Trophy hunting

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For other uses, see Trophy (disambiguation).
Hunter with a bear's head and hide strapped to his back on the Kodiak Archipelago

Trophy hunting is the selective hunting of wild game. The trophy is piece of the animal that is kept to represent the success of the hunt. The primary game sought is usually the oldest and most mature animal from a given population. This is typically a male with the largest body size or largest antlers or horns. Parts of the animal may be kept as a hunting trophy or memorial (usually the skin, antlers, horns and/or head), in some circumstances the carcass itself is used as food.

Trophy hunting has both firm supporters and strong opponents. Debates surrounding trophy hunting centrally concern not only the question of the morality of recreational hunting and supposed conservation efforts of big-game and ranch hunting, but also the observed decline in animal species that are targets for trophy hunting.

A hunting trophy is an item prepared from the body of a game animal killed by a hunter and kept as a souvenir. Often, the heads or entire bodies are processed by a taxidermist, although sometimes other body parts such as teeth, tusks, horns or hide are used as the trophies.

Such trophies are often displayed in the hunter's home or office, and often in specially designed "trophy rooms," sometimes called "game rooms" or "gun rooms," in which the hunter's weaponry is displayed as well.[1]

Types of Trophy Hunting[edit]

Big game hunting[edit]

Main article: Big-game hunting

A big-game hunter is a person engaged in the sport of trophy hunting for large animals or game. Potential big game sought include, but are not limited to, bears, big cats, hippos, elephants, rhinos, buffalos, and moose.

Advocates of trophy hunting cite the potential conservation efforts of big-game in trophy hunting practices.

Ranch hunting[edit]

Ranch hunting is different from big-game hunting in that the animals hunted are specifically bred on a ranch for trophy hunting purposes.

Many species of game such as the Indian blackbuck, nilgai, axis deer, barasingha, the Iranian red sheep, and variety of other species of deer, sheep, and antelope from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific islands were introduced to ranches in Texas and Florida for the sake of trophy hunting.

These animals are typically hunted on a fee for each kill, with hunters paying $4,000 or more to be able to hunt exotic game.[2][3] As many of these species are endangered or threatened in their native habitat, the United States' government requires 10% of the hunting fee to be given to conservation efforts in the areas where these animals are indigenous. Hunting of endangered animals in the United States is normally illegal under the Endangered Species Act, but is permitted on these ranches since the rare animals hunted there are not indigenous to the United States.

The Humane Society of the United States has criticized these ranches and their hunters with the reasoning that they are still hunting endangered animals even if the animals were raised specifically to be hunted.

African Trophy Hunting[edit]

Trophy hunting has been practiced in Africa and is still a practiced in many African countries. According to a study sponsored by International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the revenue generated by hunting tourism in seven Southern African Development Communities (SADC) in 2008 was approximately 190 million USD.[4]

In an opinion piece by Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, he states that "despite the wild claims that trophy hunting brings millions of dollars in revenue to local people in otherwise poor communities, there is no proof of this. Even pro-hunting organizations like the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation have reported that only 3 percent of revenue from trophy hunting ever makes it to the communities affected by hunting. The rest goes to national governments or foreign-based outfitters. The money that does come into Africa from hunting pales in comparison to the billions generated from tourists who come just to watch wildlife. If lions and other animals continue to disappear from Africa, this vital source of income—nonconsumptive tourism—will end, adversely impacting people all over Africa."[5]

However, South African Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, contradicts Flocken's conclusions by stating that the hunting industry has contributed millions to South Africa's economy in past years. In the 2010 hunting season, total revenue of approximately R1.1 billion was generated by the local and trophy hunting industries collectively. "This amount only reflects the revenue generated through accommodation and species fees. The true revenue is therefore substantially higher, as this amount does not even include revenue generated through the associated industries as a result of the multiplier effect," according to Molewa.[6]

North American Trophy Hunting[edit]

After the attention gained from the death of Cecil the African Lion, activists turned to the North American Wildlife, the mountain lion in particular. The North American Mountain Lion, also called puma, cougar, and panther, is hunted for sport across its expansive habitat. According to the Washington Post, the only federally protected populations in the country are the Florida Panther and the Eastern cougar, believed to be extinct.

Several states—including Colorado, Utah and Washington—in recent years have proposed an increase in cougar hunting for various reasons, such as the desire to decrease human and livestock conflicts and/or to increase native deer populations. California is the only state throughout the west that prohibits cougar hunting.

These hunting quotas have had a negative effect on the animals' population but also, the people in the surrounding communities. According to Robert Wieglus, director of Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, when too many cougars are killed demographic issues can be seen in the cat's population. The male cougar is extremely territorial and will often seek out females in the territory to both mate and kill any cubs to ensure room for their own offspring. Oftentimes these are young "teenage" males who are hormonal and unpredictable.

These "teenage" lions are mostly responsible for killed livestock and unwanted human interaction. In addition, they often drive females with cubs into hiding or new territory, forcing the females to hunt new prey they did not before.

"Basically the bottom line was this heavy hunting of cougars was actually causing all the problems we were seeing," Wielgus said of his work in Washington.[7]

Legal Standing[edit]

Trophy hunting, by definition, is legal; however, there are restrictions on the species that can be hunted, when hunting can take place, and the weapons that can be used. Permits and government consent are also required. Specific laws of trophy hunting vary based on the criteria mentioned, and some areas have even banned trophy hunting all together. Specific laws of trophy hunting usually concern endangered animals in an effort to protect them from extinction.



Opponents voice strong opinions against trophy hunting based on the believe that it is immoral and lacks financial contribution to the communities affected by trophy hunting and to conservation efforts.

Hippo Trophy-2.jpg

Many of the 189 countries signatory to the 1992 Rio Accord have developed biodiversity action plans that discourage the hunting of protected species.[8]

Cited from The League Against Cruel Sports "A November 2004 study by the University of Port Elizabeth estimated that eco-tourism on private game reserves generated more than 15 times the income of livestock or game rearing or overseas hunting. (1) Eco-tourism lodges in Eastern Cape Province produce almost 2000 rand (£180) per hectare. Researchers also noted that more jobs were created and staff received "extensive skills training".[9]

Opponents also cite the genetic health and social behaviors of species because hunters often kill the largest male. This crumbles the social make up, if applicable, which can then disrupt both the immediate safety of the other animals and the reproductive health of the species in the long-run. This indicates the animals that are left to reproduce are not the strongest or healthiest to pass on genetic codes to future offspring.

Trophy hunting is also opposed by the group In Defense of Animals (IDA) on the basis that trophy hunters are not aimed at conservation, they are instead aimed at glory in hunting and killing the biggest and rarest animals. They contend that the trophy hunters are not interested in even saving endangered animals, and are more than willing to pay the very high prices for permits to kill members of an endangered species.[10]

PETA is also opposed to trophy hunting on the basis that its unnecessary and cruel. It is considered violent and unnecessary. The opposition from PETA is on the basis of the moral justification of hunting for sport. The pain that the animals suffer is not justified by the enjoyment that the hunters receive.

The League Against Cruel Sports also opposes trophy hunting for the reason that even if the animal that is being hunted for a trophy is not endangered, it is still unjustified to kill them. They respond to claims of economic benefits as false justifications for the continuance of the inhumane sport.


Organizations that support trophy hunting as a tool for conservation include The National Wildlife Federation, The Wildness Society, The Izzaak Walton League of America, North American Wildlife Foundation, Outdoor Writers Association of America, Ducks Unlimited, The American Forestry Association, Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, Wildlife Management Institute, and The Wildlife Society.[11][12]

Organizations that are neutral and do not oppose trophy hunting include The National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, The Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund.[11][12]

Proposed Solutions[edit]

However, when poorly managed, trophy hunting can cause negative ecological impacts for the target species such as altered age/sex structures,[13] social disruption,

[14][15][16] deleterious genetic effects,[17][18][19] and even population declines in the event of excessive off-takes,[20][21] as well as threaten the conservation[22] and influence the behavior[23] of non-target species. The conservation role of the industry is also hindered by governments and hunting operators that fail to devolve adequate benefits to local communities, reducing incentives for them to protect wildlife,[24][25][26] and by unethical activities, such as shooting from vehicles and canned hunting, conducted by some operators which attract negative press and foster support for hunting bans.[27]

Certificate System[edit]

One proposed solution to these problems is the development of a certification system, whereby hunting operators are rated on three criteria.[27][28]

  1. In terms of their commitment to conservation through actions such as adherence to quotas and contributions towards anti-poaching efforts.
  2. The extent to which they benefit and involve local communities.
  3. Upon their upholding of agreed upon ethical standards.
Challenges to the Certificate System[edit]

Introducing a certification system however remains challenging because it requires co-operation between hunting operators, conservationists and governments.[29][30] It also requires difficult questions to be answered, including; what constitutes ethical hunting? Who constitutes local communities and what represents adequate benefits for them?[27] Some researchers also continue to express concern regarding what the larger messages of sanctioned trophy hunts for endangered animals might be, and the conservation consequences these might entail. For example, it has been suggested that contributions towards conservation organizations could decline because allowing hunting of a species could convey the message that it does not require saving. So even if the aforementioned problems associated with trophy hunting were addressed at a local level through the implementation of a certification system, the positive impacts for conservation may be outweighed by powerful global messages sent to distant individuals who can also influence conservation outcomes.[31]

Trophy hunters and conservation[edit]

Surveyed Views of Trophy Hunters Lindsey et al. (2006)

A study published in the journal Animal Conservation[32] and led by Peter Lindsey of Kenya's Mpala Research Centre concluded that most trophy hunters are concerned about the conservation, ethical, and social issues that hunting raises.[33] The study interviewed 150 Americans who had hunted in Africa before, or who planned to do so within three years. For example, hunters were much less willing to hunt in areas where African wild dogs or cheetahs were illegally shot than their hunting operators perceived, and they also showed greater concern for social issues than their operators realized, with a huge willingness to hunt in areas were local people lived and benefited from hunting (Fig.1). Eighty-six percent of hunters told the researchers they preferred hunting in an area where they knew that a portion of the proceeds went back into local communities.[32] A certification system could therefore allow hunters to select those operators who benefit local people and conduct themselves in a conservation-friendly manner.[27]

Economic Influence[edit]

Perceived Negative Effects on a Country's Economy[edit]

Many hunting advocates argue the practice is used as a conservation tool. The thought behind this is to invite wealthy hunters from rich countries, mostly the United States, who are willing to pay up to $100,000 or more USD for a kill. These proceeds would then go to communities for a financial boost and also towards conservation efforts. However, recent studies show that the poor villagers in these communities rarely receive a livable portion. This is in part of corrupt governments, few number of employees, and lack of regulation. Oftentimes, these politicians are driven more by profits than conservation.

A study conducted by CNN indicates that roughly 25 cents per acre are returned to the local communities from trophy hunting. National Geographic reports on the issue, citing an IUCN report finding "the sport hunting industry does not provide significant benefits to the communities where it occurs. Across Africa, there are only about 15,000 hunting-related jobs—a tiny number, especially considering that the six main game-hunting countries alone have a population of nearly 150 million."

According to National Geographic, government statistics from 2014 estimated the contributions of trophy hunting to exceed 70 million USD. However, the trickling of this profit to the individuals in the community is significantly low due to "the vast majority of this income is returned to operators and spin-off beneficiaries such as airlines, hotels, tourism facilities, but there is a trickle-down effect."

Using Namibia as an example, there has been an 800 per cent increase of trophy hunting profits from 2000 to 2006, from $165,000 in 2000 to $1,330,000 in 2006. In this particular country, these profits provide $75 a month to one in every seven Namibians.

These finding, paired with media backlash, have prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed a ban on imports. This ban is limited to elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania for 2014–2015 and likely going to extend and expand.[7]

Perceived Economic Benefits of Trophy Hunting[edit]

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, trophy hunting "provides an economic incentive" for ranchers to continue to breed those species, and that hunting "reduces the threat of the species' extinction".[34][35]

The National Wildlife Federation supports hunting because "under professional regulation, wildlife populations are a renewable natural resource that can safely sustain taking." [36]

Moose head and deer antlers mounted as hunting trophies

Wildlife ranches dedicated to sustainable hunting have proliferated greatly in some countries of Africa, notably, Namibia and South Africa. Wildlife has seen dramatic growth on private land in Southern Africa in the last three decades. It evolved from a mere cost, which was better eradicated to a great economic asset, once private ranchers were granted the rights of ownership over game.[37] Wildlife ranches have contributed greatly to the South African economy, mostly through sustainable utilisitation of game as trophy animals.[38]

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recognizes that trophy hunting, when well-managed, can be sustainable and generate significant economic incentives for the conservation of target species and their habitats outside of protected areas, as well as support local livelihoods.[39]

According to Richard Conniff, Namibia is home to 1,750 of the roughly 5,000 black rhinos surviving in the wild because it allows trophy hunting. Its mountain zebra population has also increased to from 1,000 in 1982 to 27,000. Elephants, which are gunned down elsewhere for their ivory, have gone from 15,000 to 20,000 in 1995.

Lions, which were on the brink of extinction "from Senegal to Kenya", are increasing in Namibia.[40]

Cons of Banning Trophy Hunting[edit]

On the contrary, Kenya, which banned trophy hunting in 1977, has seen a 70 percent decline of wild animals according to Laurence Frank, a zoology researcher at the University of California at Berkeley and director of the conservation group Living with Lions. Because the government has no incentive to protect wild animals, effective enforcement on protecting animals has been a disaster according to Frank.[41]

According to a 2012 article by P. Lindsey and G. Balme, if lion hunting was effectively precluded, trophy hunting could potentially become financially unviable across at least 59,538 km2 that could result in a concomitant loss of habitat.

However, the loss of lion hunting could have other potentially broader negative impacts including reduction of competitiveness of wildlife-based land uses relative to ecologically unfavorable alternatives.

Restrictions on lion hunting may also reduce tolerance for the species among communities where local people benefit from trophy hunting, and may reduce funds available for anti-poaching.[42]

Tanzania has an estimated 40 per cent of the population of lions. Its wildlife authorities defend their success in keeping such numbers (as compared to countries like Kenya, where lion numbers have plummeted dramatically) as linked to the use of trophy hunting as a conservation tool. According to Alexander N. Songorwa, director of wildlife for the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, trophy hunting generated roughly $75 million for Tanzania's economy from 2008 to 2011.[43]

The President of Panthera, a conservation group for big cats and their ecosystems, argues that trophy hunting gives African governments economic incentives to leave safari blocks as wilderness, and that hunting remains the most effective tool to protect wilderness in many parts of Africa.[44][45]

Proponents of trophy hunting claim many hunting fees go toward conservation, such as portions of hunting license fees, hunting tags and ammunition taxes. In addition, private groups, such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which contributed more than $400,000 in 2005,[46] and smaller private groups also contribute significant funds; for example, the Grand Slam Club Ovis has raised more than $6.3 million to date for the conservation of sheep.[47]

Banning of Trophy Hunting[edit]

Botswana banned trophy hunting in 2014, and now villagers claim they get no income from trophy hunters, suffer from damaged crop fields caused by elephants and buffaloes, and lions killing their livestock.[48] Some conservationists claim trophy hunting is more effective for wildlife management than a complete hunting ban.

In the wake of the killing of Cecil the lion, Emirates Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines have all banned the transportation of hunting trophies on flights.

Pro-Trophy Hunting Studies[edit]

A 2005 paper by Nigel Leader-Williams and colleagues in the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy asserted that the legalization of white rhinoceros hunting in South Africa motivated private landowners to reintroduce the species onto their lands. As a result, white rhinos increased from fewer than one hundred individuals to more than 11,000.[32]

Leader-Williams's study also showed that trophy hunting in Zimbabwe doubled wildlife areas relative to state protected areas. The implementation of controlled and legalized hunting led to an increase in the area of suitable land available to elephants and other wildlife, which "reversed the problem of habitat loss and helping to maintain a sustained population increase in Zimbabwe's already large elephant population."[32]

A scientific study in the journal, Biological Conservation, states that trophy hunting is of "major importance to conservation in Africa by creating economic incentives for conservation over vast areas, including areas which may be unsuitable for alternative wildlife-based land uses such as photographic ecotourism." [49]

Financial incentives from trophy hunting effectively more than double the land area that is used for wildlife conservation, relative to what would be conserved relying on national parks alone, according to the study published in Biological Conservation.[49]

Lion Population (Y axis) Year (X axis)

Trophy hunting has been considered essential for providing economic incentives to conserve large carnivores according to other research studies in Conservation Biology,[50] Journal of Sustainable Tourism,[51] Wildlife Conservation by Sustainable Use,[52] and Animal Conservation.[50][53]

Decline in population[edit]

According to the Smithsonian, the world's wildlife populations have decreased by an alarming rate of 52% since 1970. This is heavily concentrated on mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The decline is attributed to several reasons such "over exploitation (including hunting for food, medicine and animal products), habitat loss and climate change all serve as primary drivers of population loss." Developing countries are more likely to see a dramatic decrease in wildlife populations for the reasons mentioned above. Developing countries driven by profit are likely to also see a decline in population as a result of the unwillingness of the government to contribute to conservation efforts.

The graph depicts lion population decline from the 1800s. This information was taken from the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative.

In the Media[edit]

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 6.38.15 PM.png

The controversy surrounding trophy hunting was further ignited when an American dentist Walter Palmer gained internet infamy when a picture of him and the dead lion Cecil went viral.[54] Palmer is an experienced and avid big-game hunter and reportedly paid over 50,000 US dollars to hunt and kill the lion. Palmer was on probation at the time of Cecil's killing as a result of lying to authorities about where he killed a black bear in Wisconsin in 2006.

Cecil the lion was one of the most known and studied lions in Zimbabwe. According to a National Geographic article, the killing of Cecil was in fact illegal. The lion was lured from the park and, after being injured by an arrow and stalked for 40 hours, Cecil was finally killed. Palmer was reportedly attracted to Cecil's rare black mane. Had Cecil been in the park, it would have been illegal to kill him. The actions the dentist and his hired team took in luring out of the park were not endorsed by trophy hunting officials in Zimbabwe.

Thousands of people went on social media sites including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to express their disgust for barbaric killing of the innocent lion. Responses including Facebook pages, such as "Shame Lion Killer Walter Palmer and River Bluff Dental," which has over 30,000 likes help to keep the issue of trophy hunting current. The media outrage has brought the issue of trophy hunting to a much broader audience than before.


See also[edit]


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  • Yahya M. Musakhel 2005: Identification of Biodiversity hotspots in Musakhel district Balochistan Pakistan.

Further reading[edit]