The U.S. Department of Interior has declared open season on Africa’s most majestic and threatened species, taking actions to make it easier than ever to sport hunt elephants, lions, black and white rhinos and leopards. There are no laws protecting giraffes. That’s why it’s more important than ever for states to step up and protect these species by banning the imports of trophy-hunted animals from Africa.
The recent decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granting permits to hunters to bring trophies of lions and rhinos back to the country and the Trump administration’s weakening of the Endangered Species Act, which puts these threatened animals in peril, signals an urgent need for states to step up to protect these species. Add to this is a mixed bag of results from the most recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva on protections for these vulnerable species and it becomes clear why it is important for states to step up and become role models for the nation in protection of these species.
Americans make up the greatest number of trophy hunters travelling to Africa for the kills and while trophy hunters promulgate the notion that without them there would be no money for conservation, in truth, there is no evidence to support that. However, there is growing scientific evidence that legal sport-hunting actually reduces the overall chance that these species can continue to survive in the wild. Legalized hunting falsely suggests that funds are being used to ensure the protection of wild populations and that the variety of species are recovering.
Trophy hunters like to peddle the theory that they are saving species by killing them and that without the big bucks they spend on hunting safaris in Africa, there’d be no money to protect these species from poachers or for other conservation efforts. This argument is fundamentally flawed in that trophy hunting in itself creates a market for elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and giraffes, thus spurring poachers to engage in the illegal trade of their body parts.
Their funding argument also falls short because studies show less than 3 percent of revenue from hunting safaris ever flows back to African communities and due to corruption, likely even less.
Friends of Animals has been fighting to ban these imports. We have introduced legislation in New York (Assembly Bill 7556/ Senate Bill 4325) and Connecticut (H.B. 5104) that would ban the import, possession, sale and transport in the state of these trophies.
New York is the largest port in the nation for these trophy imports. In New York, more than 150,000 trophy hunted animals have been imported from Africa from 2005 to 2014, including 1,130 elephant trophies and an additional 84 tusks; 1,541 lions, 1,169 leopards, 110 white rhinos in recent years.
Connecticut also does not have clean hands when it comes to Africa’s Big 5. From 2005-2015, 59 trophy hunting permits were issued to Connecticut residents by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so people could hunt and kill leopards. Six additional permits were provided to CT residents to kill African elephants in Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Connecticut residents killed 39 lions and one giraffe and imported their trophies between 2005-2016, . The CT communities that have been issued the most permits for trophy hunting are Greenwich, North Haven, Norwalk, Berlin, Stamford, Westport, Weston, Easton, Southington, Middletown.