Trophy Hunting Culture

Stephen Wiggins Article, Event 8 Comments

Banner image: Namibian desert elephant, Kambonde – “…the animal’s death was a bloodbath” – “Questionable killing of Namibia’s desert elephants,” Africa Geographic, 25 October 2017 

With the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER) due on 13 April 2019, it seem appropriate to review trophy hunting in light of proposals to the forthcoming (May 2019) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), Conference of Parties (CoP18) to advance the trophy hunting of elephants (not to mention ivory, rhino horn and live specimen trading).



Trophy Hunting

Trophy hunting covers a wide spectrum, but is perhaps most alarming when it targets threatened and endangered species on the African continent – all in the name of ‘sports’ hunting.

When a hunter kills such a trophy animal, the hunter likes to call it “harvesting” which sounds much more benign doesn’t it – but an animal still bleeds and dies to satisfy the hunter’s trophy needs.

Trophy hunting has belatedly started to recognise the rot within its own ranks, not due to some epiphany, but because the rot is harming the hunting industry’s ‘image’ and business model. But all too often trophy hunting makes emotional and angry outbursts in defence of “hunting culture” (sic), as if a weak ‘cultural’ excuse is a defence in itself for continuing the slaughter in the name of ‘sport’ because ‘that’s what hunters do (sic).’  The ‘anti-hunting brigade‘ are not the ones defying the scientific evidence in the name of a ‘cultural’ addiction.

Let’s explore the justification (myths) often used by the trophy hunting industry to justify itself.

Myth 1 – Habitat Protection

In trophy hunting areas, government authorities set quotas for Hunting Permits (also called Concessions) at auction. But there is often no imperative for any bidder to demonstrate conservation credentials (ref. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing Two Lion Subspecies,” Page 86, USFWS, 10 December 2015) – the highest bidder wins, usually a Hunting Operator – a business endeavour, not a conservation body.

Trophy hunting might protect habitat, but it does not always guarantee to protect the wildlife inhabitants:

For example, in Katavi, Tanzania the estimated lion numbers were recorded as zero in 2014, from a population of 1,118 in 1993 (Review of Panthera leo from the United Republic of Tanzania and from Zambia,” UNEP Report, 2015). It should be noted, that from 2010, 41 adult males (less than five years old) had been “harvested” for trophies in Katavi – it is probable that this excessive trophy hunting of young male lions led to the Katavi sub-population’s decline.

A Sample of Under-aged Male African Lions Shot by “Sport Hunters” in Various Countries from 2004–2008 – “Sport Hunting, Predator Control and Conservation of Large Carnivores,” Packer C. et al., 2009, PLoS ONE 4(G):e5941


Tanzania is Africa’s leading country for big game hunting in unfenced areas, and yet the numbers of lions and elephants shot have plummeted over the last six years.

Despite a six-year age limit on lions (only lions older than six years may be shot), in 2015 66,7% of the lions shot were five years old, or younger. Aside from the issue of the hunting of under-age lions, this statistic demonstrates the lack of suitable lions left to hunt.

Additionally, during that time the annual lion hunting quota awarded by the Wildlife Divisions was 315 until 2015, and then 207 since 2016. This mismatch between available lions and quotas was behind the reason certain Western countries controlled and even banned the imports of sport-hunted lion trophies” – “Africa is Changing: Should its Protected Areas Evolve?” IWB, 11 March 2019

Trophy Hunting was reported to have contributed to population declines outside of (and within some) protected areas of Tanzania (Lindset et al., 2013) and was considered by Packer et al., 2011 to pose the greatest threat to the populations in trophy hunting areas.”

The calculations (see Appendix 2) show that to conserve a lion for hunting costs around 4 million USD, whilst the market price for its hunt is around 50,000 USD….No one will pay 4 million USD to shoot a lion, and this shows how hunting is powerless to fund its conservation” – “Africa is changing: Should its protected areas evolve? Reconfiguring the protected areas in Africa,” Bertrand Chardonnet, IUCN, March 2019

Myth 2 – Trophy Hunting Quotas are Always Based on Science

Hunting quotas tend to be pursued based upon a financial break-even, not a sustainable offtake (which is key to any notion of a conservation imperative). Before setting a quota, overall species population estimates are often based upon biased guess work, not science.

An example of such flawed/biased ‘thinking’ was evident in 2011 when in partnership with a pro-hunting lobby group, Safari Club International (SCI), Namibia launched a census “to manage the sustainability of the leopard population.” The limited returns from the farmers’ census were extrapolated, producing a flawed national estimate of leopards of over 14,000 leopards – giving the notion that there were ‘plenty left to persecute/kill.’ The reality is leopards are a shy and elusive species, there is no feasible means to accurately estimate the population, let alone such a high estimate to justify the killing.

South Africa’s recent proposals for leopard hunting quotas were base upon leopard densities’ extrapolated from data first established in 1972 (that has no realistic correlation with any current scientific certainty).

Myth 3 – Trophy Hunting Always Benefits Local Communities

There is limited independent evidence that the proceeds of trophy hunting always benefits local communities in a given hunting area:

In 2009 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded in its report, “Big game hunting in West Africa : what is its contribution to conservation?” that the economic benefits to local communities of hunting areas are minimal, if such benefits are in fact received at all:

For example, Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE programme (established 1981) was introduced to distribute dividends derived from Trophy Hunting to local communities. In 2007 (Mutandwa and Gadzirayi) surveyed communities that should have benefited from the CAMPFIRE programme reported that dividend had not been received since 1997, with no discernible additional benefits for employment or improved infrastructure.

An Economists at Large 2013 report, “The $200 million question” concluded that as little as 3% or less of hunting revenue generated trickles down. The hunting theory being that if a local community benefits, then wildlife in the vicinity will have ‘value’ and the local community will thus protect wildlife.

Regardless, local communities are not always guaranteed to enshrine wildlife protection even when there is trickle down value – domestic cattle herds and farming take priority regardless in local communities, particularly when resources are in short supply, such as water during drought and/or when herds of cattle are intentionally taken into habitat where wildlife conflict is inevitable.

What happens to the other 97% of hunting income that does not trickle down? The 2015 ‘Panama Papers’ highlighted that at least 30 wildlife safari companies in Africa were connected to offshore companies mostly incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

The care some local communities take of ancestral lands and wildlife management should be nurtured, not punished or manipulated by ‘hunting income’ or ‘big conservation’ which is also guilty of manipulating locals communities/wildlife for commercial gain:

Paradoxically, once a national park or wildlife reserve is established, the same groups [allegedly this includes the World Wildlife Fund] who kicked out the locals then welcome thousands of other (paying) people onto the land. Many protected areas encourage tourism, facilitate trophy hunting, or permit logging, mining or other resource extraction. Under fortress conservation, the ecosystem is not simply preserved in its natural state, it is managed according to economic imperatives” – “When WWF’s conservation looks like colonialism, it’s time for a new approach,” The Independent, 17 March 2019

So, is trophy hunting predominantly driven by concern for local communities and some notion of species conservation, or is hunting motivated by commercial gains for an elite?  The benefit to local communities appears to be an exaggerated claim:

For example, Namibia’s ‘conservation’ Game Product Trust Fund (which is shrouded in secrecy, so only old data is available) is nothing like a guaranteed means of balancing the trophy hunting attrition:

Total Income (GPTF)” for ‘conservation’ purposes, was just $632k USD [2011 – 2012], or less than 2% of the “Total Trophy Hunting Income.” Of that $632k USD income for conservation, only $390k USD was spent in 2011/12, so less than 1.2% of the ”Total Trophy Hunting Income” – “Trophy Hunting and Conservation,” IWB, 16 March 2016

Never was this doctrine  (“If it pays it stays”) more evident than in community-based conservation in Namibia. It is all about money. Financial benefits to the community were the focus. National pride, ethics, aesthetics and sound ecological practices shared a sad second place. If any place at all. Everything must have a price tag” – “End of the Game for Namibia,” Christiaan Bakkes, African Geographic, 23 March 2015

A professional hunter named Stephan Jacobs described a 2015 hunting trip to a conservancy in the eastern Caprivi as “the worst experience in my life” because there was so little game left. He said it was a crime to shoot anything. How could the MET (Ministry of Environment and Tourism) issue a quota for four hippos when there were only two small cows left in that entire stretch of the river?” he asked. “It’s absolute insanity what is going on there” – Troubled times for Namibian wildlife,” John Grobler, Daily Maverick, 20 March 2019

Lions and other charismatic wildlife are more valuable alive than dead – hunting income (some $234.75m USD) across Africa is less than 2% of general photographic tourism income (some $13.251bn USD). The two activities are seldom compatible. General tourists do not want to hear and see wildlife being slaughtered in the name of ‘sports’ hunting – the negative press bad hunting practices generate can harm any country’s ‘conservation’ reputation as a desirable tourist destination.

Myth 4 – Trophy Hunting Can Solve Human Wildlife Conflict and Poaching

Botswana is proposing to reintroduce elephant (and other species) trophy hunting and the resulting elephant meat being used to produce pet food.

Dr Mike Chase is an elephant biologist with over 20 years’ experience and founder of Elephants Without Borders. His research suggests that increases in human-elephant conflict within Botswana outside the ‘traditional elephant range’ are more closely associated with increases in human population densities than any notion of elephant population growth – plus drought, poorly maintained fences and elephants searching for food whilst their migration is restricted by poaching and habitat constriction in southern Angola and Zambia.

In all likelihood, the reintroduction of trophy hunting will have no impact on any of these factors as they are unrelated to the ban on trophy hunting in 2014 – “Arguments for lifting the ban are unsound,” Dr Mike Chase, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), Mmegi-online, 6 July 2018

Botswana enjoyed a 2.4% growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2017 to $17.407bn USD (which equates to some $7,595 USD per capita) – GDP rising to $18.620bn (2018) and £8,443 per capita (2018). The mineral industry (including diamonds) provides about 40% of all Botswana’s government revenues, with tourism (including luxury photographic safaris operators) contributing some 11.5% ($2bn USD) of GDP in 2017. So, Botswana’s general economy is growing, but perhaps not all Batswana benefit from the wealth so created, particularly those in rural communities than once relied upon hunting concession income in the past. But in 2011 Botswana derived less than $25.4m USD from trophy hunting income – equivalent to contributing less than 0.16% of GDP (2011).

In Botswana, tourism generated US$687 million revenue in 2017, and created 26,000 direct jobs. By contrast, in 2014 (when big game / trophy hunting was banned) the trophy hunting industry generated under US$20 million in revenue, and created 1,000 jobs – is it worth risking Botswana’s general tourism income for dubious elephant trophy hunting needs?

Trophy hunting is not a guaranteed solution to human-wildlife conflict, or a guaranteed deterrent against poaching:

Even when poaching is present in a target population, trophy hunters continue to add to that attrition. Consider the open quota for trophy hunting of white rhino in South Africa when up to 1,000 rhino per year are being lost in South Africa to poaching for rhino horn (Note: the White rhino populations of South Africa and the Kingdom of Eswatini (formally Swaziland) are listed as CITES Appendix II (exempt from Appendix I restrictions) to facilitate the export of live specimens and ‘legal’ hunting trophies). How does killing more rhino as trophies help reduce demand/poaching and how does such killing not become pseudo-hunting to obtain wildlife commodities, such as rhino horn?


Pseudo-hunting to obtain wildlife commodities


The average spend in Tanzania by trophy hunting operators for anti-poaching efforts was “US$0.18 per hectare per year – far off the current standards of US$7-8, and Kenyan Wildlife Service’s figure of US$14. By spending a mere 2% of the required amount, Tanzanian trophy hunters have not been able to maintain biodiversity in those areas. Compared with tourism concessions in Kenya’s Maasai Mara paying US$40 per hectare per year – without counting the redistributions linked to entry fees and employee salaries.” If income is key to fighting poaching, then trophy hunting gives a poor return.

It would seem that trophy hunting is a way to offer minimal income to otherwise deprived communities that might resort to poaching. However, this policy is sporadic and in itself is not conservation of the target species per se., but more of a means for humans to benefit from ‘sustainable utilisation’s’ (sic) wildlife attrition.

 Myth 5 – Trophy Hunting Only Targets the ‘Weak, Injured and Old’

Trophy hunters want the biggest and the best as their trophy (ie. a bull elephant with magnificent tusks) – the avid trophy hunter does not ‘target the weak, the old and the ill’ as is so often claimed.



Picture: Courtesy of The Telegraph (October 2015) – Nkombo the elephant was killed in a hunt organised by SSG Safaris close to Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park

Example – In 2014 a Black rhino hunt was held under a great deal of controversy, when Namibia auctioned the “right to hunt 5 endangered black rhinoceros.

Namibia has the largest population of Black rhinos in Africa, holding some 1,750 (of the 5,055 remaining in the wild ). The 2014 auction was held by the Dallas Safari Club (DSC), with the right to just one permit sold, purchased by Corey Knowlton for £224,000 ($350,000 USD).  The claim was:

the rhino taken by Knowlton was an older, non-breeding male specifically selected because of its dangerous, aggressive behaviour.

Dr. Teresa Telecky of Humane Society International explained DSC’s “old, post-breeding bull” justification is not supported by science:

There is no scientific evidence that male rhinos ever become infertile, no matter how old they are.”

Black rhino hunting still persists today.

Many hunting associations, such as Safaris Club International (SCI) award a given hunting member points based upon the aesthetics of the trophy animals they kill. There is no such reward or bragging rights associated with killing a less desirable weak, injured, or older trophy animal.

This targeting of the biggest and the best by the ‘sports’ trophy hunter has a number of detrimental effects:

  • It can lead to the loss of a knowledgeable member of a group – ie. a matriarchal elephant; and
  • In lions prides it can be devastating – when a dominant pride male is “harvested” by a trophy hunter, it can lead to multiple lion deaths as an incoming, pride male may well kill any remaining cubs associated with that “harvested” pride male – so one trophy can lead to multiple lion deaths and even a pride’s devastation. Research by Panthera and others shows that it can take as long as 7 years for a lion pride to recover, and that as many as 20 lions and cubs can die in the upheaval.

Walter Palmer (left) illegally killed Cecil, a pride male lion in July 2015

Examples: Cecil the lion was “harvested” in July 2015 by Walter Palmer using a bow and arrow (initially) – Cecil was a pride male lion lured from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe to face an agonising 9-40 (estimates vary) hour death……..Xanda another pride male (son of Cecil the lion) was lured by trophy hunters in 2017 from the protection of Hwange National Park……Skye, a pride male was  baited and lured to his death by trophy hunters on 7 June 2018 from the ‘protection’ of the Kruger National Park, South Africa – there has never been any open explanation/justification from the hunters involved, just a cover-up to mask the deceit.

Myth 6 – ‘Well Regulated’ Trophy Hunting

‘Well-regulated trophy hunting’ is often proved to be a misnomer – the trophy hunter does not always follow the rules:

  • Targeting females that might be nurturing:

Example: The recent story of a jogger being attacked by a young mountain lion in Colorado – we do know that trophy hunters orphan kittens. A third of mountain lion trophies “harvested” are females, not males – When you consider female mountain lions are pregnant or raising kittens for roughly 75% of their lives, such female hunting trophies are likely to leave behind orphans, which creates instability in populations, putting the orphans at increased risk of conflict with humans as they try to survive.

  • Targeting animals that are sometimes lured and baited from the protection of national parks (as given above in Myth 5) into a hunting concession, so the paying hunter can “harvest” their prize – which begs the question, if the hunting concession are key to conservation as claimed by the hunters, why are so many concessions relatively empty and strategically placed on the boundaries of protected lands from which trophy targets are lured to their death?:

Tsholotsho RDC [Zimbabwe] is seeking a partner in carrying out trophy hunting in its Tsholotsho North Concession starting from April. Tenders are, therefore, invited from registered safari companies who wish to partner with Tsholotsho RDC……The current quota has substantial number of trophy elephant bulls, leopards and buffalos, plus various plains game. The area has enjoyed good trophy quality because of its close proximity to [the protected area] Hwange National Park” – Tsholotsho RDC seeks trophy hunters,” NewsDay, 14 March 2019

  • Targeting animals, such as leopards, which are labelled ‘problem animals’ by farmers and wildlife game ranchers,  so the normal hunting regulations can be circumvented and the right to kill the ‘problem animal’ sold (illegally) to a willing trophy hunter:

To date much attention has focused on improving trophy hunting of large carnivores, but our data suggest that the importance of other sources of anthropogenic mortality [‘problem animals’] should not be overlooked, and efforts to mitigate these threats could have a bigger impact on the conservation status of large carnivores than improving legal trophy hunting” – “Population dynamics and threats to an apex predator outside protected areas: implications for carnivore management, (Conclusions)” Royal Society Open Science, Samual T. Williams, Kathryn S.Williams, Bradley P. Lewis and Russell A. Hill, March 2017

The irony is that while Van der Merwe et al., and others [try to] emphasise the conservation value of private wildlife ranching, these are increasingly the ranches that are killing apex predators. The consequences of decreased tolerance towards ecologically important free-ranging wildlife is likely to have detrimental impacts on species survival and ecosystem integrity. Ironically, the top three species killed as putative problem animals (by game ranchers) are leopards, elephants and lions. These are also among the species that generate the highest returns for non-consumptive tourism (van Tonder et al., 2013). While further quantitative work is required, it appears that general intensive game breeding has become increasingly incentive incompatible with broader conservation ambitions” –  Ross Harvey, August 2018 – South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)


Leopard killed by a trophy hunter

In Namibia (2017) ‘problem elephants‘ were conjured to facilitate trophy hunting revenue (despite attempts to obtain permits to relocate such rare desert elephants) – does the following account sound like indisputable conservation in action, or killing for killing’s sake and income?:

Two of the only five remaining mature desert elephants bulls that occupied the Ugab region of Namibia have recently been hunted.

Tsaurab and Tusky, along with another juvenile bull Kambonde were shot in the midst of an international outcry and ongoing petitions attempting to halt the killings……on the day of the kill, the hunter refused to go ahead with the kill because the 18-year-old Kambonde was too small. Instead, the hunter was issued a last-minute trophy hunting permit to shoot Tsaurab, a desert elephant affectionately known for his meek and gentle character and one of only two young breeding adult bulls in the region.

The next day, MET [Ministry of Environment and Tourism] ordered the killing of Kambonde anyway. And, according to a community game guard in Sorris Sorris Conservancy, the animal’s death was a bloodbath. “The elephant had to be shot eight times after the hunter just wounded it with the first shot. The MET warden present at the hunt had to apply the coup de grâce“, or mercy kill” – “Questionable killing of Namibia’s desert elephants,” Africa Geographic, 25 October 2017

Namibian Elephant, Kambonde – “…the animal’s death was a bloodbath” – Questionable killing of Namibia’s desert elephants,” Africa Geographic, 25 October 2017 


The ‘noble’ trophy hunter claims that “fair chase” is an essential element of any ‘well-regulated hunt’ – where a suitable target animal is sought and tracked in the wild for many days, with no guarantee of a successful hunt/kill:

What on earth does fair chase have to do with conservation? Whether a target is fairly chased or not, it still bleeds and dies and is removed from the environment” Chris Mercer – the Campaign Against Canned Hunting

So, to many ‘noble’ hunters, there is the abhorrent spectre of ‘canned’ hunting mainly in South Africa – where big cats, mainly lions are bred in captivity (some 7,000 in captivity) to one day be killed in the name of ‘sports’ hunting for the trophy hunter that does not have the time, or will to seek the trophy – instead, a human reared animal is led into a limited enclosure to be executed by the so-called trophy hunter within minutes, not days. Plus, there are spin offs from the ‘canned’ industry, such as lion and tigers being bred to be killed for their skeletons/bones to supply the ‘lion bone trade‘ and the non-sensical demands of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in China/Asia. This ‘canned’ industry has no legitimate claim to any scientifically recognisable conservation credentials.

These ‘canned’ breeding and hunting practice has been going on for decades in South Africa – read Gareth Patterson’s “Dying to be Free” from 1998. The industry has not one scarp of conservation imperative – it is a purely commercial endeavour, but still such trophy hunting is sanctioned by international authorities (such as CITES), including our own United Kingdom government as a fair means of obtaining a hunting trophy for import. This is a shameful deceit that condones animal exploitation for profit alone and has ruined any reputation South Africa might once have had for wildlife conservation:

Example: Ross Harvey (South African Institute of International Affairs) 2018 report titled “The Economics of Captive Predator Breeding in South Africa” estimates that “Predator breeding using lions and other species could cost South Africa over R54-billion [$3.68 bn USD] over the next 10 years in loss of tourism brand attractiveness.

There are no levels of depravity some trophy hunters will not stoop to for their trophy.  “Revealed: the bloody record of hunter Guy Gorney [64 and he lives in Manhattan, Illinois, USA] who killed [a young] sleeping lion,” Telegraph, 21 March 2019

This Jerk Shot a Lion While It Was Sleeping and Celebrated as It Slowly Died on Video,” Care2Petitions

Myth 7 – Kenya Proves Trophy Hunting is Essential

In Kenya, elephant hunting was made illegal in 1973, with a complete ban on all hunting (without permits) from 1977. However, illegal poaching is a major issue:

Kenya was one of the most heavily hit countries. From a high of 275,000 in the late 1970s, its elephant population fell to just 20,000 in 1989. The population has still to recover from this massacre, now numbering only between 22,000 and 29,000″ – Elephants on the High Street (Para. 3.3),” IFAW March 2004 

Although Kenya has many national parks and reserves protecting wildlife, elephant populations are still at risk, a problem which is made worse by corruption and some officials supplementing their income by facilitating poaching.

The trophy hunting enthusiast say “look what’s happened to Kenya since they banned hunting and the conservation that the hunting provided to the wildlife.” A BBC News article (“Mara wildlife in serious decline,” 2009) states clearly “numbers of giraffe, warthog, impala, and hartebeest fell by 50% or more between 1979 and 2002,” citing evidence from a British Journal of Zoology report. The loss of grazing animals is already having an impact on lions, cheetahs and other predators according to the researchers.

However, the scientists who conducted the report believe the surge in domestic livestock has been held largely accountable for the drop in wildlife population – The three main causes that have been cited for the drop in wildlife numbers are illegal poaching, larger numbers and ranges of domestic livestock, plus changing land use patterns on the ranches. There is no mention of ‘trophy hunting’ cited as a cause/effect for the decline in Kenya’s wildlife since 1977 – the trophy hunter’s ‘claim’ appears unsubstantiated.

In terms of poaching in Kenya, the 2005 BBC article “Lifeline for Kenya’s ‘Lost’ Wilderness” the poachers shot the last of the black rhino in Sera over a decade ago. Elephant herds are now at levels of 20% compared with the 1970s. Lawlessness and armed poachers are still evident today, but heavily fortified wildlife areas are still managing to protect black rhino, lions and leopard also managing to ‘survive’ somehow.

So, is Kenya an example of what will happen if Trophy Hunting is banned in a country? No, it is not. Kenya would seem to be an example of poor land management, poaching and wanton over-grazing, based on a culture where a man’s wealth and social status is directly linked to owning large herds of cattle, which dominate the grazing available to the detriment of wildlife.

[Update] Kenya is often cited by pro-hunting advocates as an example of the decline of trophy hunted species if trophy hunting is removed from the equation. However, the Congressional Research Service, 2019 (page 28) concluded that regarding Kenya:

In some cases, the banning of hunting correlates with animal population declines. For example, in Kenya, which instituted a hunting ban in 1977, almost all the common wildlife species have declined from their previous levels since the ban to 2016. Concurrently, livestock numbers, notably sheep and goats, increased by 76.3% during the same period (Ogutu et al. 2016). Kenya’s population increased from 14.5 million in 1977 to 48.5 million in 2016. Based, in part, on these data, scientists note that demographic pressure and livestock encroachment on wildlife rangelands appear to be the decisive factors leading to wildlife declines in Kenya (Ogutu et al. 2016).”

Myth 8 – Trophy Hunting is Cultural, Moral and Ethical

The claim if often made that trophy hunting is justified by the doctrine of “sustainable use of our natural resources” and “environmental right is primarily a human right whose purpose is the protection of human health and well-being….” What does that mean in reality?

In a 2017 IWB article “The Unsustainable Excuse” we explored the “Kuruman canned rhino hunt” (as described in “Kalahari Dream“) and the apparently ‘legal’ “reasonable, sustainable…..use of natural [rhino] resources” – what happens when an adult, female (cow), White rhino is not sufficiently aware, or absently forgets that it has been deemed a “sustainable resource” earmarked to be executed by a fun-loving trophy hunter. The result is a pitiful demonstration of mankind’s worst traits.

It won’t do what is says on the tin” – Chris Mercer, Campaign Against Canned Hunting

Is trophy hunting morally and ethically acceptable? In the paper “The Trophy Hunting Debate – A Case of Ethics,” Aejaz Ahmad (Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 51, Issue No 26 – 27, 26 June 2016) explores this subject – setting up a thought experiment which demonstrates trophy hunting’s ethics and morals (“killing some to save the many” mantra) applied to human poverty eradication/conservation:

“…….why not invite rich people to kill “some poor people” for “fun” or to satisfy their “kingly passions” by paying for it just like hunting wild animals? Why not allow such killings for generating huge funds which can thereafter be used for otherwise incentive-less poverty eradication programmes? Outrageous, isn’t it? How then is trophy hunting, which invokes similar kind of reasoning, ethical? Why doesn’t trophy hunting evoke similar outrage? It doesn’t because we have created values about animals that are one-sided or unilateral. Animals don’t participate in such value creation about them. This is what speciesism is all about.”

It’s abhorrent, so why should trophy hunting’s ethical and moral principles be less abhorrent just because its about animal species?

Any hunting culture” (sic) claims are based upon such speciesism – whereby ‘cultural’ claims could be used to excuse any bygone, relic of human history:

For example, slavery and apartheid were once an abhorrent part of human ‘culture,’ but nobody today would claim such ‘cultural rights’ as a reason to accept such practices in the present day – the majority of the human species have evolved and the levels of acceptance (public opinion) have shifted accordingly.


Threatened wildlife faces attrition from loss of habitat as humans expand and compete for resources – plus, there is the scourge of poaching and wildlife trafficking, as humans seek to profit from wildlife exploitation. Adding the burden of ‘legal’ trophy hunting attrition does not guarantee any kind of conservation return (in fact it can be used as a means to obtain wildlife commodities, such as rhino horn and ivory).

What can we do about it?

Trophy hunting seems to have endured bad-practices (and hoped no-one outside the cabal would notice) for decades  – of course anyone that points out the inherent bad-practices and flaws is labelled an “emotional” member of the “anti-brigade” – regardless of such name calling, the bad-practices and flaws in trophy hunting are a reality.

Trophy hunting is not acceptable as the best bad option – its advocates continue to lobby counter to the shift in public opinion that acknowledges trophy hunting’s worst traits. Trophy hunting wants the attention diverted from trophy hunting to poaching and the illicit wildlife trade attrition. The attention must be maintained on all needless wildlife attrition (including trophy hunting).

The GMFER is raising awareness, spreading the word……public opinion is rising against trophy hunting as an outdated, elitist relic of a bygone era:

Report on Lion Conservation,” WildCRU, 2016

Therefore, regardless of ‘beneficial theory to conservation,’ the Report (Para 5.1) concludes/speculates that trophy hunting will come under increasing pressure to survive due to an increasing lack of social acceptance (and spreading trophy import restrictions). Thereby, trophy hunting will find it increasingly hard to remain viable to compete to secure habitat (there is a clear ‘journey’ in motion that is unlikely to relent is the Report’s principal conclusion).

But the legal parameters need to shift in line with public sentiment within our own country. For example, the United Kingdom (UK) is about to bring in legislation to drastically reduce ivory trading within UK borders – the UK has long been a hub for poorly regulated trade in ivory antiques, which in turn stimulates demand, encourages illicit activity and thereby leads to more elephants being poached in the wild to meet demand.

However, post-legislation, it will still be legal for UK citizens to purchase a ‘legal’ elephant trophy hunt (or, other ivory bearing species) and import any resulting trophy (including tusks/ivory) – where is the independent scientific evidence that says such wildlife attrition for trophies is not detrimental to the species and how will the ongoing legal ownership of such tusks/ivory and compliance with the law be overseen in the UK?

“Malcolm King, a 74-year-old businessman now living in Jersey, is believed to have ticked off hundreds of wild game [including the so-called ‘Big Five’ – lions, leopards, elephants, rhino and bison] to scoop the awards over several decades of shooting” – “Elephant feet and polar bear skins among hunting trophies imported into Britain,” The Telegraph, 16 March 2019

Elephant ears and lion bones among hunting trophies imported into the UK,” The Guardian, 21 March 2019

The  African Wildlife Foundation conducted an intensive analysis of the CITES trade database and reported in October 2017 that between 2001 and 2015, an estimated 81,572 African elephants were killed for hunting trophies (on average, that’s around 5,800 elephants per year).

Interrogation of the international (CITES) trade database (ref. Para 9, Conclusions) reveals that between 2001 and 2016 African elephant ‘parts’ were purchased for import into the UK including some 386 ‘tusks’ – including 54 ‘trophies’ – 108 tusks (9 ‘skulls’, 26 ‘skins’, 134 ‘skin pieces’, 11 ‘carvings’ and some 700 ‘ivory carvings’).

The CITES systems used to track such ‘legal’ trophies and wildlife parts is paper based and open to widespread anomalies and corruption. However, a recent World Bank Report highlighted that nearly US$200-million was spent by pro-trade lobbying groups promoting sustainable use and alternative livelihoods based on this outmoded system, of oversight and control, but nothing was allocated to solve the longstanding problems in this ‘legal’ trade system itself.

Lion hunting trophies also continue to be ‘legal’ to import into the United Kingdom – despite government promises to act in 2017 if there was no clear science to support such attrition…..….it’s time for all UK hunting trophy imports to stop and face independent scrutiny.

So, please join a group, rally, march, raise your voice – UK trophy hunting imports cannot continue whilst the independent scrutiny is so lacking and open to corruption.

The species attrition of trophy hunting serves only limited vested interests with no proven, guaranteed conservation credentials. Iconic species generate far more general tourism income alive than dead – to reiterate, across Africa hunting income is less than 2% of general photographic tourism income (some $13.251bn USD).

Time is running out, extinction looms for many iconic species within our own lifetimes.

Three (example) target species in context:

African Elephant – Back in the early part of the 20th century, there were as many as 3 – 5 million elephants.

Today, the wild African elephant population is perhaps less than 400,000 across the entire African continent.

This population is insufficient to reproduce and sustain that population level at current annual losses of some 30,000 elephants a year. But elephant trophy hunting still persists.

Rhino – The wild African rhino (White and Black rhinoceros) species suffered near collapse in population at the approach of the 1900s – due to overhunting and poaching, with as few at 50 wild White rhino at the turn of the century:

First, it was the hunting fraternity itself that wiped out our wildlife, bringing game numbers to an alarming low point. So now the hunters want credit for saving animals from themselves. A typical extortion racket!” – Chris Mercer, Campaign Against Canned Hunting

In the year 1800 about 1 million rhinos lived on earth…..Rapid human population growth and more efficient hunting methods greatly accelerated the decline of rhinos during the 1800s and 1900s” – M. ‘t Sas-Rolfes, “Saving Rhinos: Success versus Failure,” Rhino Economics, 2011.

Today the Southern white rhino is classed as “Near Vulnerable” by the IUCN, with just some 20,000 remaining. The Northern white is basically extinct, with only two older female specimens still surviving at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

The Black rhino is classed as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN with the Black rhino species numbers estimated at just 5,000 – poaching persists to illegally obtain rhino horn, but there are exemptions for rhino to be trophy hunted in South Africa and Namibia.

African lion – The most recent estimate of the lion’s range throughout Africa suggests that just 8 percent of the lion’s historical range remains. The African lion species population has declined from some 450,000 as recently as the 1940s to a 2014 estimated low of just 18,726 (a 96% implied decline) – but wild lion trophy hunting still persists.

Further Reading

Trophy Hunting, Part One: The nasty colonial sport of shooting wild animals,” Daily Maverick, Don Pinnock, 25 April 2019

Comments 8

  1. Pingback: Trophy Hunting and Cecil’s Anniversary – International Wildlife Bond

  2. Sangiit Neeraj Moledit Mehta

    Any And All Forms Of Hunting Should Be Systemically Eradicated World Over

    We Are In The Midst Of The Sixth Mass Extinction, And Yet, Unheeding To The Catastrophe Unfolding All Around Us

    Let Alone, The Merciless, Barbaric, Subjugation, Bondage And Butchery, Of Our Vulnerable And Defenceless Fellow Sentient Beings

    This Perfidious Ecocide And Genocide Of Our Natural World, Must Be Stopped Forthwith; Failing Which, We Would Not Only Annihilate Our World, But All Traces Of Life With It

    Those Of Us, Who Believe Hunting To Be A Sport, Should Do So Without A Barrel Or Gear, Equipped With Only That, Which We Are Born With, As The Fellow Sentient Beings, Whom We Choose To Hunt; Let Nature Be The Judge Of Our Hunting Skills

    #StopTheHunt | Stop This Perfidious Ecocide And Genocide In The Name Of Sport

  3. Gary Steer

    This barbaric practice needs to stop,killing endangered species is abhorrent, this brutal pastime is well past it’s sell by date,beautiful lions,elephants, rhinos etc slaughtered for pathetic egos .IT HAS TO STOP.

  4. Hunter. 308

    Are you a qualified wild life expert? Game farmers has contributed more to conservation then any other tree hugger sitting in front of the telle watching Nat Geo. And writing stupid comments. If you want to ban hunting ban all meat especially Australian live export.

    1. Post
      Stephen Wiggins

      Are you a qualified wild life expert?” You need to define ‘wildlife expert’ – I don’t consider myself to be a ‘wildlife expert’ and I have never claimed to be one. However, this does not discount anyone from looking at the evidence (from ‘experts’ and elsewhere) and drawing conclusions – the science/evidence is given to support the arguments made. Somehow, I doubt you would seek any pro-trophy hunting advocate’s ‘wildlife expert’ credentials before accepting their validity (regardless of their research base), but I could be wrong….It is duly noted, than no-one has to be a ‘wildlife expert’ to be a trophy hunter, and/or own a trophy hunting business, and/or lease a hunting concession etc., and/or to be a pro-trophy hunting advocate.

      For example, John J Jackson III, ex-President of SCI, leads an organisation (Conservation Force) which lobbies for the lifting of restrictions on the hunting of threatened species. Jackson has been admitted as a member of the lion experts committee of IUCN. ‘Conservation Force’ has been granted official observer status within CITES. Yet, Jackson is not a big cat biologist, or in possession of any other relevant ‘wildlife expert’ scientific qualifications. So please, be careful where you throw your “Are you a qualified wild life expert?” snipes about – Jackson might be scared you are threatening (quite rightly) to tar him with the same brush.

      Game farmers has contributed more to conservation then [than] any other tree hugger sitting in front of the telle watching Nat Geo. And writing stupid comments

      It is debateable how game farming enshrines biodiversity and conservation, rather than creating species numbers for commercial gain:

      ……the sustainable use lobby goes on about the high volumes of wildlife found on private lands in South Africa as a benefit, but this too is a mere statistic that masks the detail; under what conditions and for what purposes have they bred all these animals? Most involved are farmers and businessmen breeding wild species under agricultural conditions. And they are doing so through human selection for characteristics defined by the highest prices paid for body parts; in other words, they are domesticating a range of Africa’s most iconic species. This is pure exploitation of these species, has nothing to do with biodiversity conservation and is certainly no panacea to the development of rural communities” –

      In addition, game farming ‘success’ does not provide blanket cover for all trophy hunting – eg. there is no proven conservation value in captive lion breeding and ‘canned’/captive lion hunting. A 2010 South African legal ruling (“The Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa Judgement,” Case No. 72/10, 29 November 2010) declared captive lion breeding as ‘farming’ and of no conservation value. This legal opinion has not changed in the intervening years to the present day –

      Therefore, it is not “stupid” for anyone to point out such inconsistencies.

      Tree hugging is not a harmful activity, so I am more than happy to accept that epithet, thank you.

      If you want to ban hunting ban all meat especially Australian live export” Thank you for that, but I have never suggested banning meat, which can be argued for and against on its own merits (and has no direct correlation to trophy hunting of course, that’s a separate debate).

  5. Linda Hartwell

    Hunter 308 ,You are not a wildlife nor conservation expert yourself. You murder endangered species for kicks and use conservation as an excuse for your abhorrent behaviour. The money you pay to murder an animal does little to help the local population, it’s the excuse you use to fulfill the kicks you get to murder these poor animals that have not only you guys to contend with, but also loss of land due to ever increasing populations and poaching. You guys are exasperating the situation these poor animals face, not helping it.

  6. Sevume Arnold

    Stop killing our animals, you even pay small money to kill our animals, Animal lives matter, that’s indirect poaching,

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