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April 7, 2008

SCI Breaks The Law and Scams Taxpayers

The Humane Society of the United States

SCI member Dan Duncan was investigated by a U.S. federal grand jury in 2007 for violating the Lacy Act when he illegally shot a moose and a wild sheep from a helicopter while hunting in Russia in 2002, then imported the trophies into the U.S. According to the Houston Chronicle, Duncan appeared before a federal grand jury panel and admitted that he had shot the animals from a helicopter, but that he believed it was legal to do so. Sadly, no charges were filed against Duncan.

An article in the Austin American-Statesman, which criticized the number of trophies Duncan had in SCI's record book, said the act was "wrong" and advised punishment of "a disapproving and reproachful expunging of all his records from the Safari Club listings, [and] a condemnation from his fellows."

Duncan has more than 400 record book entries, including endangered species and animals killed on captive  hunts.

Trophy Madness

In 1998, according to Matthew Scully's book "Dominion," several top SCI leaders, including SCI member Kenneth Behring and then-president Alfred Donau, reportedly went on a wildlife killing spree in Mozambique. They left animals wounded and dying and shot five elephants in clear violation of Mozambique law. The hunting of elephants was strictly forbidden in that country in 1990.

According to "ABC News," Mark Jenkins, who oversees a national park in Kenya, stated that witnesses saw Behring's party using a helicopter, which "drove the elephants onto their guns."

Regarding Behring's actions, "ABC News" reported that "for all its powerful connections, some say the Safari Club's system of awards and honors laid out in its trophy guidebooks has fostered a kind of trophy madness among some of its wealthiest members." At the time, Behring was the largest donor to SCI.

Kenneth E. Behring, who has more than 300 SCI trophy records, including at least 109 animals killed on captive hunting ranches, donated $100 million to have the Smithsonian memorialize him with the Behring Family Hall of Mammals in the Museum of Natural History on the Washington, D.C., mall.

Shooting Endangered Species

Behring, who calls himself a conservationist, went to Kazakhstan in 1997 and paid the government to allow him to shoot a Kara Tau argali sheep. The animal (as even SCI acknowledges) is critically endangered; the species is listed on CITES Appendix I and cannot be imported into the United States as a trophy without the help of a museum.

Behring killed his Kara Tau argali when only 100 remained and shipped the body to a Canadian taxidermist. The Smithsonian then petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an import permit, but withdrew the request in the storm of negative publicity.

Other SCI members have been convicted of killing endangered species and trying to smuggle them into the United States. SCI fosters this behavior by rewarding members who kill rare and endangered species.

Trophy Hunting Tax Scam

Wealthy hunters, including SCI members, have been involved in cheating the federal government.

  • In one case, the now-defunct North Carolina Museum of Natural Resources in Raleigh gave trophy hunters the title of "associate curator," which helped persuade foreign officials to grant them permits to shoot rare animals. Hunters went on to donate low-value trophies to the museum and receive wildly inflated appraisals, which were then deducted from federal taxes.

  • In 1991, R. Bruce Duncan, founder of Chicago Appraisers Association, was sentenced to ten months in prison for his role in this scheme in North Carolina.

  • Before federal wildlife agents busted the ring, the museum took in 1,800 specimens and valued them at a whopping $8.4 million. 

  • In some cases, particularly at the Wyobraska Wild­life Museum in Gering, Nebraska, the mounts were re-acquired by the donors, at 10 to 20 percent of their appraised values—a fraction of what the hunter earned as a tax deduction.

  • At SCI's 1999 annual convention, members were offered a document titled "Secrets of Tax Deductible Hunting," advising them to declare their home trophy rooms as museums, call themselves curators, and to "donate your record-book animal for the mouthwatering deduction."

An HSUS investigation led to legislation closing this tax code loophole in 2006, ending the scam and saving U.S. taxpayers some $50 million over the next 10 years.

Updated April 7, 2008 

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