WASHINGTON—Next week in Nashville, Tennessee, thousands of hunters will gather at Safari Club International’s annual convention, featuring over 850 exhibitors from more than 30 countries. More than half of these exhibitors will be hunting guides and outfitters peddling trophy hunts of the world’s most imperiled species like elephants and lions, whose populations are facing global declines. Hunts for hundreds of additional foreign and domestic animals—including leopards, polar bears, rhinos, hippos, wolves and grizzly bears—will also be sold and advertised during the event, which runs from February 22 through 25. Other vendors will be selling jewelry, trinkets and decorations made from those and other iconic animals.
This year, the auctions are estimated to bring in almost $6,000,000 for SCI to fund their lobbying efforts that include reducing U.S. Endangered Species Act protections and promoting trophy hunting.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said: “While the vast majority of Americans abhor trophy hunting, Safari Club International continues to raise money off the slaughter of majestic animals from around the world. Whether auctioning off a $100,000 Alaskan hunting trip to kill a grizzly bear, moose and other beloved species; or a $143,000 lion and leopard hunting trip in Zambia, SCI turns iconic, imperiled wildlife like elephants and rhinos into shameful commodities worth nothing more than a trophy to hang on someone’s wall. Shooting animals not only causes them immense suffering but destroys their families. Nashville should reject this sickening glorification of gratuitous destruction.”
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International analyzed all of the auction items at the upcoming 2023 convention, which included products for sale by exhibitors as well as trophy hunting trips donated by outfitters from around the world. The analysis found that:
- Approximately 350 trophy hunting trips are being auctioned to kill as many as 870 mammals in the U.S. and abroad, valued at nearly $6 million.
- Among the scope of animals being targeted are elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, polar bears, hippos, wolves, grizzly bears, giraffes and lynxes.
- Values for each hunting trip range from $2,500 for a California wild boar hunt to $143,000 for a 21-day lion, leopard and plains game hunt in Zambia.
- Other international hunts include a 5-day New Zealand big game hunt valued at $120,000, a 7-day South Africa white rhino hunt valued at $100,000, and a 14-day Tanzania leopard, cape buffalo and plains game hunt valued at $85,000.
- Also among the offerings is a 10-day Alaska Brown and Black Bear Hunt for one hunter with Alaska's Gov. Mike Dunleavy and valued at $29,500.
- Top destinations for offered hunts include South Africa, Canada, Spain, Argentina and New Zealand.
- Other auction items include: a beaver hat bedazzled with rubies worth $5,000; a blue fox blanket worth $30,000; a full-length silver fox fur coat worth $18,000; a mink puffer jacket worth $10,000; a baby alpaca coat worth $2,100; a “genuine plains zebra” tote worth almost $800; a knife with a handle made from giraffe bone worth $2,400; and over 50 gun packages valued at over $425,000.
Jeffrey Flocken, president of Humane Society International, said: “It is unconscionable that the lives of these animals from around the globe are being sold and auctioned off to wealthy, elite hunters for sport. It’s a sobering reality that many of the species that trophy hunters pursue could disappear in our lifetime. Simply put, our natural world deserves better.”
The annual convention is one of SCI’s primary funding sources for their extensive lobbying activities to take away critical state and federal protections from imperiled wildlife and make it easier for hunters to import hunting trophies and expand hunting seasons. As the world’s largest importer of hunting trophies of mammals regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the U.S. imported over 72,600 hunting trophies between 2014 and 2018—over 10,000 of which were from species listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said: “Trophies of any species listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act should be prohibited from importation into the United States. Congress has been urging the agency to look into its trophy import program for years and this conference is simply another reminder that it is high time for the Biden Administration to take a hard look at blocking such trophies from coming into the United States. We simply cannot keep turning a blind eye to the loss of these iconic species simply so trophy hunters can continue to experience the thrill of displaying their unethical kills, and the Fish and Wildlife Service should act now to quash this activity.”