Products made of threatened African wildlife sold at US expo

RENO, Nev. — Photos and video taken by animal welfare activists at a recent trophy hunting convention show an array of products crafted from the body parts of threatened big-game animals, including boots, chaps, belts and furniture labeled as elephant leather.

Vendors at the Safari Club International event held last week in Reno, Nevada, also were recorded hawking African vacations to shoot captive-bred lions raised in pens. The club has previously said it wouldn’t allow the sale of so-called canned hunts at its events.

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The hidden camera footage was released Friday by the Humane Society of the United States. Both federal and state laws restrict the commercial sale of hides from African elephants, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Nevada’s chief game warden confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that an investigation is underway to determine if state law was violated.

Safari Club spokesman Steve Comus said Friday the group was also conducting an internal investigation after what he described as allegations based on “what appears to be an unauthorized visit” by the Humane Society. The group didn’t respond to written questions from the AP about what steps it takes to ensure exhibitors at its events are following the law.

The club denied a request earlier this month from the AP for a media credential to attend its annual conference, billed as the nation’s premier big-game hunting show.

“This hunters’ heaven has everything the mind can dream of and occupies more than 650,000 square feet of exhibit space,” the group’s web site boasts. “Six continents are under one roof where SCI members come to book hunts, rendezvous with old friends and shop for the latest guns and hunting equipment.” Humane Society investigators purchased tickets to the conference and prowled the exhibit booths with concealed cameras.

“Making money off the opportunity to kill these animals for bragging rights is something that most people around the world find appalling,” said Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

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“It’s an elitist hobby of the 1 percent, and there is no place for trophy hunting in today’s world.”

The wares included oil paintings of big-game animals painted on stretched elephant skins, bracelets woven from elephant hair and an elephant leather bench.

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