Last month, Americans reacted with horror and outrage when an Idaho game commission official, Blake Fischer, circulated a photo that showed him smiling next to a family of baboons, including youngsters, he had killed on a hunting trip in Namibia. To most of us, it was unfathomable that anyone could mercilessly hunt down a family of animals simply to impress his wife, as Fischer boasted in his email, which was sent to more than 100 recipients. But shocking as Fischer’s trophy hunt of those primates was, it is by no means an isolated event when it comes to American trophy hunters, according to a new analysis from Humane Society International.
Between 2007 and 2016, the United States imported a lion’s share — 80 percent or 8,896 — of the 11,205 primate hunting trophies that were traded internationally. Other countries that imported primate trophies over the nine-year period were Spain with 490 trophies, South Africa with 401, Germany with 322 and Denmark with 310, according to our analysis of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species data that was covered today by the National Geographic.
On an average, Americans imported more than 800 primate trophies each year, including Chacma baboons – the species Fischer hunted — vervet monkeys, yellow baboons and African green monkeys.
Primates are easy targets for trophy hunters because unlike highly-sought-after species like elephants and rhinos, the cost of trophy hunting primates is often nominal or even non-existent. Chacma baboons are the most hunted of the primate species. They are one of the largest monkey species, with males reaching up to five feet from head to tail. The animals have striking golden eyes and long noses, not unlike dogs.
Primates are a highly social species who often live in complex groups and individuals support their social groups and often bark to alert others if they perceive a threat. But when they are up against a trophy hunter with a weapon, they do not stand a chance.
After the story of Fischer’s killing spree went public, we wrote to the Namibian government to ask that it ban primate trophy hunting, even as we demanded Fischer’s resignation or dismissal. And with this new information in hand, we are exploring legal action to prohibit the import of primate trophies to the United States. Fischer’s heartless action gives us an opportunity to shine a red-hot spotlight on the problem of international primate trophy hunting – a problem, as our analysis shows, that American trophy hunters are exacerbating. The anger that followed Fischer’s hunt – leading to Gov. Butch Otter of Idaho asking for his resignation – is proof that most Americans do not support such killing. Primates are our closet cousins in the animal kingdom, and these intelligent, beautiful and sometimes mischievous animals deserve to be celebrated and protected, not hunted to death.