Ending the Madness of International Trophy Hunting of Rare Animals

By on September 30, 2015 with 30 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The killing of Cecil the Lion gave the world a vivid example of the pain and misery left behind by globe-trotting elites whose primary hobby is killing prized specimens of the most beloved and threatened wild animals on the planet. Today we are turning up the wattage in our campaign against trophy killing by releasing a new report, Trophy Madness, that takes a look at the doings of Safari Club International, the Arizona-based group whose awards program drives deplorable, destructive global wildlife-killing activities. In conducting this research, we used SCI’s own record books, in which members record their kills, often accompanied by photographs of them smiling over the animals whose hearts they’ve stopped.

SCI offers its members the opportunity to compete with one another to win nearly 50 awards such as the “Grand Slam Cats of the World” (requiring a hunter to kill four among the African lion, African leopard, African cheetah, wildcat, jaguar, cougar, lynx, and other cat species). There are award categories like this for bears, ringed-horn antelopes of Africa, wild sheep of the world, ibex of the world, moose of the world, and the sorry list just goes on. The contests include everything from killing a certain number of animals on a given continent to using “alternative methods,” such as a handgun or bow and arrow.

To secure a place on the list of individuals who’ve attained the African Big Five Grand Slam, hunters must kill an elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and Cape buffalo. Over 3,100 of these animals were killed and imported into the United States by trophy hunters in 2014 alone, including 741 lions, 311 leopards, 1,412 Cape buffalo, 671 elephants, and 32 rhinos. Think about these numbers over a 10-year period, or over a 50-year period, and it’s a staggering body count. The top SCI recognition is the World Hunting Award, which requires the hunter to have achieved awards in 30 lower award categories – requiring a dedicated focus to kill animals of particular types across vast portions of the globe.

Trophy Madness takes a look at some of SCI’s most obsessed and driven hunters, the “one percent” of its members who have earned the most heralded prize—the World Hunting Award, commemorated with a ring that looks like a Super Bowl ring, featuring gold, diamond, and onyx. These prolific killers have spent decades and often millions of dollars acquiring their “collections” of body parts. One filed a federal lawsuit against his African hunting safari guide when that individual failed to get “adequate” video footage of his kills. Another ring-wearer has personally killed at least 18 lions. Examining just some of the World Hunting Award winners—and their hunting exploits—offers a telling glimpse into the depths of the “trophy madness” fostered by SCI.

So many trophy hunters go to extraordinary lengths in their mania to secure the awards, or to get the biggest lion or elephant. They will lure animals out of the protected confines of a national park, as Walter Palmer did with Cecil. And they will even kill captive, tame lions. That is the subject of a new documentary, Blood Lions, airing on October 7th on MSNBC. This film exposes the greedy and seedy businesses in South Africa that breed lions in captivity only to offer them as trophies for thousands of dollars. This horrendous industry is booming with the help of American hunters: of the 5,647 lions whose parts were imported to the United States as trophies over the past ten years, 1,558 were captive lions. The documentary is not to be missed.

The killing of Cecil gave the world an inkling of the depravity and selfishness of this subculture that threatens to drive wildlife into extinction. Our report throws back the curtain and exposes the whole damn enterprise. They can try to dress up their kills in the language of tradition or sport, and claim that their license fees pay for conservation, but it’s all a smokescreen and a series of self-serving rationalizations. These people leave a trail of innocent victims, rob African nations of wildlife that good-hearted people are happy to capture with a camera or merely get a glimpse of in the wild, and embarrass themselves by this gross misuse of their wealth. Their slaughter of polar bears, lions, elephants, and other rare animals must end.

Read the full report, Trophy Madness »

Humane Society International, Investigations, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. dEb Bracher` says:

    I do not know what gives some people the right to destroy other animals before our children and grandchildren can see these animals.

  2. Jennifer sosnowski says:

    Animal trophy hunting is wrong.

  3. Gail Formosa says:

    Mercy towards animals not violence

  4. Connie Compton says:

    I understand if you are hunting to feed yourself or your family, anything else is unnecessary waste.

  5. Valerie Cannon says:

    Wayne, you and the HSUS are angels to be doing this work. I am so proud to be supporting you, much love

  6. Nancy Zimerowski says:

    These statistics on exotic animal trophies imported into the United States are deplorable: 741 lions,311 leopards, 671 elephants, and 32 rhinos! Why is this country allowing this to happen, and why are these African countries allowing their animal populations to be hunted in such numbers? Until Cecil was killed, I had no idea of the extent to which this trophy hunting was occurring. This needs to stop.

  7. Nancy Zimerowski says:

    This is my second comment. Having just read this very comprehensive and enlightening report, I wish someone would make a documentary about SCI and the award system. The American public, who I’m sure do not realize that all this is happening, need to see this. I was shocked while reading this report, but the American public needs to know about trophy hunting and Safari Club International

    • Marie says:

      Nancy Zimerowski, I agree! They have Blood Lions and Blackfish, but we need more. I was not aware how many are killed by Americans, I thought it was mostly poachers for Ivory or Rino horns. Good job HSI for the detailed and enlightening report.

    • Sherry McCullough says:

      Absolutely a film/documentary should be made! Not nearly enough concerned people are aware.

    • Suzanne says:

      I will never say that Walter Palmers killing of Cecil was fine but it did open our eyes and start a movement that will now never be stopped!
      I also agree with Nancy, the more people know of these sick competitions the louder our voices get. There are power in numbers and I know our numbers and voices are louder than these killers. I am also trying to see how to stop this organization from being a non-profit, they are not preserving or conserving anything, if they were why are animals becoming extinct?!

  8. Darian Cheek says:

    I’m a huge fan of your work and for the longest time I’ve wanted to join in. I’m doing an essay on animal abuse. Is there any info or advice you can give me?

  9. Randi Ryder says:

    Trophy hunters are poachers in my books. They are both cowardly and feel self entitled. They are thieves who steal not just the lives of this beautiful animals but the enjoyment of others to see them and take their long lasting pictures. By murdering these wonderful animals they a sending them quickly to extinction and in less than three years some species will be extinct and lions and elephants in less than ten years. When these wonderful animals are gone from this earth and sea so will we. We have less than thirty three years to stop all of this or we will be extinct too.

  10. David Bernazani says:

    I feel the same way about so-called “trophy” “hunters” that I do about people who force animals to fight each other: both are simply expressions of bloodlust, a desire to see blood shed and animals killed. In a way, though, trophy hunters are worse, because with each kill they rob us all of another precious member of a (usually) endangered wild species. These magnificent animals are world treasures that are disappearing, and it’s past time to end the killing, before it’s too late.
    The wealthy people who get their kicks murdering animals really just need to grow up and behave as mature human beings should, showing respect and compassion for their fellow residents of this small planet.
    Surely they can find something better to do with all their money, and just leave the wildlife alone. But since for now they don’t seem to be able to do even that, we need to pass laws to stop them. If not, we may all have to explain to our grandchildten why there are no more large animals, and why we did nothing to prevent it.

  11. Katy Hennessy says:

    Thank you so much for all you are doing. I wonder if exposing the supporters of these terrible individuals and groups might be valuable. I’m thinking of the manufacturers of rifles, scopes, binoculars etc. Swarovski Optic sponsors individual hunters.
    Clearly the western governments are not taking this terrible problem seriously and the weapons manufacturers are hiding behind a cover of legality and correctness. I think that mentioning their names along with the names of clubs and individuals would be helpful as it would go some distance towards shaming them.

  12. neil zokol says:

    there is no place in this world for trophy hunting this insane killing of our wonderful creatures has to stop we have to make it stop now .It is our duty to stop this cruel insanity in the name of money and greed.

  13. Devin says:

    This is very important work. We are in a new era of deeper understanding of the animals we steward on this planet. We can no longer tolerate this abuse and insane slaughtering of these majestic animals. Trophy hunting must end and these animals must be saved from extinction.

  14. richard lapointe says:

    simply–this club has to be shut down and the whole practice made illegal with sever penalties to anyone reprising it in any shape or form. period. this is not a legitimate business.

  15. margie anne says:

    The vast majority of people want trophy hunting banned. Why is Congress and our elected officials not listening to us? Is this no longer a Democracy? Group after Group, page after page on Facebook is filled with the ravings of outraged animal lovers BEGGING our elected officials to stop trophy hunting. Petition after petition, with hundreds of thousands of signatures are sent to Congress, begging for an end to this morally repugnant hobby. Why do millionaire trophy hunters have such a hold on out public servants ?!

  16. margie anne says:

    I would very much like to see a news program or documentary on SCI !

  17. Adrienne Bishop says:

    I read the “Trophy Madness” report attached to this article. Not only was it chilling, but thoroughly nauseating as well. It was almost like reading the memoirs of serial killers.
    Thank you HSUS for eveything you are doing to stop this “Madness.”

  18. Nancy Zimerowski says:

    I have sent a link to this report to PBS’ Frontline and CNN. I will continue to notify whatever news organizations I think would be interested in producing a documentary on this report about SCI. It might be helpful if others also did this. Perhaps 60 Minutes would be interested.

  19. Adam stone says:

    Humans need to become better caretakers of the Earths wildlife and environments before it becomes too late.

  20. keiron says:

    we all must keep fighting to end is madness i for one will

  21. Pamela Freeman says:

    As a person who was born and raised in Africa, it breaks my heart to see the precious animal life abused and killed for “sport”, for “fun”, for “trophies”….in other words, for no good reason or purpose at all. If the victims of these hunters were human victims, instead of animal victims, these “hunters” and “sportsmen” would rightly be called serial killers, murderers, psychopaths, dangerous to society. Well, their victims are sentient creatures, capable of love, pain, fear, memory, compassion for other species and assimilation to humans, capable of learning. Is that not what defines us humans too? Thus, when any sentient animal is killed, hunted down, killed for fun, for sport, for a trophy, then that hunter is committing murder and murder has penalties. Stay out of Africa if your intention is to kill. “Take nothing but photographs. Leave nothing but footprints”.

  22. Denise A says:

    for anyone who has expressed interest in a documentary:

    PLEASE watch “BLOOD LIONS” on MSNBC, October 7 2015 @ 10:00pm

  23. Jill Buschlen says:

    Great article. I hope HSUS is actively lobbying for a NO vote on Prop 6 in Texas. SCI is lobbying hard to get this passed and it looks like they will. They already have more than enough legislation that supports their sick hobby. Please do whatever you can to prevent prop 6 from passing in Texas.

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