Endangered Species Handbook

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Persecution and Hunting

Trophy Hunting Clubs

The US-based Boone and Crockett Club keeps records of trophy animals for North American mammals, and Safari Club International (SCI) maintains international records and promotes trophy hunting of animals worldwide. US state wildlife departments tend to favor sport hunting, and many earn large license fees from the trophy hunting of Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Grizzly Bear, Gray Wolf and other mammals. Trophy hunters in North America vie with one another to receive the "Outstanding Hunting Achievement" trophies awarded each year, primarily for having killed one each of 29 big game animals, some of which are on the US Endangered Species Act list (Williams 1991). Trophy hunting organizations have "master measurers" who check the size of horn, antlers and other measurements of animals killed for record books. SCI gives awards to those who kill at least 13 of the world's 22 species of "available" wild sheep (Williams 1991).
Rifles that fire at distant targets with telescopic lenses, elaborate blinds, heat sensors, and other technological gadgetry have weighted the contest so much in favor of the hunter that animals have become mere targets, with virtually no hope of escape. Hunters using these high-powered rifles revel in recounting their experiences in hunting publications, whose writing fees help pay for their trips. One hunter's 1997 account recorded his delight in seeing the look of total shock of an Alaskan Dall Sheep (Ovis dalli) as it died from a shot he fired without it even having been aware of his presence. The hunter had selected the largest male with the most massive horns, which curved into a complete circle. Such hunting can so terrify animals that they run off cliff edges or flee into places from which they cannot escape.
Bernard Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia recounts a hunt in the Canadian Rockies of Mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus), in which five animals were pursued by hunters. They fled in terror, becoming entrapped on the ledge of an overhanging cliff, unable to move in any direction (Grzimek 1968). The hunters returned to their camp where they could see the goats as they stood on the ledge. The next day, the goats were still standing on the spot, but during the following days, they gradually became weakened and fell, one after another, usually at night, to their deaths. The last of the animals fell after 10 days (Grzimek 1968).
One US trophy hunter, Donald G. Cox, has hunted in 68 countries, taken 208 different species, including 125 from Africa, and has killed 23 of the world's spiral-horned antelope (Williams 1991). Trophy hunters try to kill as large a number of species as possible and as many trophy-sized animals as they can shoot. Many trophy hunting organizations claim to have made major contributions to conservation, but documentation is often lacking. SCI has published brochures in which it claims that it purchased habitat for endangered species. As it turned out, on investigation these claims were unsubstantiated (Williams 1991). Endangered animals are often the prime targets of trophy hunters. Safari Club International makes regular applications to the Fish and Wildlife Service to import trophies of endangered species. A 1978 application was particularly stunning because it requested permits to import 1,120 animals of a wide range of species, including Orangutans, various species of monkeys and crocodiles, and 39 species of endangered deer, gazelles, wild sheep, antelope, rhinoceroses, and 12 species of endangered wild cats. After a public outcry, the Safari Club withdrew its application, but in 1982, it was successful in its long battle to allow importation of Leopard trophies.
Trophy hunting clubs have made financial contributions to officials in foreign countries to receive permission to hunt endangered species and have convinced wildlife officials in countries such as Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Botswana that trophy hunting fees pay for conservation and should form the basis of wildlife management programs. The profits from trophy hunting pale beside those of ecotourism, however (see Trophy Hunting vs. Ecotourism Revenues section below).


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