Endangered Species Handbook

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Persecution and Hunting


Trophy hunting organizations have lobbied the US Department of the Interior for decades to weaken law enforcement "overzealousness" and have, on occasion, been successful. The Law Enforcement Division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service has tended to be strict in prosecuting trophy hunters for violations. In one case that inflamed Safari Club International members, it subpoenaed pages of the SCI’s Record Book, which listed many endangered species, to determine the details of the killing of various protected animals. To shield its members from prosecution, SCI returned information to their members on trophy animals killed at a time when they could not have been imported legally, and deleted this information in the SCI database to avoid further investigations (Williams 1991).
In another case, however, SCI influence won favors from the Department of the Interior. A highly placed official with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Richard Mitchell of the Office of Scientific Authority, allegedly accepted money from SCI in exchange for facilitating permits to get endangered species trophies into the United States (Williams 1991). Correspondence between Mitchell and SCI members included advice on registering as an institution with CITES on behalf of the trophy museum that the organization maintains in Arizona. Mitchell suggested that he would arrange to register several institutions in China and Pakistan in order to trade endangered species "specimens" with them (Williams 1991). Another official, Assistant Secretary of the Interior G. Ray Arnett, who later co-founded a lobbying organization for trophy hunters, helped a fellow hunter caught importing an endangered species in the early 1980s by ordering agents to return the trophies to the smuggler, Thornton Snider (Williams 1991). Rick Parsons, who founded the Permit Office within the Fish and Wildlife Service, which gave permits to trophy hunters and others wishing to import endangered species, later became the Washington Counsel to Safari Club International, using his government experience to facilitate the permit process for trophy hunters and also lobbying at CITES Conferences on behalf of trophy hunters.
Ted Williams, in a 1991 article in Audubon magazine, tells of an appraiser for the Safari Club, R. Bruce Duncan, who arranged for many members of the club to mislabel the trophy animals they killed in foreign countries in order to import them into the United States without prosecution under the US Endangered Species Act (Williams 1991). One Club member imported a Jaguar (Panthera onca) pelt from Venezuela, labeled as a "goat hide" under Duncan's advice, and valued at $60; Duncan had appraised it at $11,000 (Williams 1991). Another SCI trophy hunter, Andrew Samuels, was the winner of the 1990 "Weatherby Award" given by a firearms company to the hunter who kills the greatest number of average, as well as record-sized, game animals throughout the entire world and whose character and sportsmanship are "beyond reproach" (Williams 1991). An undercover Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement investigation revealed that Samuels had confided having illegally killed a Bighorn Sheep and numerous endangered foreign animals and smuggled them into the United States by falsifying shipping documents (Williams 1991). These included Jaguars, endangered wild Markhor goats (Capra falconeri), rare African antelope, Jentinck Duikers (Cephalophus jentinki), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), and a wild Asian sheep, the Punjab Urial (Ovis orientalis punjabiensis) (Williams 1991). Samuels paid $100,000 in fines, spent 30 days in jail, and performed 800 hours of community service; he also forfeited his world hunting rights for three years (Williams 1991).
In another case, John Funderburg, the curator of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, acquired more than 1,800 animals as "specimens," many of them endangered, that had been killed by trophy-hunting acquaintances (Williams 1991). They were donated to the museum as tax-exempt, but had little scientific value because they lacked information about the location or date where they were killed, and many were merely heads mounted for hanging on walls. Scientific specimens consist of the skins of entire animals, or their skeletons. A number of the donated trophy animals mysteriously disappeared from the collection, apparently returned to the donors (Williams 1991). In exchange for financial "donations" to the museum, the trophy hunters received the title of "associate curator," with certificates that allowed them to misrepresent themselves to foreign wildlife officials in order to obtain permits to kill protected animals (Williams 1991). Funderburg urged the hunters to send him the trophy animals via private taxidermists to avoid the attention of authorities, but a five-year undercover investigation by Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement revealed all the details of this scam (Williams 1991).
The highly respected Smithsonian Institution has not been invulnerable to such unprincipled arrangements. A wealthy real estate developer, Kenneth Behring, pledged $20 million to the Institution's National Museum of Natural History in 1999, the largest donation in the 151-year history of the museum (Golden 1999). Behring, a trophy hunter and past president of Safari Club International, donated the remains of four endangered Central Asian wild sheep, including the Kara-Tau Argali (Ovis ammon nigrimontana) of Kazakhstan, listed as Critical by the 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, to the museum. This animal cannot be imported legally because it is listed on the US Endangered Species Act, but on behalf of Behring, the Smithsonian petitioned the Department of the Interior to waive the ban in order to have the trophy shipped into their collection (Golden 1999). This action set an unfortunate precedent for this august institution. Behring is also under investigation for illegally killing three bull elephants in Mozambique, in spite of a $20,000 "donation" he made to a local hospital in the province (Golden 1999). The head of Mozambique's wildlife department, Arlito Cuco, said that the hunt was illegal, "Because according to the law in Mozambique, you cannot hunt for sport" (Golden 1999).
Hunting magazines often glorify the pursuit of endangered species. An article in Sports Afield encouraged the hunting in Mexico of Jaguar, Ocelot, and "crested Guan," or Horned Guan (Oreophasis derbianus), a highly endangered pheasant-like bird (Anon. 1981). It noted parenthetically, "However, United States laws prohibit bringing in skins" (Anon. 1981).

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