What we found undercover at infamous trophy hunting convention

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on March 7, 2023 with 19 Comments

Elephant-skin luggage and leopard claw jewelry are just some of the supposedly luxurious products our undercover investigator discovered at Safari Club International’s annual hunting convention, where more than 850 exhibitors convened in February in Nashville, Tennessee. As disturbing as the artifacts of animals already lost to trophy hunting were, they paled in comparison to the expeditions being promoted to cause future death to animals already struggling to survive, like rhinos, elephants and other imperiled animals, as well as a canned hunt to kill captive-bred lions, far easier to shoot when corralled into small spaces.

One outfitter at Safari Club International’s convention emphasized to the undercover investigator that hunting rhinos now is ideal because “[they are] gonna be closed down the soonest to import to the United States because of the numbers going down…”

Other vendors displayed or offered for sale items made from threatened and endangered species in potential violation of state law. One taxidermy company, for example, advertised its services by displaying the horns of a federally endangered black rhino. Tennessee state law prohibits the commercial use of endangered species. Our investigators have gone undercover at Safari Club International’s convention since 2016 to chronicle the cruelty and waste of trophy hunting. While most Americans abhor trophy hunting, Safari Club International continues to raise money off the slaughter of majestic animals from around the world, and the U.S. continues to import more trophies from hunting expeditions in foreign countries than any other nation. Whether auctioning off a $100,000 Alaskan hunting trip to kill grizzly bears, moose and other beloved species; or a $143,000 lion and leopard hunting trip in Zambia, the convention turns imperiled wildlife into shameful commodities. This year, the auctions are estimated to bring in almost $6 million for Safari Club International to fund its lobbying efforts that include reducing U.S. Endangered Species Act protections.

While most Americans abhor trophy hunting, Safari Club International continues to profit from the slaughter of majestic animals and lobby against their protection. The HSUS

Our investigator found for sale rhino trophy hunts and rhino “darting” excursions in South Africa, from vendors that also offer the critically endangered black rhino as “add-ons” through their websites. Outfitters exhibiting at the event also advertised hunts for the critically endangered forest elephant on their websites that could be added on to any hunts sold at the convention. The most recent assessment from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for this species states that it has undergone a reduction of 80% of its global population over the last 100 years. This decline will likely continue if successful conservation programs do not take hold and harmful industries like trophy hunting are allowed to continue.

Although Safari Club International ostensibly instituted a ban on promoting canned lion hunts back in 2018, our investigator found exhibitors promoting these hunts, where customers pay to shoot captive-bred lions. South Africa, the hub for canned lion hunting, announced in 2021 that it will take steps to put an end to this despicable industry, so it’s chilling to see it persisting in this forum. As our undercover investigator said in a new Humane Voices podcast, canned hunting “is something that SCI doesn’t—at least supposedly doesn’t—endorse… but it is very much something that is found at their conventions.”

We are releasing our Trophy Hunting by the Numbers report, which zeroes in on the role the U.S. plays in international trophy hunting and examines the deleterious impacts of trophy hunting on animal populations. Between 2014 and 2018, the U.S. imported more trophies than any other country in the world, including 72,600 hunting trophies of mammals listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); more than 10,000 of those trophies were also from species listed as Threatened or Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Not only does trophy hunting cause immense suffering, but it also destroys animal families and reverberates through ecosystems. We will keep exposing this shameful celebration of animal death and pressing for legislation to end the glorification and promotion of trophy hunting. Animals deserve to be fully protected from such cruelty.

You can take a stand with us, by urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to strengthen and finalize the proposed Endangered Species Act regulations for African elephants to improve their protections. You can also support our work to end trophy hunting.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

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

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Esto no es posible ya no lo podemos permitir más tiene que acabar por favor no es justo que solo por diversión más animalitos sigan siendo asesinados esto no es un deporte no hay nada de divertido en asesinar a un ser vivo

  2. Anne Darrow says:

    Where you not able to confiscate all these illegal animal related products? from this Show? That’s the information I want to hear and jail time for the rich and stupid and disgusting.

    • Karen says:

      I agree with you. Why weren’t all these people arrested at this show.

    • Brenda S. says:

      What is being done by this organization are crimes, heinous crimes. Those involved must face hard jail time.
      It is the mindset from the Victorian Era:
      We can do whatever we want to nature for our own reasons.
      John Muir, our most renowned naturalist once camped out with Pres. Teddy Roosevelt. Muir asked him, “ When are you going to give up your infantile need to kill animals?”

  3. Erika Geserer says:

    I sign many petitions, read all of the publications of HSUS and do all I can to minimize the suffering, the abuse of all animals.
    It doesn’t end, the stupendous problems don’t seem to lessen.

  4. Kimberly K says:

    How do we stop this once and for all? This is disgusting this is still happening. This should be completely illegal.

  5. Janie says:

    We need extra help as far as people with authority to catch the Rich and famous and stupid and twisted humans that want to do this to these exquisitive animals that can’t defend their self!! I signed so many petitions for this kind of thing this has got to stop. I am absolutely sick of these people getting away with this!!

  6. U. A. Macpherson says:

    Strengthen the laws. The US must set an example to the rest of the world when it comes to protecting endangered species. If all we can do in respect to some species is ban the imports of their parts, lets do it. And prosecute….it is not a victimless crime.

  7. Judith Watts says:

    Ghastly suffering for animals to promote the egos of excuses for human beings.

    • Brenda S. says:

      Trophy hunting is intrinsically disordered and evil.
      Why do the rich sadists pursue this?
      Because they can.
      Strong laws must be passed, and as soon as possible.
      I am a strong conservative, and I deplore the trophy hunting of Trump’s elder sons.

      • Carrie Genoff says:

        Totally agree with you and I wish there was a way to actually show the public the ways in which our elected officials/representatives and President vote and support this disgusting bloodlust. I know many conservatives who are not aware of the bills written by their reps that support trophy hunting , killing contests and the elimination of wolves. They are not aware of the way animals are trapped. This is beyond party , as both of them sit idly by as we continue to witness the slaughter and loss of species.

  8. Connie Miller says:

    I, also, am wondering why more progress isn’t being made to end the trophy hunting. Are we not hearing about it? The HSUS is able to uncover these situations, but is there no further action to stop them?

  9. Marilyn Boehm says:

    There MUST be something more to be done to shine a light on these despicable practices. How about contacting 60 Minutes, etc?
    I’m sitting here weeping and feeling powerless to bring an end to trophy hunting, especially done covertly to endangered animals. The HSUS International MUST bring these outrages to the American public and to our legislators before it is too late.
    I donate, I sign petitions, but it’s not enough. Please make this a PRIORITY and bring this to an end!!!

  10. Jack Rollens says:

    The people here is the USA are only interested in showing how powerful, rich and macho. I am ashamed of being a third generation US citizen. We are not “Americans” only Native People are Americans!!!

    Humans are the plague on this planet.

  11. E. Dean says:

    Since HSUS has been investigating the Safari Club Int’l conventions since 2016 have their investigators alerted state wildlife agents and/or federal agencies each year when they found violations? This was never mentioned. Why not?

    What I want to know is WHY are all these trophies from endangered/protected species making their way into the United States? How are the trophies brought into the U.S., e.g. are they shipped in crates from foreign countries? Carried in on airplanes? How are they getting in without any federal or state oversight?

    Also, are there any famous wealthy people who are participating in these trophy hunts? Do any of these hold government positions in the U.S.? It makes you wonder.

    • Karen says:

      There’s a doctor in Marksville Louisiana that hunts. They pay people off. That’s how they are getting their trophies into America. They are paying everyone off.

      • Carrie Genoff says:

        Exactly, look at all of the ways in which elitists get away with criminal behavior. All life is viewed as commodity to the rich and powerful, including all of the politicians. The system is designed for backroom pay offs. If any of us working serfs were caught catching a fish without a license we would be fined, a career politician or wealth donor can kill an endangered species and nothing happens. We have to hold every political official accountable , regardless of the political party.

  12. E. Dean says:

    I wrote a comment about this article the other day but they did not publish it.

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