At the Luxor hotel next door, wildlife and conservation researchers gathered with leading animal advocates on Wednesday morning to decry what they described as the cruel and unsustainable practice of killing animals for prizes.
“We’re turning wildlife into commodities and as long as there is this value on their heads, people will find a way to kill them,” saidMasha Kalinina, international trade policy specialist with the Humane Society of the US.
Supporters of trophy hunting claim that money generated from these hunts helps fund conservation – though advocates argue that very little revenue ends up back in the local communities where the hunts occur. Kalinina, referring to funds raised at the auction, added: “The money is often used by the hunting groups to lobby against conservation efforts globally.”
“It is really terrible,” said Josphat Ngonyo, executive director of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare, who travelled from Kenya to Las Vegas to protest the club’s auction. “Not all the animals that are hunted are hit on target. Many of them are hit in the wrong places, and they are injured … and take endless days before they die.” He went on to say “The people on the ground in Africa feel that the US is really imposing its policies on these countries.”
Over the past decade, trophy hunters have killed roughly 29,000 mountain lions in the US, according to a report released Wednesday by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International. Often hunters and guides use cruel methods, such as traps or packs of radio-collared dogs that pursue lions until they climb up a tree and are easy shooting targets, advocates said. The five states with the highest number of lion trophy kills are Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
Americans are responsible for roughly half of all lion hunting in Africa, and a recent international study found that the African lion population has decreased by half since 1993. That paper reported that the population is expected to experience a further 50% decline over the next 20 years in west, central and east Africa.