Officials shouldn’t relax guidelines on trophy hunting

Published 12/10 by The Arizona Republic

News broke recently that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow African elephants and lions to be killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia by American trophy hunters and their heads and hides brought back home to the United States. The agency’s announcement was met with an overwhelming flood of criticism from across the social and political spectrum. The most important critic is President Trump himself.

The group unhappiest about the likely turnaround on this issue is the Tucson- based Safari Club International, which promotes safari hunting through awards programs for its members. SCI has more at stake here than meets the eye.

First, the elephants. The Fish and Wildlife Service announcement comes at a time of political turmoil in Zimbabwe, where itsdictator, President Robert Mugabe, has just resigned. Under his leadership, the government has been offering up animals for killing to the highest bidders. Who knows what the new leadership of the country will bring. Zimbabwe’s elephant population has declined 6 percent since 2001 and poaching has increased.

The fate of lions is at stake, too. Last month, the Fish and Wildlife Service also published new guidelines allowing for the import of African lion trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. In 2016, acting on a petition from The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, FWS classified all African lions as endangered or threatened. Before that, trophy hunters had been killing and bringing back the trophies of up to 600 lions each year despite a rapidly declining population.

Despite continued threats from poaching, human-wildlife conflict, and habitat loss, SCI promotes the trophy hunting of rare and iconic animals. It does so through eye-popping awards programs, including the “Africa Big Five,” which involves the killing of an elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and Cape buffalo. Killing all five is known as a “Grand Slam.”

But trophy hunting isn’t just an “Africa” issue. Right here in Arizona, trophy hunters target hundreds of mountain lions and thousands of bobcats each year, often by particularly cruel and unsporting methods such as hounding and trapping. In fact, SCI is actively opposing a current ballot initiative brought by a coalition called Arizonans for Wildlife that seeks to prohibit the trophy hunting of Arizona’s wild cats.

In Arizona, trophy hunters use packs of GPS-collared hounds to stack the odds to enable them a “guaranteed” kill of a lion or a bobcat. The chase lasts for hours until an exhausted wild cat finally seeks refuge in a tree, enabling the trophy hunter to follow the GPS and shoot the cat at close range. Bobcats are also trapped using cruel steel-jawed leghold traps, body-gripping traps, and snares on private land, and cage traps on public land. Trapped animals frequently suffer severe injury or death as they struggle to escape. These methods are indiscriminate and can leave kittens orphaned or incidentally injure or kill non-target wildlife, including endangered species and pets.

Please sign our petition at humane society.org/helpelephants and urge Interior Secretary Zinke to support elephant and lion protection. And join the fight to protect our trophy hunted wild cats here at home at azforwildlife.com/ volunteer.

Kellye Pinkleton is the Arizona state director for The Humane Society of the United States. Email her at kpinkle [email protected]. On Twitter, @azforwildlife.

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