An undercover investigation by Humane Society International (HSI) that was reported on at the Safari Club International (SCI) convention earlier this year, revealed the sale of threatened African wildlife, raising questions about the sustainability of hunting tourism in Africa.

At the convention,  HSI exposed exhibitors offering products made from giraffes, elephants, rhinos and more – as well as ’pay-to-slay’ trophy hunts, including a captive-bred lion hunt in South Africa priced at US$8 000.

South Africa is the second-largest hunting trophy exporting nation after Canada, according to CITES trade data, and in 2013 the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) estimated trophy hunting to have directly contributed R1 billion (€61m) to the economy.

The department classifies hunting as part of South Africa’s wildlife economy, stating that trophy hunting is a significant driver of the biodiversity economy, but emphasising that the economy balances on the sustainable use of natural resources – including wildlife.

According to a report by Africa Check, the data for the contribution of hunting to conservation strategies is limited and the debate is further polarised by the economic significance of the tourist-driven activity.

However, many African countries have protected areas designated for the conservation of threatened and endangered species, such as the Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas in Zimbabwe, which are home to African elephant, the vulnerable Brown hyena and the White rhinoceros.

This poses the question. How are hunters getting access to these species and is it being overlooked for the sake of economic benefit?

A statement from HSI said other hunting trips retailed at the SCI convention included one for  critically endangered Black rhino in Namibia, a tusk-less elephant hunt in Zambia and a hunt for Black-backed jackal, African wildcat, caracal and Bat-eared foxes in South Africa.

We are devastated to see the SCI convention offering so many opportunities to destroy our already-threatened wildlife, including giraffes, which were listed on Appendix II by CITES last year,” said Wildlife Director for HSI Africa, Audrey Delsink.

Delsink added that the sale of canned lion hunts was a huge concern, as it violated a ban implemented by SCI. “Studies show that captive lion breeding and canned trophy hunting do not support conservation, are fraught with welfare travesties and are simply money-driven industries that benefit a handful. It’s time for this needless cruelty to stop.”