10 key facts & figures
- Over the past decade, hunters have taken home over 1.7 million “trophies” from animals they have killed for “sport”. More than 200,000 of them were from animals in danger of going extinct.
- Elephants, leopards and lions – which are all threatened – are among the most sought-after animals by trophy hunters. Lion trophy hunting popularity has soared in recent years – despite the uproar over Cecil – while numbers in the wild have fallen significantly. Over the past decade, 10,000 lion trophies have been taken: there are now just 20,000 lions left in the wild.
- There is an increasing popularity in ‘canned hunting’. Some 200 ‘factory farms’ in South Africa have bred thousands of lions in enclosures for profit: for cub-petting, lion-walking and guaranteed trophies. Lionesses are often killed for their bones to make ‘wine’ and ‘cake’ for so-called “traditional medicines” in Asia.
- Around 70% of trophy hunters are American. Of the top 20 countries for trophy hunters, 15 were from European nations. Canada, South Africa and Namibia are the 3 leading exporters of animal trophies, making up approximately 70% of the world market.
- The trophy hunting industry is represented by powerful lobby groups such as the Safari Club International (SCI) which exists to “protect hunters rights”. SCI CEO Paul Babaz recently described his mission as “to protect the freedom to hunt whatever game we choose to hunt”.
- The SCI promotes various award schemes that actively encourage hunters to kill Africa’s “Big 5” and other threatened species. A hunter must kill an elephant, a rhino, a lion, a leopard and a buffalo to get on the “African Big Five Grand Slam” list. Other awards include the “African 29” – which demands a minimum of 29 African wildlife kills.
- CITES – the international agreement to protect threatened species from trade – does not ban trophy hunting, even of species listed in Appendix 1 (animals at greatest risk of extinction). This is despite the convention stating such animals should only be killed “in exceptional circumstances”. CITES exempts trophy hunting from its provisions by classifying it as a “non-commercial” activity alongside scientific research.
- Pro-hunting groups claim that trophy hunting encourages wildlife conservation. However an exhaustive review by a US Congressional Committee found that trophy hunting was directly responsible for population declines of big cats, particularly lions, and that trophy hunting and poaching is currently outpacing the reproductive rate of elephants. Species such as Dorcas gazelles and the Nubian bustard have been all but wiped out by trophy hunters.
- The trophy hunting lobby claims that it supports significant numbers of local jobs. The UN’s World Tourism Organisation says trophy hunting brings in just 1.8% of tourism revenue in these countries, compared to 80% for wildlife watching. As much as 97% of revenue generated by trophy hunting stays within the hunting community or is siphoned off by corrupt government officials. Trophy hunting generates at most 0.03% of GDP in African nations, and just 0.76% of the total number of jobs created by all forms of tourism combined.
- The industry claims that trophy hunting funds anti-poaching work, some profits from hunting fees may be used by some private landowners to protect their wildlife farms with fencing and anti-poaching controls. Trophy hunting provides a cover for illegal poaching, with many of the same people involved in both. One investigation found that 300 rhino horns had been taken by poachers posing as trophy hunters.
Trophy hunting is cruel and inflicts pain and suffering, not just on the target animal but also its offspring. Shooting from a long distance increases the likelihood of non-fatal wounding, which has been found to occur in up to 50% of cases. Trophy hunting groups like SCI encourage hunters to win prizes by using cross-bows and handguns, which increases this risk. Trophy hunters will often avoid headshots – which are most likely to result in instantaneous death – as this could ‘spoil’ the trophy. The killing of females can cause their offspring to starve, while killing of males can lead to infanticide as new males compete for control of a pride/herd, as is often the case with lions for instance.
Trophy Hunting Benefits? We look at the claims of its supporters.
“Trophy hunting fees support conservation/well-managed trophy hunting can support conservation”
A US Congressional study – the most comprehensive of its kind – which looked into this claim and reviewed dozens of scientific studies found little if any evidence of purported conservation benefits. Species popular with trophy hunters are all in decline, and trophy hunting is contributing directly to their ongoing decline. The claim that trophy hunting helps conservation is rather like trying to claim that promoting smoking helps fight lung cancer because taxes from cigarettes go towards the healthcare system. If trophy hunters were serious about wanting to support conservation, they would donate the vast sums of money they can afford to kill animals for fun directly to conservation.
“Trophy hunting fees support development/creates jobs/funds anti-poaching work etc”
97% of hunting fees stay within the hunting industry. Very few locals are ever employed by safari companies. Nature tourism generates 40 times as much revenue as trophy hunting and is far more likely to employ local people. Trophy hunting contributes only a tiny fraction of both GDP and even total tourism income in African countries. The claim that trophy hunting supports the local economy is like claiming the drug trade generates prosperity and provides employment in deprived areas: whether or not it’s true, it is not an excuse to support a manifestly immoral industry.
“The principal threats to wildlife are habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict, not trophy hunting”
Wildlife, unfortunately, faces multiple threats today. Every threat must be taken seriously when populations are so vulnerable. The species most popular with trophy hunters are all declining rapidly and are now so vulnerable that any threat can have catastrophic consequences. The loss of a single male lion or bull elephant can mean the loss of vital genetic resources that can put an entire local population at risk, impacting the species’ viability as a whole. The trophy hunting industry has awards that actively encourage large numbers of trophies to be taken, including endangered species. In the past decade, for instance, trophy hunters have taken 10,000 lion trophies. Today there are just 20,000 wild lions left.
“Regulations ensure trophy hunting is sustainable/does not impact threatened species”
A loophole in CITES – the agreement meant to protect endangered species from hunters and poachers – allows trophy hunters to kill even ‘appendix 1’ species, the most critically endangered wildlife. A poacher cannot kill an elephant to sell its tusks. But a trophy hunter can kill the same elephant and take the same tusks. In either case, a vulnerable elephant is tragically and needlessly killed. The number of lion trophies taken has actually gone up since the killing of Cecil. CITES clearly isn’t working. It classifies trophy hunting as a non-commercial activity, which is ludicrous given the vast sums of money trophy hunters pay to kill animals for their entertainment.
“Banning trophy hunting could have negative consequences for wildlife”
Countries such as Brazil and Costa Rica already ban trophy hunting. France, Australia and the Netherlands have all banned wildlife trophy imports. No one has claimed that these bans have had negative consequences. No species has ever moved into a higher classification of vulnerability as a result of banning trophy hunting or trophy imports. There is no conservation plan for any endangered species in the world that includes trophy hunting as an essential component of its strategy. It is simply false – as well as patently ludicrous – to say that killing animals is good for them!
what do british politicians say?
British politicians debated the subject in May this year – you can watch the debate here
If you would rather read their comments click here to read the transcript
Links to further research
Africa is Changing, Should its Protected Areas Evolve? Bertrand Chardonnet , 2019
Missing The Mark: African Trophy Hunting Consistently Fails to Show Conservation Benefits A report by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources, June 2016
The Cruelty of Killing with Cross Bows a Report by the Animals Rights Coalition