reported that 600 lions are killed as a result of trophy hunting. This has a dramatic impact on the lion population, and is driving them closer and closer to extinction. In 1975 the population was estimated at 250,000, yet today this has dropped by around 85% leaving only 25-30,000 remaining.
Animal protection campaigners are outraged after the EU's Scientific Review Group reversed an earlier decision to suspend elephant trophy imports from Zambia, according to a report in the Mirror.
Elephant trophies from Zambia had been stopped in April after concerns that population levels were dangerously low. However, the Zambian government claimed an aerial survey suggested there are now 33,000 elephants in the country, which lead to the EU changing its position.
Five native African species — the African elephant, lion, leopard, black rhino and white rhino -- currently face extinction due to illegal poaching and hunting. A new bill aims to ban the transport, sale, possession or import of any of these species in the state of New York.
Cecil the Lion’s death at the hands of a wealthy trophy hunter has brought worldwide condemnation of the trophy hunting industry and the role airlines play in it. Quite simply, if hunters can’t transport the trophies of the animals they kill in Africa to their homes, few will have sufficient motivation to hunt the animals in the first place. Most airline passengers would be horrified to know that in the cargo hold below their feet is the lifeless remains of a once magnificent wild animal killed by a trophy hunter. By enacting bans that prevent hunters from using cargo holds to transport Africa’s endangered wildlife, airlines are sending a clear message that wild animals are worth much more alive than dead. There is no financial reason for any airline to continue to transport animal trophies if they risk losing significant business because of it. Airlines need to know that their customers will no longer fly with them as long as they continue to support the trophy hunting industry by transporting animals that have been killed, many of which are endangered species.
Since Cecil’s death, more than 40 airlines have introduced bans on wildlife trophy shipments on their airplanes. Some have exclusively prohibited the shipment of the African “Big Five” : lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and water buffalo. Others have gone a step further and banned the transport of any animal trophies. South African Airways and parcel carriers United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx still allow the transport of animal trophies. Take the time to urge them to change their policies. Sign petitions imploring UPS and South African Airways to stop transporting animal trophies. And let them know that you will not be a customer until they do.
In late 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Central and Western African lions as threatened, making it illegal to import lion trophies from these regions except under very limited circumstances. However, lions in Southern and East Africa are only classified as threatened. Although this designation makes it more difficult to import live lions or lion trophies than in the past, it is still legal. Several American lawmakers have introduced bills to further restrict wildlife trophy imports. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, has introduced a bill to ban all imports of trophies and parts from African lions and other at-risk species. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-TX, plan to sponsor a bill to amend the Endangered Species Act to ban “all acts of senseless and perilous trophy killings.” Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey also have introduced bills to restrict intrastate sales and transportation of animal trophies. Call and urge your state and federal congressional representatives and senators to support these bills or draft others that ban the import of animal trophies. Click here to find your US state congressman and senator. Click here to find your US federal congressman and senator.
The American Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted by Congress in 1973. It criminalized the importation of endangered species, either living or dead, unless they were used for “scientific research, enhancement of propagation, or survival of the species.” Despite this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which implements and enforces the ESA, still allows trophy hunters to import trophies of endangered species through a system of loopholes and vague interpretation of the ESA wording. Most notably, the FWS interprets the term “enhancement” in the ESA to include trophy hunting of an endangered species if it can be argued that the killing of an individual animal aids that species’ conservation. The FWS, Safari Club International, and other trophy hunting organizations argue that purchasing permits in African countries to hunt and kill endangered animals helps those countries conserve the species, despite data that shows the greatest decrease in endangered species populations has occurred in countries with the highest concentration of trophy hunting. Moreover, the FWS grants permits to American “canned hunting” ranches, giving them permission to kill endangered and threatened species based on "the propagation of the survival of the species" clause of the ESA. This despite evidence that the ranches are breeding exotic and endangered species not native to the US solely for financial profit.
Call or write the FWS and let them know that you no longer want them to protect the interests of trophy hunting organizations like Safari Club International but instead the interest of the endangered animals, which is the mandate of their department. Clearly, allowing the killing of endangered species is not acting in the animals’ best interests. You can send the FWS an email by clicking on this link: http://www.fws.gov/duspit/contactus.htm. You can call the FWS headquarters at 1-800-344-9453 or write them at:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Director Dan Ashe
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Tell your friends and family about how trophy hunting is hastening the extinction of many endangered and threatened animal species in Africa. Show them some of the educational videos and documentaries on the subject. Join other animal activists in demanding an end to the preferential governmental treatment afforded to trophy hunting organizations. The In Defense of Animals website has a take action page which describes ways you can help end trophy hunting.
Most animal advocacy organizations, including Born Free, Panthera, Humane Society International, In Defense of Animals, and PETA have Facebook and Twitter accounts with pages devoted to endangered species targeted by trophy hunters. Follow their pages and share photos and posts with your friends and family, keeping them up to date on wildlife animal advocacy news and issues.
Trophy hunting organizations have long claimed that trophy hunting benefits the local population and promotes conservation. The sharpest decline in the lion population over the last decade, however, has occurred in countries with the highest concentration of trophy hunting operations. Moreover, a 2013 report by the not-for-profit group Economists at Large revealed that the trophy hunting industry contributes very little economic growth to the local populations where the trophy hunting operations are located.
Safari Club International (SCI) promotes trophy hunting throughout the world. It is a wealthy and powerful organization that contributes millions of dollars to politicians who support SCI’s desire to weaken legislation aimed at regulating and decreasing global trophy hunting. SCI members compete against one another to kill particular species of animals to win different SCI titles. To win all the SCI titles, a hunter has to kill 322 individual animals of different species or subspecies, many of which are listed as endangered or threatened.
The American Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973. It disallowed the importation of endangered species (dead or alive) under any circumstances except for “scientific research, enhancement of propagation, or survival of the species.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which implements and enforces the ESA, has interpreted the term “enhancement” to include trophy hunting of protected species if it promotes the conservation the species. Despite widespread American opposition to this policy, the FWS continues to allow trophies of endangered species to be imported by trophy hunters.
Captive hunting operations, often referred to as "canned hunts" or "game ranches,” are private trophy hunting facilities that offer hunters the opportunity to kill animals trapped within fenced enclosures. Many of the animals killed are threatened or endangered species. There are more than 1,000 captive hunting operations in 28 American states, and over 500 in Texas alone.
In South Africa, approximately 160 lion breeding farms provide tame lions to the numerous canned hunting operations. Before being shot on a canned hunting ranch, the cubs are usually placed in a “petting facility” where cubs grow up with human caregivers, learning to trust humans. After reaching adolescence at the petting facilities, the cubs are sold to canned hunting ranches. Hunters often choose which lion they would like to kill online in advance, with black maned male adults commanding the highest price. More than 8,000 lions and cubs are currently living in breeding farms and captive hunting enclosures in South Africa, waiting to be killed by trophy hunters.
Explore the beautiful, fascinating world of African animals in the wild through these photos and video clips, and see how remarkable these intelligent animals are.
Joining the Pride: Mother lions do not introduce their cubs into the pride until they are six weeks old. The initiation can be very intimidating, depending on the dominant male’s personality. Watch this captivating video that gives a glimpse into the social structure of a lion pride.
The Amazing African Elephant: African elephants are so resourceful, they are capable of surviving even in the middle of the barren Namib desert. Knowledge of how to thrive in these conditions is passed from generation to generation, taught by the older elephants to the adolescents.
Leaping Lechwe: Lechwe are a subspecies of antelope. The males are known for their long, spiraling horns. Witness the elegant beauty of this wild Lechwe herd jumping in and out of the marshlands of the Serengeti, located in northern Tanzania and southwestern Kenya.
Herd Helps Baby Elephant: This baby elephant gets some help crossing the rain-swollen Ewaso Nyiro River in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy located in central Kenya.
Africa is home to one of the most diverse, unique collections of animals found anywhere in the world. These animals have lived together for millions of years in harmony in their natural habitat. Each species has its own unique set of sounds and calls that, together with the vocalizations of the other animals, make up a beautiful symphony.
The Voices of African Animals: Like all animals, African animals communicate with one another in a variety of ways, including scent, body language, and vocal articulations. This video captures a wide array of African animals vocalizing.
Through social media, you can connect and network with other dedicated animal activists from around the world who are committed to ending trophy hunting. Most of these advocacy organizations have social media pages that post news and important information on a daily basis. The links for the social media accounts of some of these groups are listed below, in addition to a link to their websites. Tell your friends, family, and communities about how trophy hunting is drastically decreasing the populations of magnificent African animals like elephants, lions, giraffes, and leopards. Take Action!
The following documentaries are great tools for anyone wanting to dive deeper into the world of African animals and the impact of trophy and canned hunting upon endangered animal populations.
Blood Lions: Blood Lions is a powerful documentary about the realities of the multi-million dollar lion breeding and canned lion hunting industries in South Africa. It has been screened throughout the world and has won numerous awards. Tens of thousands have been inspired to speak up and demand the abolition of canned hunting after viewing Blood Lions.