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A Win for International Conservation

CITES has not defined the term ‘hunting trophy' for the past 35 years, until now.

5/18/2010

Safari Club International (SCI) sent representatives to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) last March prepared for a debate on the definition of what constitutes a hunting trophy. SCI knew getting this regulation right was critical because it will have a big effect on traveling hunters and international wildlife conservation.

John Monson, SCI’s lead delegate at CITES, said, “For the past 35 years, CITES has not defined the term ‘hunting trophy’ because regionally there are various interpretations of what a trophy actually is. But these differences have resulted in confusion that has led to the seizure and the destruction of trophies. So we needed to get this thing done right.” 

Mathew Eckert, the SCI Foundation’s manager of the department of science-based programs and research, anticipated that an overly restrictive definition would be proposed at the CITES meeting. Sure enough, the United States’ delegation proposed the definition used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the USFWS definition was accepted by CITES, the 175 member-nations would require additional permits for trade. And it would be more complicated than just additional permits; the codes used on the permits are also different. This causes further confusion for both exporting and importing countries, as it already has with shipments sent to the U.S. where seizures and returns of the shipments have been footed by the hunter. Also, the U.S. definition makes it very difficult to bring back certain parts of legally hunted game from many countries.

What’s more, such complications would affect local economies around the world, as it would be a disincentive for hunters to travel to those areas and to use local taxidermists and other artists. This could affect the $200 million that hunting now annually generates for the remote areas of 23 African countries, says SCI. Incredibly, private hunting operations currently conserve wildlife on 540,000 square miles in Africa, which is 22 percent more land than is found in the continent’s national parks. Neither SCI nor NRA want this positive relationship to devolve under red tape.

So when the restrictive U.S. definition was placed before the CITES committee, SCI waded into the debate. Anti-hunting groups, such as Humane Society International, argued that this burdensome definition should be passed. They liked the USFWS definition because it excluded “worked” taxidermy items and made it more difficult for hunters to bring back trophies. SCI argued that this regulatory burden would hurt hunting tourism and would thereby harm the very wildlife it aimed to protect. This and other objections sent the definition to a subcommittee where SCI was able to generate support for a simpler, more hunting-friendly wording. SCI won in the end. Here’s the final definition of a trophy:

The term ‘hunting trophy’ means a whole animal, or a readily recognizable part or derivative of an animal, specified on any accompanying CITES permit or certificate, that:

i)   is raw, processed or manufactured;
ii)  was legally obtained by the hunter through hunting for the hunter’s personal use; and
iii)  is being imported, exported or re-exported by or on behalf of the hunter, as part of the transfer from its country of origin, ultimately to the hunter’s State of usual residence.”

After the win for conservation, SCI President Larry Rudolph said, “The guiding principle of CITES is that wildlife trade must be sustainable. We highlighted the importance of sport hunting as a conservation tool and, when appropriate, we offered research findings from projects that have been sponsored by the organizations.” 

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