As the trophy hunting industry has grown over the last few decades, governments, conservationists, and animal welfare advocates are keen to understand its global economic and conservation impacts with data as supporting evidence. Unfortunately, little credible research had been done to understand the global trophy industry’s extent and impact.
The result of a comprehensive analysis of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Trade Database, Killing for Trophies provides an in-depth look at the scope and scale of trophy hunting trade and isolates the largest importers of animal trophies worldwide. The report found that as many as 1.7 million hunting trophies may have been traded between nations between 2004 and 2014, with at least 200,000 of that being made up of categories of species, also known as taxa, that are considered threatened.
What is trophy hunting?
Hunting is the activity of chasing and killing wild animals or game, especially for food or sport. “Trophy hunting,” specifically, is a form of hunting in which the hunter’s explicit goal is to obtain the hunted animal’s carcass or body part, such as the head or hide, as a trophy that represents the success of the hunt. Trophy hunting is legal in certain areas with the proper permits and must be differentiated from poaching. Poaching is the illegal take of game, though—like trophy hunting—it can be done for acquisition of coveted parts or products from the target species. For the purpose of this report a distinction was made between trophy hunting (where a gun or bow and arrow were used in the hunt) and trophy fishing or trophy trapping as the method used to find and kill the animals departs considerably from the common use of trophy hunting.
What is canned hunting?
Canned hunting is the hunting of animals in an enclosure too small to allow an animal any chance of escape, hunting animals that are drugged or sedated, and/or hunting human-habituated animals. Canned hunting is also commonly referred to as shopping and shooting, put and take, or captive hunting.
This report is a result of a comprehensive analysis of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Trade Database. Approximately one million trade records of CITES listed wildlife species are reported and entered into the database annually, accounting now for more than 13 million wildlife trade records of more than 34,000 scientific taxa names on the CITES Appendices.
The demand for hunting trophies
As many as 1.7 million hunting trophies have been traded between nations between 2004 and 2014. And at least 200,000 trophies from threatened taxa, or an average of 20,0000 trophies per year, have been traded between nations in the same period. Our research found that 107 different nations (comprised of 104 importing nations and 106 exporting nations) participated in trophy hunting trade between 2004 and 2014. However, although there is worldwide demand for animal trophies, according to the CITES database, the top twenty countries are responsible for 97 percent of trophy imports.
The United States (US) accounts for 71 percent of the import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nations, Germany and Spain (both 5 percent). These top 20 importing countries are killing and importing their trophies mainly from Canada (35 percent), South Africa (23 percent), and Namibia (11 percent). The most common trade of threatened taxa trophies come from Canada to the US, followed by trophy trade from African nations to the US.
What species are threatened by trophy hunting?
Analysis of the CITES database found that three of the four threatened taxa from the Africa Big Five species (African elephant, African leopard, and African lion) are among the top six most traded of imperiled taxa. Of the top 20 threatened taxa, African lions have the strongest statistically significant increase of trophy hunting trade since 2004. At least 11,000 lion trophies have been traded worldwide from 2004 to 2013. Other Africa Big Five species are also popular with trophy hunters, with more than 10,000 elephant trophies and more than 10,000 leopard trophies being legally traded worldwide between 2004 and 2014. Like African lions, the African elephant trophy hunting trade has increased since 2004, while leopard trophy hunting numbers rose for several years after 2004, but have since decreased.
This analysis can serve as a baseline for more study on how trophy hunting is changing and how the global industry ultimately affects animals and their populations, both regionally and globally.