At SCI convention, trophy hunters rub shoulders with Donald Trump Jr. and USFWS director; undercover investigation reveals potentially illegal sales of elephant, stingray, hippo skins

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on February 12, 2020 with 25 Comments

At the Safari Club International’s annual convention each year, wealth, privilege and power come together with a revolting goal: mowing down the world’s rarest and most beloved wildlife. This year’s event in Reno was no different. Trophy hunters heard speeches from guest of honor Donald Trump Jr. and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Aurelia Skipwith, shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to kill endangered rhinos, lions and polar bears, and kicked back to the music of the Beach Boys.

But, as our undercover investigators who were on site discovered, there were potentially illegal goings-on at the event as well. Exhibitors peddled boots and belts made with elephant, hippo and stingray skins in what appears to be a violation of Nevada’s law on wildlife trafficking. The state forbids trade in the body parts and products of these endangered and threatened animals.

Customers could also get accessories made to order with the animal skins, some dyed in garish colors. The going rate for giraffe skin boots was nearly $1,400 and kangaroo skin boots were nearly $1,100.

It wasn’t just dead animal parts on sale. The lives of 860 animals were auctioned off at the four-day event. As you can see in our undercover footage, vendors glibly offered canned lion hunts, where trophy hunters can pick out and kill defenseless animals bred in captivity with nowhere to run. Also on offer was a $6,000 hunt for any six animals that a customer can choose to kill in South Africa, including zebras, wildebeest, warthogs, impalas, hartebeest, gemsbok, nyala and waterbuck. A polar bear hunt in Canada was offered for $35,000.

Vendors glibly offered canned lion hunts, where trophy hunters can pick out and kill defenseless animals bred in captivity with nowhere to run.

Also on offer: a critically endangered black rhino hunt for $350,000, and an Asiatic black bear hunt in Russia for $15,000, among others. There even was a “Trump special” for $25,000 to kill buffalo, sable, roan and crocodiles. An outfitter peddling a giraffe hunt told our investigator the hunt costs “only” $1,200 because they have “too many giraffes” and need to “get rid of the animals.” This at a time when the United States is considering listing the giraffe under the Endangered Species Act and two giraffe subspecies were recently listed as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

By the time the convention wrapped up on Saturday, two winners had paid a total of $340,000 for a “dream hunt” on a luxury yacht in Alaska with Trump Jr. to kill back-tailed deer and sea ducks.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International send undercover investigators to the convention each year so that we can shine a global spotlight on this grisly world. As you can see from our video footage, this is not an event most people would want to frequent. In addition to the vendors carrying out a callous trade in animal lives, everywhere you look are the stuffed carcasses of lions, Cape buffalo, bears, wolves, mountain lions and leopards. This year’s displays included an ibex mountain goat killed by Trump Jr. On the walls are portraits of hunters grinning alongside their kills or posing proudly holding open the mouths of the dead animals.

[Read the full investigation report ]

Many of these species on offer for the killing already face multiple threats from poachers or are falling victim to climate change and habitat loss. But for the SCI and its members, the rarer the animals are, the greater the thrill of killing them.

Fortunately, the tide is turning as Americans lose their patience with the havoc trophy hunters wreak on our planet. Earlier this week we announced that in response to a lawsuit brought by the HSUS and HSI, the Trump administration shut down a sham trophy hunters’ panel that was advising the government on wildlife trade policy. Last month, a Canadian chapter of SCI was forced to shut down its auction for an elephant hunt in Botswana—the first since the country reopened trophy hunting elephants last year. Attendance at the SCI convention itself is dropping each year. And increasingly, Americans and people the world over are sharing their disgust of trophy hunters and their exploits on social media.

We look forward to the day when we won’t have to send our investigators to the SCI convention, because there won’t be one. But until that day comes, our fight to stop industry groups like the SCI will continue. American trophy hunters kill more endangered and threatened animals around the globe than hunters anywhere in the world, and we will hold them to account. We are pushing for Congress to pass two bills, the CECIL Act and ProTECT Act, that would rein in trophy imports of such species from overseas. No one needs to decorate their walls with the heads and hides of endangered or other at-risk animals, and it’s time we, as a nation, stop this unnecessary killing for good.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Categories
Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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25 Comments

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  1. B Lee Tye says:

    Every senator, congressman/woman – cabinet members etc .,Need to be aware of this event and situation. Totally disgusting with complete disregard for the animals, environment, laws etc, Abhorrent that Donald Trump Jr was in attendance -make sure the President is aware of this. Having recently been in South Africa, we became aware of the poaching issues- heartbreaking to realize these incredible animals are being killed for human gain – despicable beyond words.

    • Mr. Freak says:

      Hunters are not poachers. Every hunter in the US, especially in this instance, has to pay for and abide by strict rules and regulations regarding the specific game, and allot of times the specific animal that is to be harvested. Regardless of the moral differences between hunter and otherwise, I can assure you that no legitimate outfitter is selling a “random killing spree” in Africa for whatever animal you want. There’s much more to it than paying a stack of money to kill whatever you want.

      • Vanessa says:

        I worked at the Reno Hotel that houses this event. The Safari Club is an international organization with hunters from all over the world attending this event. I am not exaggerating when I say they are a rough group of men. Four legged animals were not the only species being competitively hunted.
        Preying on and killing defenseless animals is a the act of a coward.
        Frankly, nationality has nothing to do with a person’s moral code.There are American hunters that are active members of the Safari Club. A hunter can be a poacher and a poacher is a hunter. No one supervises hunters and poachers when they are killing. Abiding by the rules is left to the individual and therein lies the problem.

      • Janice Ann Rossi says:

        Whether they are poachers or trophy hunters, it makes no difference they are killing defenceless animals just for the sake of it and also for money. Stop defending animal abusers!!

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    What kind of evil do these people have running through their bodies? I am happy that I have none of it and have never chosen to indulge whatever genetic residue may exist in me. Donald Trump, Jr. The apple didn’t fall too far from that daddy tree, huh? Donald Trump, Jr. is the apotheosis of the expression “born on 3rd base and thinks he hit a triple.”This little man has slaughtered an awful lot of innocents and he helps to perpetuate the mentality that is required to kill animals and display them as if they connote something about the killers other than soullessness and stupidity.

  3. Patti Murray says:

    The guest of honour, Donald Trump Jr. , along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Aurelian Skipuith need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for their participation in killing endangered animals and promoting this reprehensible crime spree! Because they are wealthy and privileged should never be an excuse to allow them to do whatever they want, whenever they want, where ever they what to any living creature. Anyone, including the judicial system that continues to allow this, is as guilty as they are! *No one is above the law*

    • Mr. Freak says:

      You’re 100% correct, noone is above the law. But these animals are not illegal to harvest. (That’s called poaching) Noone is paying tons of money for an illegal hunt. Behind any legitimate hunt for these animals there’s a long process of rules, regulations, permits, and statues that the hunter has to abide by. Although me myself sees no personal use in killing an elephant or rhino, the hard fact is that these animals have a price associated with them. And with that price obviously comes value. One single lion hunt (usually an older, sterile male) could fund a conservation organization that protects from poachers or a whole pride of lines. Since the introduction of trophy hunting programs in South Africa in 1968, white rhino numbers have increased from 1800 to about 18000. And that’s just one example species. There’s more to it than meets the eye. And no amount of tourism or donations can bring in the annual amount of money that hunting does to ultimately protect these animals.

      • Violet Matiru says:

        The reality is that no one can tell the difference between a “legally” hunted lion or elephant from an “illegally” killed one. The so called “legal” trophy hunting industry is fuelling demand for animal body parts and this is in turn resulting in an increase in poaching, even in countries that have banned trophy hunting. There is no way to regulate trophy hunting in Africa, a whole continent with 55 countries and animals that are in the wild. We need a global ban of trophy hunting of African wildlife. Period!

  4. Terri says:

    Thank you for sharing this gruesome information and I will make sure to pass it on. Sickening!

  5. D. Conklin says:

    What can be done to catch those selling illegal animal parts? Can investigators make a purchase and then the police arrest the vendor if it turns out to be an illegal product? I suspect there is a reason they have these conventions in Nevada and not San Francisco, but it seems like there would still be a way to get local law enforcement to cooperate with such a crack down.

    • Mr. Freak says:

      The animal parts themselves aren’t illegal federally. They’re illegal for sale in the state of Nevada specifically. Think of it like marijuana in different states. If anything they were doing at this annual convention was federally illegal, the government would have shit it down years ago.

      • Vanessa says:

        The meeting is at a Casino and a lot of money is spent by these club members. The casino industry’s money influences elections and thus government policies. Don’t kid yourself.

  6. donald dodson says:

    STOP THIS, THIS IS NEEDLESS KILLING. LEAVE NATURES ANIMALS ALONE. G.D. MURDERERS.

  7. Kathleen Staite says:

    This is a disgusting stop doing it. EVIL

  8. Michele Jankelow says:

    There has to come when this must end! What an absolutely horrendous exhibition of mans lack of respect, dignity and compassion for wildlife! Truly fills one with revulsion for these people!

  9. Monalisa pradhan says:

    Please stop these horrible killings. What the hell is going on everywhere???

  10. Earl PhD. says:

    These comments are ignorant and irrational. Spoken as if the speaker knows what everyone should do. Not everyone believes as you do. You probably come from a big city and have never been on a ranch. Or actually been to Africa and seen areas where elephants are over populated.

    • Sally Lee says:

      What I clearly do not understand is who gave “man” the right to kill any animal??
      Specially, for pure entertainment & trophies. Does this type of evil product testosterone or estrogen/ boost their egos?
      Raised on a farm we slaughtered for necessity of food, not pleasure. Since then I have became a vegetarian. For “ME” no one gave me permission to take another beings life. Definitely never cruel or just for fun.
      We are dealing with sociopaths & narcissistic people. Some people are above the laws. We need to stop this violence & cruel acts!

      • Jaqui O. says:

        This. The trophy hunters I know are sociopaths. Very wealthy men who kill constantly – it’s like they can’t help themselves. They have no conscience; killing life does not bother them. They feel very entitled to do it and they kill something every weekend and travel all over the world to kill defenseless animals for horns, rugs, and tacky furniture made out of animal parts. These are same ones who fly in private planes and influence government officials. They are members of elite hunting groups where the socialize with other sociopaths. Remember Anthony Scalia’s death and the hunting group he was associateed with? They are disturbing men (and the women who accompany them are just as entitled and disgusting wearing fur for fashion). They all belong in jail. Nothing will stop them unless they are forced to by the law. Maybe if folks boycotted their businesses they would have to spend more time working than killing for kicks.

  11. Angela says:

    i know trophy hunters and the ones who socialize the DTJ. Sociopaths who see no err in their ways. Entitled. The world revolves around them. Killing is a sickness in their head and it bleeds into every aspect of their lives. Conservation is a crap marketing term. No matter what evidence is given, a trophy hunter will only save animals if they get to kill something first. You can’t rationalize with these people. Collectively we can continue to raise awareness and fight and boycott their businesses. Start with leaders and officers.

  12. P Fleischer says:

    Everyone of these participants in these hideous massacres needs to give back double what they paid to kill these endangered creatures to organizations that are fighting to support and protect our wild creatures and the environment in which they live. If some believe they need to pay back triple or quadruple – great!!! I am sure they have the money and money seems to be what they understand. Truly, they have most likely participating in these garish hunts for years. Yes, they need to began contributing to these worthy organizations quadruple or face 5 or more years in jail. Repeatedly it has been found that if they love killing and abusing animals it can oftentimes lead to human abuse and death.

  13. Angie says:

    NOTHING disgusts me more than fake tough guys shooting animals from miles off to mount them on their wall.

  14. sandra nelson says:

    Its too bad the hunted can’t shoot the hunters!

  15. Bob says:

    speaking of over population

  16. Melissa Risselada says:

    I think most people don’t have an objection to hunting when the goal is food. But unfortunately the endangered animals and threatened species targeted are only half the problem. The whole goal seems to be the thrill of killing a rare animal and canned hunting is total cowardice. But even some hunters who are going to eat their kill are known to look for the biggest and best buck or whatever critter they are after and this more than anything means the healthiest or best genetically. That means that genetically superior animals are taken out of the gene pool and the specie group under attack will become unhealthy or less strong affecting how it survives in the long run. When someone wants the biggest buck it seems in that case the aquisition of a ‘trophy’ is involved.

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