This morning, ProPublica revealed that Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Mongolia in August to slay a rare and endangered argali sheep – a beautiful creature with long, curving horns that’s fast disappearing from the planet.
According to the ProPublica report, Trump, Jr. did not even have a permit from Mongolian officials when he shot the animal – it was offered to him afterwards, raising questions about whether he received special treatment from the Mongolian authorities. After the hunt, he is reported to have met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga, before returning to the United States.
Trump Jr.’s “adventure was supported by government resources from both the U.S. and Mongolia, which each sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the multiday trip,’’ reporters Jake Pearson and Anand Tumurtogoo wrote. “It also thrust Trump Jr. directly into the controversial world of Mongolian trophy hunting — a polarizing practice in a country that views the big-horned rams as a national treasure.”
“The right to kill an argali is controlled by an opaque permitting system that experts say is mostly based on money, connections and politics,” the reporters added.
Like most American trophy hunters, Trump Jr. has money, connections and politics on his side. He’s a prominent defender of trophy hunting and his hunting exploits with his brother, Eric, are well-documented.
At the same time, Trump Jr. is more than just another trophy hunter using his wealth to exploit and kill the world’s endangered wildlife for personal pleasure. He is the son of the sitting American president, in a country where polls repeatedly demonstrate that most citizens oppose the trophy hunting of at-risk animals and certainly cannot be expected to support the use of taxpayer resources – or their country’s political capital – in support of an activity that President Trump himself has called a “horror show.”
The public news of Trump Jr.’s trophy hunt in Mongolia is timely in one respect. In February 2020, he’s set to speak at the Safari Club International (SCI) convention in Reno, Nevada, the largest annual gathering of trophy hunting enthusiasts and industry groups in the world. More than 300 hunts will be auctioned off to generate revenues for the SCI, including a seven-day, $17,000 hunt in Alaska aboard a luxury yacht with Trump Jr himself. He’s a key focus of the SCI’s campaign to press the administration to weaken trophy hunting regulations and relax the rules against imports of hunting trophies.
According to scientists, there are only 18,000 argali sheep left in the wild in Mongolia, but between 2008 and 2018, American hunters imported 254 hunting trophies of argali sheep from Mongolia.
This is a species listed as endangered and threatened in the U.S. Endangered Species Act — a clear signal that these animals need protection. In addition to trophy hunting, they face threats from poachers seeking their horns for use in traditional Chinese medicine. And as often happens in nations that offer up their animals to trophy hunters, little, if any, revenue from the trophy hunts of argali sheep has actually gone to local Mongolian communities or toward the conservation of this iconic species.
If Mongolia and other range nations continue to hand these animals out as prizes to the wealthy and the well-connected, there is no doubt we will soon see the last of this endangered animal. Such nations must do better, and those who seek to take advantage should know better. Donald Trump Jr.’s actions uncovered today have outraged the vast majority of Americans who look with sadness upon the rapid decline of the world’s wildlife populations. Americans love animals and want to protect them, and we expect our leaders and public figures to help stop cruelty and exploitation wherever it happens, not abet it with more killing.