Disturbing American Trophy Hunting Trends

According to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), from 2016 through 2020 more than 700 000 hunting trophies, largely derived from exotic animals, such as lions, rhinos, giraffes and zebras were imported to the United States.

In a press release, the CBD’s Senior Attorney Tanya Sanerib said: “The vast volume of hunting trophies pouring into the United States represents a massive exploitation of wildlife during a global extinction crisis”. “Data shows a largely steady and sizable annual increase” of trophy imports between 2016 and 2019, excluding a minor decline in 2017. In 2016 there were 109 579 imports; in 2017 there were 108 490 imports; in 2018 there were 212 393 imports and in 2019 there were 234 532 imports. The Centre said that the data reveals “disturbing U.S. trophy trends,” noting that some wealthy trophy hunters travelled during the pandemic.” The USA is the largest importer of hunting trophies.

Time to Take Sides on Trophy Hunting in Africa

Dr Paula Kahumbu, a member of PREN and CEO of Wildlife Direct, has appealed to the Tanzanian government and the international diplomatic community. “How do you measure the cost of cultural and traditional disrespect?” Her petition to the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, calling for an immediate ban on elephant trophy hunting within the Tanzania range of the Amboseli elephants, raised 8000 signatures in the first 48 hours and is supported by high-profile Kenyans.

The push from the Global North for African countries to embrace trophy hunting as a means of conservation and economic development is not only misguided but deeply offensive. Trophy hunting does not aid poverty alleviation.
“It is an outdated and morally corrupt practice. The term population explosion is not only pejorative but echoes colonial-era rhetoric aimed at controlling and managing the African populace. This language frames Africa as a problem to be solved, not a continent of wealth in heritage diverse peoples and rich histories. It justifies intrusive conservation efforts, including trophy hunting, under the guise of managing wildlife populations, without addressing underlying issues such as habitat loss of human-wildlife conflict resolution.”

Appeal for the Immediate Ban on the Import of Elephant Trophies from Africa into the United States of America

In March 2022, a formal comprehensive request was made to your office, based upon the best available scientific evidence, for the denial of elephant trophy imports from African countries.

Furthermore, in July 2023 organizations requested the halt of elephant trophy imports until the revised African Elephant 4(d) Rule is final. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a revision to the rule for the African elephant under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in response to the increase in international trade of live elephants, particularly of wild-sourced elephants, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aims to ensure activities with live African elephants under US jurisdiction contribute to enhancing the conservation of the species and do not contribute to the decline in populations of the species in the wild.

Organizations are also urging the Tanzanian government to take immediate action by reinstating the critical cross-border agreement with Kenya. Members of PREN have supported petitions for a number of years to your office for the cessation of trophy imports of endangered species.

The further argument against the hunting of a species that is in such sharp decline is set out in an open letter to the chairman of the Tanzanian Hunting Operators Association.

In summation, the members of PREN and the individuals and organisations that endorsed this appeal are appealing to the United States government for an immediate ban on the import of elephant trophies from Africa. Only by closing this channel of exploitation down completely can we ensure the survival of the remaining elephant super tuskers.

Image Credit: Elephant Voices circa 2018

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