Sunday 7 February 2016

Activists condemn trophy-hunting club for 'turning wildlife into commodities'

Safari Club International draws hunters to Las Vegas for four-day convention billed as the ‘Ultimate Hunters’ Market’ – highlighted by auction of animal hunts

Sam Levin in Las Vegas

Wednesday 3 February 2016 22.18 GMTLast modified on Wednesday 3 February 201622.48 GMT

The world’s largest trophy hunting club was on the defensive at its giant annual auction in Las Vegas as animal rights advocates and conservation experts traveled from across the globe to condemn the industry that killed Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions.

The Safari Club International on Wednesday kicked off its elaborate four-day convention and “Ultimate Hunters’ Market” inside the Mandalay Bay luxury hotel and casino – drawing 25,000 people to the members-only show. In ballrooms and convention halls with signs describing the event as the “THE BIGGEST THE BEST”, hunters mingled with outfitters, gun makers, booking agents, taxidermists and other industry representatives and enthusiasts.

The Safari Club is on track to auction off a total of 301 mammal hunts across more than 30 countries that will result in the killing of at least 600 animals, according to the Humane Society’s analysis of the convention’s listings. The targets include baboons, grizzly bears, cougars, African lions, coyotes, wolves, jackals and many other mammals.

At the Luxor hotel next door on the Las Vegas strip, wildlife and conservation researchers gathered with leading animal advocates on Wednesday morning to decry what they described as the cruel and unsustainable practice of killing animals for prizes – invoking the name of Cecil, the black-maned lion lured from a national park in Zimbabwe last June and killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer.
“It is really terrible,” said Josphat Ngonyo, executive director of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare, who travelled from Kenya to Las Vegas to protest the club’s auction. “Not all the animals that are hunted are hit on target. Many of them are hit in the wrong places, and they are injured … and take endless days before they die.”

Over the past decade, trophy hunters have killed roughly 29,000 mountain lions in the US, according to a report released Wednesday by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. Often hunters and guides use cruel methods, such as traps or packs of radio-collared dogs that pursue lions until they climb up a tree and are easy shooting targets, advocates said.

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