Priscilla Feral and Richard Wiese Conn. poised to be the first state to ban trophy hunting of Africa’s Big 5
Connecticut should be proud to be on the right side of history.
The state Senate, voting 32-4, recently banned the importation, sale, possession and transportation of Africa’s Big 5 — elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and giraffes — and their body parts in Connecticut.
That’s monumental news that comes on the heels of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially considering listing the giraffe as an endangered species, a move long sought by wildlife advocates alarmed by the their precipitous decline and a growing domestic market for giraffe products. However it could take years before the United States gives them any protections.
Shockingly, in the last four years, 443giraffe trophies/products came into the designated ports in nearby New Jersey and New York.
And earlier this week, the government of Botswana announced elephant hunting will resume after a five-year prohibition despite intense lobbying by some conservation advocates to continue the ban.
Connecticut does not have clean hands when it comes to pushing Africa’s Big 5 closer to extinction. The state is supplying customers to the grave, immoral trophy hunting industry.
From 2005-2015, 59 trophy hunting permits were issued to Connecticut residents by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so people could hunt and kill leopards for their trophies. Six additional permits were provided to Connecticut residents to kill African elephants in Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. And from 2005-2016, Connecticut residents killed 39 lions and one giraffe and imported their trophies.
The Connecticut communities that have been issued the most permits for trophy hunting are: Greenwich, North Haven, Norwalk, Berlin, Stamford, Westport, Weston, Easton, Southington and Middletown.
As soon as you put a price tag on these threatened, vulnerable and endangered animals, you send a mixed message about whether or not they need to be protected at all, and that’s detrimental to actual conservation. Shooting animals full of bullets does not increase their population or expand their habitat. Trophy hunters are just poachers with permits.
Now it’s up to members of the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and state Rep. Brenda Kupchick and drafted by Friends of Animals. We hope they too concede the importance of SB20 — that it recognizes legal trophy hunting as one of the main reasons that Africa’s Big Five face extinction. These species are already fighting for their lives because of poaching and habitat loss.
It’s more crucial than ever for states to take action because when it comes to trophy hunting, federal law is not protective enough.
On Dec. 21, 2015, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed two lion subspecies as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act. But overall the listing continues to promote trophy hunting because it allows for the importation of the body parts of the sport-hunted threatened lion species.
Additionally, while the July 6, 2016 near-total ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory that went into effect in the United States looks good on paper, it still allows for two sport-hunted elephant trophies per hunter per year.
The only difference between poachers and trophy hunters is wealth and public perception. While poachers are willing to slaughter magnificent animals to make a buck, well-heeled vainglorious trophy hunters spend lots of money to hunt for bragging rights and prizes.
The newest data reveals that trophy hunting is economically useless. While the Safari Club boasts that revenues from hunting generate $200 million annually in remote areas of Africa, most of the money goes to trophy hunting operators/outfitters and government agencies, many of which are corrupt. The most recent study reveals that a measly 3 percent of expenditures actually goes back to African communities.
It’s time for the Nutmeg state to stop supporting a useless industry. It would be the first state to do so through the legislature, making it a role model for other states to follow suit.
Rowayton resident Priscilla Feral is president of Darien-based Friends of Animals and Weston resident Richard Wiese is president of the Explorers Club and executive producer/host of “Born to Explore.”