Everything You Need to Know About Trophy Hunting

Depending on who you ask, trophy hunting can be considered the pinnacle of a hunter’s journey or the senseless slaughter of endangered species. Tensions have risen recently over trophy hunting, and more specifically, the import of the trophies themselves. While sides could argue endlessly over ethical or moral standards, decisions can’t be made until the repercussions of either decision are fully understood.

What is trophy hunting?

An objective definition of trophy hunting is, “the selective hunting of wild game for human recreation. The trophy is the animal or part of the animal kept, and usually displayed to represent the success of the hunt.”

What is the trophy import ban?

In July of 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service suspended all imports of African elephant hunting trophies. Their reasoning being that they were, “unable to determine that the killing of the animal whose trophy is intended for import into the United States would enhance the survival of the species in the wild.”

Fast forward to November, 2017 and it is announced that the ban is being lifted. The backlash against this announcement was massive and Trump responded with the following tweet:

In an interview with NPR, the Fish and Wildlife Service stated, “Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve those species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

In response to talk of lifting the ban, Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States wrote, “Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them.”

Afterwards, it seemed like that was the end of the ordeal and that wildlife conservation had won. But only five months later, the ban was lifted (rather quietly) and elephant trophy imports are now legal on a case-by-case basis. Although the grounds by which each case will be judged remain a mystery. This follows a January statement by Trump in an interview with Piers Morgan in which he said, “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country].”

Common myths about trophy hunting?

A commonly perpetuated myth about trophy hunting is that it aids in conservation efforts. This is evident in the statement from the Fish and Wildlife Service. They claim that the killing of an endangered species for sport works as an incentive for locals to conserve said species. Interesting. This rumor is also being spread by U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke.

It’s painfully obvious that, while killing something might motivate people to jump on conservation efforts, it’s like saying that murdering someone is incentive for their neighbors to crack down on crime, and therefore is helpful. You can’t have your cake and eat it too in this case. Either you’re working towards conservation of a species whose population dropped 30% just between 2007 and 2014 or you’re hunting them. There is no grey area here.

Theoretically, money spent to go on a big game hunting trip (sadistic tourist trap) does contribute to local conservation efforts and villages. However, the reality is that much of these donations have been lost to corruption in the Zimbabwe hunting management, according to National Geographic reporter, Rachael Bale. And trophy hunters tend to only want the “pretty” parts of the kill tusks, skull, etc), so sometimes they’ll give the meat to local villages. Oftentimes, however, the carcass is left stripped of its “valuable parts” and abandoned.

How damaging is trophy hunting to animal populations?

Prior to the Obama-era ban on imports, it was estimated that Americans had imported 1.26 million trophies between 2005 and 2014. To break that massive number down, that equals 345 every day. Hunters can boast all they want about how they’re boosting local economies and raising awareness for conservation but one and a quarter million trophies is still one and a quarter million trophies. With no ban in place anymore, imports could very quickly climb back up to these numbers.

How can I help?

Unfortunately, environmental ultimatums boil down to legislature, which means our voice needs to be loud enough for congress to hear. On a small scale, reaching out to your local representatives is a wonderful place to start. You can text “RESIST” to 50409 for an easy walkthrough on writing to your representative.

You can also check out the World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic, and the International Elephant Foundation to see the work they are doing to aid conservation as well as paths of action through their organizations.

Whatever you do, don’t be silent. Don’t be a bystander while our consumerism and our need to conquer slowly destroys the planet. Your voice matters, and if enough voices speak up together, we will be heard.


Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

More Information/Sources:

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophy_hunting

Trophy ban memo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/07/31/2014-18013/notice-of-suspension-of-imports-of-zimbabwe-elephant-trophies-taken-in-2014-on-or-after-april-4-2014

2017 NPR article: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/16/564712084/u-s-lifts-ban-on-importing-elephant-trophies-from-zimbabwe-and-zambia

Wayne Pacelle’s article: https://blog.humanesociety.org/2017/11/interior-department-allow-imports-elephant-lion-trophies-africa-reversing-obama-policies.html

2018 NPR article: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/06/591209422/trump-administration-quietly-decides-again-to-allow-elephant-trophy-imports

Piers Morgan interview: https://vimeo.com/253220574

Elephant census: http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/

Rachel Bale interview: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/24/566326438/uproar-over-elephant-trophies-overshadows-changes-to-lion-imports

Trophy import report: http://www.hsi.org/assets/pdfs/report_trophy_hunting_by_the.pdf

Rachel Bale article: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/160206-American-trophy-hunting-wildlife-conservation/