Undercover video: trophy hunts of threatened and vulnerable species sold at Safari Club International convention
Investigators found hunts for elephants, giraffes, primates, baited big cat hunts as well as hound hunting excursions on sale
An undercover video released by Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States ahead of the one year anniversary of the killing of Cecil the Lion reveals hunts for other threatened and vulnerable animals on sale at Safari Club International’s annual convention, with millions of tax exempt dollars raised to fund the group’s efforts to enable mostly wealthy trophy hunters to kill some of the world’s most rarest and most majestic wildlife.
The undercover investigators spoke with hunting outfitters working the convention floor offering hunts for African elephants, leopards, black bears, mountain lions, giraffes, wolves, baboons, lynx as well as hound hunting excursions which more than one vendor admitted were sometimes fatal for the dogs.
More than 300 mammal hunts for more than 600 animals were auctioned off, and countless other hunts were arranged on the exhibit floor by the approximately 500 hunting outfitters at the convention.
During the auction phase of the convention, auctions for bears, leopards and other animals were sold for tens of thousands of U.S. dollars, making it clear that the mostly wealthy can participate in this blood sport. The accompanying report highlights prominent trophy hunters whose kills include threatened species, including David M. Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell International, Jimmy Johns founder Jimmy John Liautaud and Thomas J. Hammond, founder of Flagstar Bank.
The undercover investigator found that:
- “Hunts” that involve killing animals in fenced areas were sold at the convention and South African lion breeders, who breed lions for the kill, were present.
- Cruel hunting practices, such as baiting, trapping and hounding (which is the use of dogs to chase animals) are used routinely by many outfitters.
- Elephant trophy hunting is promoted despite the devastating elephant poaching crisis; South Africa is advertised as one of the few places from which U.S. hunters can still import elephant trophies.
- Leopard hunting is promoted even though the animals are threatened with extinction, with these killing programs notoriously mismanaged – in what amounts to a sell-off of the nations’ big cats.
- The so-called Africa “Big Five” (African elephant, leopard, lion, rhino, and buffalo) continues to be promoted as an SCI trophy hunting goal, despite the fact that four of the “Big Five” animals are threatened with extinction.
- A 100 percent guaranteed kill is offered by some outfitters, incentivizing the use of cruel hunting methods like baiting, trapping and hounding to ensure success.
Andrew Rowan, president and CEO of HSI, said: “This video clearly shows the mania of a competitive trophy hunting subculture bent on shooting lions, leopards, grizzly bears, and other rare animals. Instead of contributing to the protection of these rare, majestic species, these trophy hunters contribute to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of animals every year, many threatened with extinction. What’s worse is that these hunts often happen on private properties, where animals are penned in, baited and have no fair chance of escape.”
Earlier this year HSI and The HSUS released a report showing that American hunters have imported more than 1.2 million animals, more than 126,000 a year, as hunting trophies from across the world in the last 10 years, including 5,600 African lions. In another report, HSI estimated that the European Union imported at least 68,379 trophies of species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, including 3,260 African lions. The EU imports are likely much higher if species not protected under CITES are included. In either case, the U.S. is by far the largest importer in the world.
Earlier this week 17 prominent scientists and conservationists appealed to the global community for increased protections for the African lion. Nine countries have submitted a proposal under CITES to list the African lion on Appendix I, the highest level of safeguards of three CITES appendices. African lion populations have declined by an estimated 43 percent between 1993 and 2014, with an estimated 60 percent decline in sample African range state populations. The CITES listing would prohibit commercial trade in lion parts, and would also require increased regulation of trade for other purposes – like trophy hunting.
Last year Australia and France both prohibited imports of African lion trophies. In 2015, a few months after Cecil was killed, the Obama administration made final a rule prohibiting the import of lion trophies into the U.S. unless the hunt is deemed to promote the conservation of the species – in what should reduce lion trophy imports to a trickle, or better yet, to zero. In 2016, the Netherlands prohibited imports of trophies from over 200 wild animals, including lions. We hope other nations follow their lead. The private sector has also taken some positive action, with 45 airlines prohibiting transport of the Africa “Big Five” trophies, and similar measures must be taken by other airlines and other private sector actors.