WASHINGTON – An undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International revealed dozens of items made from imperiled wildlife for sale last week at the Safari Club International convention in Reno, Nevada. These items included elephant skin furniture, paintings on elephant ears, hippo skulls and teeth, and stingray skin belts. SCI is one of the world’s largest trophy hunting advocacy groups. Offering these items for sale likely violates Nevada state law on wildlife trafficking, and HSUS and HSI have reported their findings to enforcement authorities.
The investigation also found that canned lion hunts, the sale of which SCI banned at its conventions as of February 4, 2018, were easily available for purchase in Reno last week.
Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and president of Humane Society International, said: “The world’s leading trophy hunting industry group is apparently promoting, enabling, and profiting from the illegal wildlife trade and unethical hunting practices. Conservation laws and hunting ethics are thrown out the window by SCI when financial profit is involved, driving iconic wildlife such as African elephants toward extinction.
“Making money off the opportunity to kill these animals for bragging rights is something that most people around the world find appalling. It’s an elitist hobby of the 1 percent, and there is no place for trophy hunting in today’s world.”
As of January 1, 2018, it is unlawful for any person within the state of Nevada to “purchase, sell, offer for sale or possess with intent to sell any item that it, wholly, or partially, made of an animal part or byproduct derived from a shark fin, a lion of the species Panthera leo or any species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, pangolin, sea turtle, ray, mammoth, narwhal, walrus or hippopotamus.” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 597.905.
The investigators found more than a dozen convention vendors offering for sale and possessing with intent to sell wildlife products that appear to violate this law. The items include:
- Paintings on elephant ears and skins;
- An elephant skin bench;
- Elephant leather boots, shoes, chaps, belts, and saddles;
- Bracelets made from elephant hair;
- An entire mammoth tusk;
- Mammoth tusk carvings;
- Stingray skin boots, shoes, belts and purses;
- Boxes of hippo teeth;
- A hippo skull table;
- Hippo leather belts and boots;
- Shark skin belts;
- A knife with a handle made of narwhal tusk.
Investigators also found “canned” lion hunts for sale, in which customers can pay to shoot a captive-bred African lion in an enclosed area from which it cannot escape. Canned hunts are internationally scorned, and SCI claims that it does not allow such lion hunts to be sold at its conventions. Yet vendors, in an attempt to attract bookings of such hunts, showed investigators sample pictures of types of lions that may be killed, priced according to the age and size of the animal and his mane. One conference attendee told the investigators that he and his children participated in a canned hunt, killing “their” lion within 90 minutes. Canned hunt operators described baiting lions with meat, which they said they could do ahead of a trophy hunter’s arrival, to save time. One canned hunt operator told investigators if they wanted to kill a really big lion, he could special order one.
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International are releasing their investigation while the Dallas Safari Club convention is underway in Dallas, Texas, with some of the same vendors that were at the SCI convention last week. While Texas does not have the same laws prohibiting the sale of wildlife products as Nevada, the Dallas Safari Club has stated that it too opposes captive bred lion hunting. At least six exhibitors selling canned lion hunts at the SCI convention are also at the DSC convention. These include De Klerk Safaris, whose representatives told investigators that they buy lions from breeders and could special order a really big lion, and Mabula Pro Safaris, whose representative told investigators that they are the biggest breeder of lions in South Africa.
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International submitted its findings in writing to the Nevada Department of Wildlife on January 10, requesting investigation and enforcement of Nevada law. Any person who violates this law is guilty of a gross misdemeanor for the first offense, a category E felony for a second offense, and a category D felony for a third offense, in addition to civil penalties of up to $6,500.
Investigation Report HERE.
Photos/Video of the investigation HERE.