Slaying of Cecil Haunts Safari Club, as Group Gathers in Vegas

By on February 3, 2016 with 17 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

For years, the trophy-hunting crowd has treated the world as its playground. They’ve viewed rare creatures as collectibles, assuming that lavish spending on guides, outfitters, and foreign governments entitled them to do as they please in shooting up wildlife.

This week, members of Safari Club International — the Arizona-based group that promotes competitive trophy-hunting activities across the globe – are gathering by the thousands in Las Vegas for their annual convention. But this time they face blowback from an American public more alert to the havoc they create and from businesses and government authorities that are putting up some roadblocks and making their killing sprees a little less biologically diverse than they’ve been in the past.

In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned imports of elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Since the shooting of Cecil in July, 45 major airlines, including Delta, Virgin Atlantic, and United Airlines, have banned the transport of any trophies of the Africa Big Five. Just over a month ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services conferred threatened and endangered status for African lions across their range – an administrative action that should reduce the flow of lion trophies into the United States from more than 700 a year to a trickle. And just last week, South Africa banned the exports of leopard trophies in 2016, following findings that trophy hunting is detrimental to these big cats’ survival.

Walter Palmer was to trophy hunting what Michael Vick was to dogfighting – the face of the enterprise and an individual whose misdeeds provided a wake-up moment for society on long-running abuse that had for years escaped careful scrutiny. Palmer’s misdeeds in Zimbabwe threw back the curtain on a bizarre subculture of elites who spend their time and treasure killing large numbers of rare big-game animals.

SCI encourages this slaughter by offering accolades and awards to its members. As author and animal advocate Matthew Scully once described it, the Safari Club awards program is sort of a “frequent slayer” scheme; the more you kill, the more credits you gain within the fraternity. Walter Palmer won a “continental” award for killing a dozen animals in North America. When caught with Cecil, he was on his way toward claiming the Africa Big Five award, which requires the killing of an African elephant, an African lion, a rhino, a leopard, and a Cape buffalo.

Over the past 10 years, American trophy hunters have killed 5,552 African lions and brought their parts back home. From 2005 to 2014, they brought home more than 1.2 million trophies of more than 1,200 different kinds of animals.

This class of Americans is not only a menace to other countries’ wildlife, but also to native species in our own continent, such as wolves, bears, mountain lions, and bobcats. Today, The HSUS and HSI released a report documenting that trophy hunters have killed approximately 29,000 American mountain lions within the last decade in western states, with almost all of the kills achieved by chasing the cats with packs of dogs and shooting the quarry out of trees. The five states with the highest body counts are Idaho (4,833 lions), Montana (4,407), Colorado (3,414), Utah (3,200), and Arizona (2,893).

SCI secures much of its annual budget by doing auction-based and other forms of fundraising at this convention and others.  According to 2015 online auction postings, SCI earned over $2.7 million from last year’s 314 mammal hunt auctions alone. According to SCI’s financial statement, in 2014, $14.7 million of its $23.8 million annual revenue (62 percent) was generated by that year’s convention, between the auctions, tickets, and other fundraising activities associated with the get-together. With this money, SCI works to open up trophy-hunting seasons for wolves, fight efforts to restrict the hunting of African elephants and lions, and lobby Congress to enable its hunters to import endangered polar bear trophies into the United States. The group has also pushed for trophy hunting on National Park Service lands, and is currently fighting a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restrict the baiting of brown bears and the snare-trapping of black bears on Alaskan refuges.

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas. But the Safari Club folks staying in Vegas this week slay creatures just about everywhere else. The city shouldn’t give them a meeting place where they can develop their plans to loot the world’s wildlife in order to win accolades within the world of competitive trophy hunting. And lawmakers and wildlife authorities shouldn’t tolerate their destructive, selfish, colonial, and competitive hunts any longer.

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  1. Diana says:

    And my own Senator Democrat Jeanne Shaheen supports the import of polar bear kills into the US through the so-called Sportsman Act. Yes I have contacted her several times to voice my opposition to this bill but she panders to the hunting lobby.
    Do not assume that all liberals support animal welfare. My senator sure doesn’t

  2. David Bernazani says:

    The SCI is proof that having lots of money doesn’t necessarily mean someone also has intelligence. Or compassion.

  3. Annoula Wylderich says:

    As a Las Vegan, I am embarrassed that my city is hosting this group and their event. Sometimes, business “at any cost” is bad business, especially when it involves the destruction of beautiful wildlife species. We ought to be supporting wildlife, not carnage. And the businesses that sacrifice their integrity for the sake of revenue from this group are just as complicit in the murder of animals as the hunters. Shame on them.

  4. Tom Sherry says:

    You should be outing the hotels that allow these psychopaths to gather so that we can vote with our vacation dollars.

  5. Tess Husbands says:

    Wildlife issues fall under four sciences that relate how Earth functions to create, support and sustain all life on Earth. Scientifically, illiterate politicos should not be making scientific decisions and laws. Only wild, native species are mankind and planet Earth’s strands in the web of all life, scientifically, biodiversity and bio means, “life”. And, native predators, like wolves, coyotes and foxes, are some of the most vital and important species on Earth.

    It isn’t wild, natural lands, wild places and wild animals; it is truly, really planet Earth, the Earth that provides every single lifeline mankind possesses for life itself.

  6. Aisha Bauer says:

    How can propping up the tortured dead carcass of a once majestic mountain lion, wounded, bled and killed with automatic weapons for mere pleasure make these men look brave, bold, brawny sportsmen?
    Methinks – they really are chicken livered, bullied by their women, children and bosses, insecure ignorant apologies trying to prove they are ‘real men’. What a sad state of affairs.
    Hunting is not a sport. It is an expression of unconsciousness, a lack of empathy and disrespect for the laws of Nature that exists in the lowest and most bestial of men.

  7. Ranae Rickels says:

    I am not proud of our own trophy hunting here in IL that was recently approved by our Governor Rauner against the wishes of his constituents. Steel jaw traps are capturing, torturing, maiming, and causing the shy reclusive bobcat to many times chew off it’s own captured leg to be free. I will continue to search for ways to end this senseless suffering from cowardly trophy hunters or “sportsmen”. Please let me know which hotel/s in Las Vegas are supporting the Safari Convention so we can boycott them and the local politicos who we all need to contact to hear our voices heard. Please let your voice be heard in IL the same to help protect our bobcats.

  8. S. Schroeder says:

    SCI is a vile group of thug thrill killers who stop at nothing to protect their lies and way of life! They have big money in Washington and they regularly lawyer up and lobby. They MUST be stopped! Trophy hunting is no longer socially acceptable and it certainly isn’t sustainable! Such low class and lack of morals.

    Please sign this petition and share it widely.

  9. cascadian12 says:

    I always equate trophy hunters with pedophilia. I see lots of parallels, such as hunters claim what they do is good for conservation and pedophiles claim they love the children. Hunters claim that the money they spend is good for the local economy and sex tourists claim the same. Both hunters and pedophiles feel validated within their own cliques of people who think just like themselves. Oh, and we’re always told that what they do is perfectly legal (as in Thailand, where it may in fact be illegal, but not enforced). And, the countries and people who pimp their wildlife or their kids are generally dirt poor.

    I shame trophy hunters whenever I can with this comparison, and I encourage you to do the same.

  10. Maureen Allen says:

    Trophy hunters are beneath contempt, as are those who support their brutality, directly or indirectly. The latter includes complicit federal, state, local officials, hotels, outfitters, retailers, guides and taxidermists. The web is large but defeatable. Let your opinion be known; protest with your feet; and, by all means, vote!

  11. LR Braddock says:

    Wayne, Can you tell us, more specifically, what HSUS is committed to doing to directly battle trophy hunting, canned hunts, etc? Does HSUS work along side of organizations like Project Coyote to educate the public that murdering local wildlife is not okay, either? HSUS’s involvement is good news, but it would be very appreciated to know details. Thanks!

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi, I am the blog editor. Here’s a response to your question from our trophy hunting campaign staff at The HSUS and HSI:
      The HSUS is committed to protecting our native carnivores (wolves, bears, mountain lions, bobcats) from trophy hunting and the cruel and egregious practices that trophy hunting employs, including canned hunting, baiting, hounding, and trapping. To accomplish this, we work directly in states and at the national level. We continually seek opportunity to forge broader relationships with others working toward reform.
      For more information, please see:
      HSI works together with other organizations to seek greater protection under the Endangered Species Act for animals sought by trophy hunters, thus helping ensure that the U.S. is not contributing to the decline of iconic species by limiting or prohibiting trophy imports. We also work to improve protection under a global treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Moreover, HSI and The Humane Society of the United States are working with U.S. state legislatures to institute measures to stop import, export and transportation of hunting trophies. We will also continue our efforts to ensure airlines and shipping companies do not transport wildlife trophies. For more details, please see:

  12. Maria Fotopoulos says:

    If there’s not an organized protest against this group in Las Vegas this year, I hope one can be pulled together for their next annual convention. Momentum is building. Trophy hunting must come to an end.

  13. Tammy says:

    I agree with you Dave, if I could ever one day afford to go to africa, I would want to go on a safari to observe these animals in their natural surroundings, taking in the smells and the sounds. I believe my thinking is in the majority, unfortunately, its the minority who have this extraordinary wealth who violate and rape your country. Killing these beautiful animals and displaying them in their home, its sick and its frightening that these minorities will be the reason people like myself and generations after me may never see them in their glory.

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