- What weighs 21 pounds, contains 2,560 pages, and lists
thousands of names and numbers? It's not the New York City telephone directory,
but here's a hint: Its listings run from Addax to Zebra.
- The answer is Safari Club International's three-volume
compendium of trophy hunters who are immortalized in this record book for
doing nothing more than killing animalsóan entire alphabet of animalsóto
win SCI awards competitions. The catalog is a macabre scorecard detailing
who shot what animal, where and when. Thousands and thousands of animals,
covering more than 1,100 species, are figuratively buried between the covers
- You can learn, for example, that in 1910 in the Sudan,
Theodore Roosevelt killed a rhino whose horns measured 24 4/8 inches and
7 4/8 inches, scoring 67 1/8 points to make the former U.S. president the
No.1 hunter of Northern white rhino. Or that one Marc Pechenart shot an
elephant in the Central African Republic in June 1970, earning a score
of 302 points for the biggest pachyderm. The animal's left tusk weighed
154 pounds and the right 148 pounds.
- With its photographs of grinning hunters posing with
lifeless animals and its meticulous rankings for the biggest tusks, horns,
antlers, skulls and bodies, the SCI record book perfectly encapsulates
what trophy hunting is all about: killing for killing's sake. The book
lays bare the hunters' obsessions: a craving to shoot the largest animal,
a desire to kill the most animals and rack up SCI awards, or a fetish to
bring home the animal's head and hang it on the wall.
- The mother of all these obsessions, though, is the awards
competition. SCI members shoot prescribed lists of animals to win so-called
Grand Slam and Inner Circle titles. Thereís the Africa Big Five,
(leopard, elephant, lion, rhino, and buffalo); the North American Twenty
Nine (all species of bear, bison, sheep, moose, caribou, and deer); and
the Antlered Game of the Americas, among many other contests.
- To complete all 29 award categories, a hunter must kill
a minimum of 322 separate species and sub-speciesóenough to populate
an entire zoo. This is an extremely expensive and lengthy task, and many
SCI members take the quick and easy route. They shoot captive animals in
canned hunts, both in the United States and overseas, and some engage in
other unethical conduct like shooting animals over bait, from vehicles,
with spotlights, or on the periphery of national parks.
- Wayne Pacelle, HSUS senior vice president for communications
and government affairs, captures the essence of SCI members and their motivation:
- "It's a perverse and destructive subculture,"
he says. "Thousands of animals suffer and die for the amusement of
wealthy elites who have the means to pursue any form of recreation, but
choose to shoot the world's rarest and most beautiful animals. There's
no societal value to the exercise, just a selfish all-consuming mentality
of killing, collecting, and showing off trophies. They know the price of
every animal, but the value of none."
- High-Powered Rifles
- It's easy to parody and criticize Safari Club International,
but it's a mistake to underestimate the club's power and influence on shaping
policies that are detrimental to wildlifeóand beneficial to those
members who stand tall over freshly killed animals in the SCI record books.
- Since it was founded in 1971, the Tucson-based non-profit
has grown to some 40,000 trophy collectors. More than half boast an annual
income of more than $100,000 (compared to 6% of hunters nationwide). The
average member owns 11 rifles, six shotguns, five handguns and a bow. Two-thirds
spend about one month hunting each year, and a quarter of the members more
than 50 days.
- The club contributes large sums to mostly Republican
candidates and, not surprisingly, has been able to ingratiate itself with
various administrations, most notably the Bush Administration, and with
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). With the help of friendly members
of Congress and officials in USFWS, SCI has consistently attempted to navigate
around the intent of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal
Protection Act (MMPA) and import once-banned trophies of endangered and
threatened wildlife. Sometimes, the club has succeeded, sometimes not.
- The latest example of SCI's growing influence in Washington
is the Bush Administration's initiative to "save" the world's
endangered species by killing or selling them, and then using the revenues
as an incentive for poor countries to improve their conservation efforts.
This scheme to protect rare wildlife is a formula for disaster. It will
reverse 30 years of ESA protections for hundreds of exotic creatures who
are heading for, or teetering on, the brink of extinction.
- The proposal, which conveniently dovetails with SCI's
agenda, offers several examples of how wildlife can be exploited for profit.
It suggests imports, such as wild-caught Asian elephants for circuses and
zoos, Morelet's crocodile skins for luxury leather items like shoes and
handbags, and Asian bonytongue tropical fish to supply the aquarium trade.
American trophy hunters could shoot and import trophies of straight-horned
markhor, a rare goat found in Pakistan, and then head north on a quickie
expedition to nail Canadian wood bison.
- These are only examples. If approved, the proposal portends
open season on many disappearing species, particularly large mammals, the
so-called charismatic megafauna. It would also be a huge incentive for
poaching and smuggling. Imagine how much rich trophy hunters would offer
China to shoot giant pandasóarguably the world's most beloved animalóif
they were allowed to import their stuffed remains. Picture furriers importing
the hides of endangered snow leopards to swathe the ethically challenged.
And now that pet tigers have earned a bad rap, might cheetahs become the
newest rage among exotic pet owners?
- For three decades and under strict controls, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service has allowed only a few rare animals, such as pandas,
to be brought in for scientific research and breeding. Until SCI began
to push its agenda in Congress and at the Interior Department, USFWS very
rarely approved the importation of endangered-species trophies. Now, the
agency is proposing not only to ease those trophy import restrictions but
also to allow the import of live animals for entertainment (or the pet
trade) and the import of skins and hides for luxury apparel.
- Such a plan goes against USFWS's historic rationale,
which quite correctly notes that fostering a commercial market for disappearing
wildlife will inevitably hasten its demise.
- No Trickle-Down Economics
- Encouraging the sale and import of heads, hides, and
live animals to enhance survival efforts in the wild may sound logicalóuntil
you examine the sorry history of other purported "sustainable"
wildlife-use programs. The record shows that few of the dollars trickle
down to benefit either wildlife or local people in the impoverished range
states because corrupt officials inevitably divert the money.
- During the 1990s, in a well-intentioned-but-misguided
conservation effort, the U.S. government spent more than $12 million to
underwrite sustainable wildlife-use programs in Zimbabwe. The idea was
to give local people the opportunity to raise money for community projects
by selling hunting permits for African elephants. The program ended up
subsidizing trophy hunting, and little of their trophy fees reached the
- USFWS's new endangered species proposal doesn't offer
much hope to alter this historical course. Despite agency assurances, the
plan isn't the product of careful scientific assessment or innovative thinking.
It's driven, in large part, by the working relationship between the Bush
Administration and SCI, and by the administration's apparent hostility
toward the Endangered Species Act.
- SCI's membership includes former President George Herbert
Walker Bush, who has lobbied the government of Botswana on the group's
behalf to lift the ban on killing the nation's dwindling lion population.
What's more, President George W. Bush appointed Matthew J. Hogan, SCI's
former Government Affairs Manager, as one of the two current deputy directors
of USFWSóa classic example of the fox guarding the hen house. Interior
Secretary Gale A. Norton, in turn, has worked to weaken the ESA, from abandoning
federal efforts to restore grizzlies in Idaho to undermining a key provision
that allows citizens to sue the government to speed up protection of imperiled
- Aiming High...Shooting Low
- SCI got off to a shaky start during its early forays
into Washington politics. In 1979, when the organization was not even a
decade old, it sought government approval to circumvent the spirit of the
law and import an astonishing 1,125 trophies of 40 animals on the endangered
species list. They included gorillas, cheetahs, tigers, orangutans, and
- With a straight face, SCI said its goal was "scientific
researchÖincentive for propagationÖsurvival of the species."
There was one small problem. The trophies weren't dead yet. The prospect
of permitting the wholesale slaughter of more than 1,000 rare animals was
a bit too much, even for USFWS, and the request was denied.
- As its lobbying became more sophisticated, SCI began
pouring money into national political campaigns. Since the 1998 election
cycle, it has contributed $596,696 to Republican candidates and $92,500
to Democrats. Not coincidentally, Congressional Republicans have made repeated
attempts to amend and weaken the ESA, while USFWS, turning its back on
decades of precedents, has proposed to allow hunters to import trophies
of endangered animals killed in the wild. These import easements are critical
to one of SCI's true aims.
- All those pictures in the SCI record books, and in the
club's glossy magazines like Safari and Hunt Forever, are a form of pornography
to the blood sports crowd. Would-be big-game hunters can pore over photos
of triumphant and sated trophy collectors holding up the head of a dead
ungulate by its horns or standing atop the hulk of a dead elephant or posing
with a dead leopard draped around his neck. But like all pornography, the
image is never enough. The hunter eventually wants a taste of the real
thing. And, of course, he must have a trophy to savor the experience.
- As former SCI president John J. Jackson III once wrote:
"A trophy of any species attests that its owner has been somewhere
and done something, that he has exercised skilled persistence and discrimination
in the agile feat of overcoming, outwitting, and reducing game to possession."
- Trophy collectors may rhapsodize about their spiritual
love for the quarry, the hunter's path to self-actualization, the thrill
of the chase, the test of manhood, and other such philosophical jabberwocky.
But at the end of the day, and after a $65,000 safari, the only thing that
matters is hanging that head on the wallóand the rarer the animal,
the better it feels.
- An example: Kenneth E. Behring, who donated $100 million
to have the Smithsonian memorialize him with the Behring Family Hall of
Mammals on the Washington D.C. Mall, went to Kazakhstan in 1997 and paid
the government enough to allow him to shoot a Kara Tau argali sheep.
- The animal, even SCI acknowledges, is critically endangered;
the species is listed on CITES Appendix I and can not be imported into
the United States as a trophy without the help of a museum. Behring, who
like all SCI members, regards himself as a conservationist, killed his
Kara Tau argali when only 100 remained and shipped it to a Canadian taxidermist.
The Smithsonian then petitioned USFWS for an import permit, but withdrew
the request in the storm of negative publicity that followed.
- But Behring isn't the only SCI member with questionable
ethics. Back when Teddy Roosevelt was laying waste to Africa's wildlife,
hunting may have embraced those mythic elements that SCI still loves to
invoke: a Hemingway-esque mantra of danger, romance, bravery, and the thrill
of slaying the beast.
- On today's safari, however, the customer is coddled in
luxury tent camps, replete with flush toilets, hot showers and gourmet
dining. All he (or she) has to do is shell out tens of thousands of dollars,
pull the trigger when instructed, and pose for the money shot. He doesn't
even get blood on his hands. A professional guide stalks the target, lines
up the shot, tells the client when to take it, acts as a backup shooter
if the animal is wounded, and supervises the gutting, skinning and decapitation.
- And that's in the wild. From South Africa to New Zealand
to Texas, many of these trophy collectors shoot captive animals in canned
hunts staged in fenced paddocks on game ranches, a practice the Boone and
Crockett Club calls "unfair and unsportsmanlike." The animals
are habituated to humans and are shot at feeding stations, salt licks and
watering holes. The "spirit of fair chase," supposedly enshrined
in SCI's code of ethics, is conveniently ignored.
- SCI's highly flexible "fair chase" code also
urges members to "comply with all game laws and demonstrate abiding
respect for game, habitat and property." That admonition regularly
falls on deaf ears.
- In 1998, several top SCI leaders, including Behring and
then-president Alfred Donau, reportedly went on a wildlife killing spree
in Mozambique. According to a published report, they left animals wounded
and dying and shot elephants in alleged violation of national law. Other
SCI members have been convicted of killing endangered species and trying
to smuggle them into the U.S.
- Wealthy hunters, including SCI members, have also been
caught in federal tax scams. In one celebrated case, a museum in Raleigh,
North Carolina, gave trophy hunters the title of "associate curator,"
which helped them persuade foreign officials to grant permits to shoot
rare animals. Hunters went on to donate low-value trophies to the museum
and receive wildly inflated appraisals, which were then deducted from their
federal taxes. In some cases, the mounts were reacquired by the donors.
Before authorities busted the ring, the museum took in 1,800 specimens
and valued them at a whopping $8.4 million. At SCI's 1999 annual convention,
members were offered a document titled Secrets of Tax Deductible Hunting,
advising them to declare their home trophy rooms as museums, call themselves
curators, and "donate your record-book animal for the mouthwatering
- Incidents like these fuel the club's negative image.
Most Americans are largely ambivalent about hunting wild animals for food,
but polls show strong public opposition to killing exotic animals for fun,
competition, and bragging rights. To counter this perception and burnish
its reputation, the club donates meat to food banks, stages "sensory
safaris" where the vision-impaired can touch and feel stuffed animals,
and arranges hunting for the disabled.
- To Matthew Scully, author of the highly acclaimed book
Dominion, such window dressing is humbug. "They practice a socially
conscious sadism here," Scully writes. "Ethics at the Safari
Club is ordered libertinism, like teaching cannibals to use a table napkin
and not take the last portion."
- - Michael Satchell is a senior consultant for The HSUS.
- Copyright © 2003 The Humane Society of the United
States. All rights reserved.