Big-Game Trophies: Beneficial or detrimental?

In this Dec. 8, 2014, file photo, Kim Tinnes, with New Jersey's Division of Fish and Wildlife, examines a 346-pound male bear brought for check-in on the first day of a state-sponsored bear hunt to the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in Fredon, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

The Trump administration announced earlier this month that the ban on big game trophies would be lifted. Shortly after Trump halted the decision, he wrote that he would be “very hard pressed to change (his) mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”

Obama first placed this ban on the import of elephant trophies from certain countries because it was found that the hunts did not sufficiently contribute to the survival of the species. The Trump administration now feels that it is right to reverse this ban because hunting helps conservation efforts overall.

This decision was met with large-scale outrage and debate which helped shed light on another dangerous, similar action taken last month. The Fish and Wildlife Service silently began issuing permits for hunters to bring home lion trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Obama-era decision to list the African lion on the endangered species list was catalyzed by the hunting of a beloved lion Cecil in Zimbabwe and further supported by the dramatic fall of the African lion population.

Being an animal activist and an enthusiastic lover of elephants, I hate the hunting and poaching of elephants and other big game. However, I am also aware of the high cost of the conservation efforts in place. Unfortunately, big game hunting is an important source of revenue for conservation. People pay large sums of money to local communities to hunt big game, which seems like a paradoxical method to save elephants. Surprisingly, hunting is often advantageous to populations because the animal hunted is usually an older male who is killing younger males in competition and is no longer fertile. Overall, killing one animal would save more of the population.

However, some opponents to trophy hunting claim that the fees often do not make it back to the communities. The thought is that if communities are receiving financial support, then there would be no need for locals to poach elephants and sell their tusks on the black market because they could be find employment in their communities. However, if money from these hunts is not going towards this effort, then it is just adding to the number of elephants killed.

There is also major concern that trophy hunting provides cover for the illegal killing of elephants and rhinos, due to the fact that rangers have a hard time telling the difference between hunters and poachers. Many opponents claim that there is enough revenue coming into conservation efforts from the tourist attraction of seeing these animals in the wild that we do not need trophy hunting.

Big game hunting itself, while I could never understand the desire, can be beneficial in many ways. However the issue we are dealing with is not banning hunting itself, but the import of trophies into our country. Lifting the ban on big game trophies would be very detrimental to the conservation of these species and send the completely wrong message. If you allowed hunters to pay large sums of money to hunt these animals and then keep their parts as trophies, it would become a way to measure wealth and status and as a result make them more desirable. This would add fuel to the current problem of the black market sales of ivory tusks and rhino horns. We do not need to increase the monetary value of these animal parts, seeing as their current high sale price is enough to cause massive poaching problems.

Considering elephant tusks are just teeth and rhino horns are just matted hair, these items do not have any use other than to be displayed in a case. This is not a good enough reason to allow for the import of these trophies given the possible dangerous effects it would have and its lack of benefit to conservation efforts. While I begrudgingly understand the advantage of big game hunting, it is clear from the confusion between hunters and poachers as well as the lack of financial follow through that it must be more closely monitored in order to be considered a good contribution to conservation. Hopefully, Trump’s position on the trophy ban will not be easily swayed, as he claims it will not be, and elephants and lions will be spared this unnecessary danger.


Samantha Pierce is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at samantha.pierce@uconn.edu.