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 classified as game animals. The primary motivation is to seek the oldest, and most mature animal from a given population, which is typically a male with the largest body size or largest antlers or horns. These animals have made their contribution to the gene pool and are nearing or are post-breeding age. Another motivation for the hunter may be the opportunity to participate in the management of a population by selectively removing these post breeding-age males. Parts of the animal may be kept as a hunting trophy or memorial (usually the skin, antlers, horns and/or head), the carcass itself is often used as food.

Trophy hunting has firm supporters and opponents. Public debate about trophy hunting often centers on the question of the morality of recreational hunting or the extent to which the money paid by sportsmen seeking a trophy animal provides a conservation benefit to the overall population of game animals and the rural economies where the game is hunted.

Misconceptions exist that trophy hunters just keep the head as their trophy and leave the meat of the animal to waste. It is against the law in most counties to waste legally harvested game, or any game meat that is suitable for human consumption. Hunters who do not bring the meat home from their hunts often donate to local people, or food banks such as Hunters Feeding The Hungry. Trophy hunting should not be confused with poaching, the practice of taking game illegally.

The hunting trophy[edit]

Moose head and deer antlers mounted as hunting trophies

A hunting trophy is an item prepared from the body of a game animal killed by a hunter and kept as a souvenir of the successful hunting or fishing expedition.

Often, the heads or entire bodies are processed by a taxidermist, although sometimes other body parts such as teeth, tusks or horns 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 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, moose and so forth.

Tanzania has an estimated 40% of the population of lion (Panthera leo). 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.[2]

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 unfavourable 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.[3]

Ranch hunting[edit]

Many species of game such as the Indian blackbuck, nilgai, axis deer and 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 $4000 or more to be able to hunt exotic game.[4][5] 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 to begin with. The Humane Society of the United States has criticized these ranches and the people who hunt there for among other reasons that they are still hunting endangered animals even if the animals were raised specifically to be hunted.

Wildlife ranches dedicated to sustainable hunting have proliferated greatly in some countries of Africa, notably, Namibia and South Africa. Wildlife has seen gigantic 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.[6] Wildlife ranches have contributed greatly to the South African economy, mostly through sustainable utilisitation of game as trophy animals.[7]

Trophy hunting in Africa[edit]

Trophy hunting has been practiced in Africa and is still a practiced conservation policy in many African countries. According to a study sponsored by CIC in partnership with FAO, the revenue generated by hunting tourism in seven SADC countries in 2008 is approximately US$190million.[8]

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 and 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."[9]

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.[10]

Botswana banned trophy hunting in 2014, and now villagers claim they get no income from trophy hunters, and suffer from damage from elephants and buffaloes damaging their food crop fields and lions killing their livestock.[11] Conservationists claim trophy hunting is more effective for wildlife management than a complete hunting ban.[12]

Conservation tool[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".[13][14]

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 27,000 from 1,000 in 1982. Elephants, which are gunned down elsewhere for their ivory, have gone to 20,000 from 15,000 in 1995. Lions, which were on the brink of extinction "from Senegal to Kenya", are increasing in Namibia.[15]

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.[16]

The National Wildlife Federation supports hunting because "under professional regulation, wildlife populations are a renewable natural resource that can safely sustain taking." [17]

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.[18][19]

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,[20] 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.[21]


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.[22]

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."[22]

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." [23]

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.[23]

Trophy hunting has been considered essential for providing economic incentives to conserve large carnivores according to other research studies in Conservation Biology,[24] Journal of Sustainable Tourism,[25] Wildlife Conservation by Sustainable Use,[26] and Animal Conservation.[24][27]

Positions of conservation organizations[edit]

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.[28][29]

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.[28][29]

Organizations that oppose trophy hunting are The Humane Society of the United States, The American Humane Association and Friends of Animals.[28][29]


In the 1970s and 1980s, people in many Western countries assumed a pejorative association regarding hunting for trophy.

Many of the 189 countries signatory to the 1992 Rio Accord have developed biodiversity action plans that discourage the hunting of protected species.[30]

The League Against Cruel Sports has produced a report alleging trophy hunting does not have a positive effect on conservation. They suggest ecotourism can earn local communities as much as 15 times the amount of money earned by livestock, game-rearing or overseas hunting. Ecotourism increases the number of jobs and lengthens the time wildlife exists as an economic resource.[citation needed]

Trophy hunting opponents also cite the genetic health of species because hunters often try to kill large, healthy individuals instead of smaller, unhealthy and/or unattractive individuals. This indicates the animals that would pass on evolutionarily-beneficial genes to their offspring are, in fact, the ones that become less likely to reproduce.

Emirates Airlines placed an embargo by refusing to transport the remains of wild trophy hunted animals such as big cats, rhinos and elephants.[31]


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.[32]

However, when poorly managed, trophy hunting can cause negative ecological impacts for the target species such as altered age/sex structures,[33] social disruption,[34][35][36] deleterious genetic effects,[37][38][39] and even population declines in the event of excessive off-takes,[40][41] as well as threaten the conservation[42] and influence the behaviour[43] 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,[44][45][46] 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.[47]

One proposed solution to these problems is the development of a certification system, whereby hunting operators are rated on three criteria.[47][48]

  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.
Figure.1: The unwillingness of hunters to hunt under conditions detrimental to conservation and their willingness to hunt under conditions beneficial to local livelihoods, and operators' perceptions of hunters' willingness to hunt. Adapted from Lindsey et al (2006)

Profile of a trophy hunter[edit]

A study, published in the journal Animal Conservation,[22] 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.[49] 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.[22]

A certification system could therefore allow hunters to select those operators who benefit local people and conduct themselves in a conservation-friendly manner.[47]


Introducing a certification system however remains challenging because it requires co-operation between hunting operators, conservationists and governments.[50][51] It also requires difficult questions to be answered, including; what constitutes ethical hunting? Who constitutes local communities and what represents adequate benefits for them?[47] 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.[52]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Business Week On the hunt for a gun room?: Business celebrates a love of firearms, hunting big animals, Knight Ridder, 10/11/2009 (retrieved 10/11/2009)
  2. ^ "The New York Times". Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  3. ^ "PLOS ONE: The Significance of African Lions for the Financial Viability of Trophy Hunting and the Maintenance of Wild Land". Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  4. ^ "Exotic Hunting | Texas' Best Exotic Hunting Ranch | V-Bharre Ranch | Texas' Premier Hunting Ranch | V-Bharre Ranch". Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  5. ^ "Texas Exotic Hunting - Texas trophy exotic hunting in West TX.". Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
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  12. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu (2015-08-10). "Outcry for Cecil the Lion Could Undercut Conservation Efforts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-09-13. 
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  20. ^ State Agencies Receive Over $420,000 in Grants Through Hunting Heritage Partnership
  21. ^ Grand Slam Club Ovis
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  33. ^ Milner JM, Nilsen EB & Andreassen HP. (2007). Demographic side effects of selective hunting in ungulates and carnivores. Conservation Biology. 21(1), 36-47.
  34. ^ Rasmussen HB, Okello JB, Wittemyer G, Siegismund HR, Arctander P, Vollrath F, et al. (2007). Age- and tactic-related paternity success in male African elephants. Behavioral ecology. 19(1): 9-15.
  35. ^ Lindsey PA, Balme GA, Funston P, Henschel P, Hunter L, Madzikanda H, et al.(2013). The trophy hunting of African lions: scale, current management practices and factors undermining sustainability.PLoS One. 8(9).
  36. ^ Sogbohossou E A, Bauer H, Loveridge A, Funston PJ, De Snoo GR, Sinsin B, et al. (2014). Social structure of lions (Panthera leo) is affected by management in Pendjari Biosphere Reserve, Benin. PLoS One. 9(1).
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  43. ^ Grignolio S, Merli E, Bongi P, Ciuti S & Apollonio M. (2010). Effects of hunting with hounds on a non-target species living on the edge of a protected area. Biological Conservation. 144(1):641-649
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  45. ^ Booth VR. (2010). Contribution of Hunting Tourism: How Significant Is This to National Economies. Joint publication of FAO and CIC.
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  • Yahya M. Musakhel 2005: Identification of Biodiversity hotspots in Musakhel district Balochistan Pakistan.

Further reading[edit]