NRA chief’s agonizing elephant hunt shows what’s wrong with trophy hunting

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on April 28, 2021 with 16 Comments

The New Yorker broke a story yesterday about the head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, attempting to kill an endangered elephant in Botswana. The newly released footage exemplifies the blithe depravity of trophy hunting.

The video shows LaPierre’s botched attempt to kill an African elephant, then his struggling to follow a guide’s instructions for ending the animal’s pain. Multiple misplaced gunshots and the animal is still alive; over the course of nearly 10 minutes the elephant suffers an agonizingly slow and painful death.

The footage is hard to watch, and the New Yorker piece captures some appalling details about the events, including LaPierre’s wife cutting off the tail of the elephant she killed as a trophy. But this one repulsive hunt is part of a much larger problem.

The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of hunting trophies, including those from federally protected species. The U.S. imported more than 1.26 million trophies between 2005 and 2014. There were 7,066 elephant trophies traded internationally from 2009 to 2018; that’s 706 per year or almost two per day.

Botswana had a trophy hunting ban in place from 2014 until 2019 to halt catastrophic wildlife population declines and promote ecotourism. In May 2019, however, Botswana lifted its ban, and government sales of hunting opportunities to outfitters began shortly thereafter. We wrote to President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi at the time, making the case that the decision was not only ecologically disastrous but would also not result in the kinds of benefits to Botswana that non-consumptive wildlife tourism could.

Stopping the death, suffering and ecosystem havoc of trophy hunting worldwide is a priority for the Humane Society family of organizations. We’re doing this through law and policy reform. In the U.S., we’re fighting our way back to the policies in place before 2017-2018, when the Department of Interior lifted existing bans on the import of elephant and lion trophies from certain African countries without soliciting independent scientific input.

We fought the decision to lift the bans, which made it virtually impossible to prevent American trophy hunters from fueling unsustainable and corrupt wildlife management practices abroad.

Now we’re urging the Biden Administration to halt the import of trophies from Endangered Species Act-listed species until a transparent permitting scheme is put in place. In a sign-on letter now circulating on Capitol Hill, Congressman Ted Lieu and other colleagues are asking the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to prohibit the use of funds by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of International Affairs to issue sport-hunted trophy import permits of threatened or endangered species.

We’re also gearing up for reintroduction of the Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies Act (ProTECT Act), which will help prevent the hunting of any species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The grotesque details of LaPierre’s elephant killing revealed by this footage should push the U.S. (and the broader world) to forge a better path to peaceful coexistence and stronger protections for threatened and endangered wildlife. We hope you’ll add your voice to our call for change.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Ewa Urbanski says:

    Abscheulich was sich die “Menschen “erlauben!!!!!!!!

  2. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Esto tiene que acabar no podemos permitir más violencia sólo por diversión yo nomás injusticia y más indiferencia por favor

  3. Sharlyne Berger says:

    Dear President Biden,
    Please halt the the import of trophies from the endangered species act. Also prohibit the use of funds by the US Fish and wildlife services office of International affairs to issue sport hunted Trophy import permits support hunted trophy import permits of threatened or endangered species.
    No one should be killing any living thing for the “fun “of it.
    I’m vegetarian and hopefully in the near future more and more people will become vegetarians also. There’s no reason to kill anything.

  4. Irene Muschel says:

    It’s a slippery slide to say that killing threatened and endangered animals is wrong
    but that killing animals who are not threatened and endangered is ok. That is what is implied when categories are set up for who can be killed.

    No animal should be killed by a human being. The experience of being attacked and hurt and violently killed is horrific for any animal, endangered or not.

    In the big picture of caring for animals, a broad approach of caring for all animals
    is the most effective rather than making selections of which animals should be protected and which animals can be violated or ignored. Laws that protect
    a few animals in always very limited ways are poorly enforced if they are enforced at all.

    • William H Reamy says:

      You make a good point about protecting all animals, not just endangered species. But if you allow the endangered ones to be hunted without limit, then they will become extinct and the ecological balance of wildlife may be affected. I believe that all animals, even those raised for food, should be treated well, but I doubt there will be an extinction of pigs, or chickens, or bulls anytime soon.

    • Helene Hebbel-Klose says:

      Totally agree with your comment. Each and every animal on this planet has the same right to live as we human animal.

    • Catherine Reeves says:

      We have to start somewhere and starting with endangered species is a good place as it makes such good sense to ban hunting on endangered species for obvious reasons.
      I agree with not hunting any animals personally, too, but it is easier to make the argument against endangered species than all animals. Hunters will say they are curbing over populations of some species and other such nonsense. They cannot make those arguments against protected species.

  5. Lisa Davis says:

    I am about to spend nearly $100,000 to go on safari in South Africa including Botswana. If these countries continue to support trophy hunting this wine my first and last trip to Africa. I have dreamed my whole life to see these amazing animals. But I will not continue my support of countries who are shot sighted and kill of these majestic loving animals to people who are only there for some horrible display of humanity. The choice to make a large profit for one animal seems incredibly stupid when you have thousands of people willing to spend money to come to your country to see these beautiful creatures. But like many people I will not support governments that are the stupid. It’s greedy, inhumane and there’s better places to visit. I really hope Africa opens her eyes before it’s too late!

    • philippa says:

      The trophy hunting business is despicable and us South African people have been working tirelessly to ensure our animals and people benefit from eco-tourism. There are always people from all over, willing to kill for gain. The US are the biggest importer of trophies so there is plenty of blame to fling around… Corruption, greed and folly are global pandemics in their own right.

    • Yvonne Hill says:

      Well said an animal doesn’t own anything but its life yet man seems to steal that from them also

  6. JULIE HARRIS says:

    I am disgusted with trophy hunters. Is their ego so fragile they have go kill an animal to prove their manliness (women too) . I don’t know how you can rationalize murdering such beautiful animals who are not hurting you.
    I am hoping that generations to come can still view the fabulous creatures with awe and wonder but most of all RESPECT . The deserve to be on this earth !!!
    So shameful our government allows this to happen -we are not a poor country that needs this dirty money. Let these rich guys get off in a more healthy way.

  7. Terri inge says:

    Persons like this man should be treated for what they are. They are murderers-intentional.
    These beautiful and intelligent creatures deserve to live peaceful, non-threatened lives.

  8. John Joseph says:

    Its no wonder that they are now bankrupt and a joke as lobbyists!! Nice example Wayne…keep up the good(NOT) work! You’re a complete failure!! 💀☠👿😡

  9. marilyn boehm says:

    I am HORRIFIED at this horrific story. While Wayne LaPierre is being sued for using his members’ money, he is busy trying to KILL a beautiful and now endangered elephant in Botswana for a trophy. We MUST get legislation passed to END this appalling practice. Every senator and congressperson needs to get on board to END this nightmare.

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