Watch: This is where our critically endangered species end up… in a dusty auction house of horrors in Iowa
Tanya Waterworth
27th November 2021

There should be a “zero hunting quota” put in place for elephant, black rhino and leopards.

That was the comment from Humane Society International Africa (HSI) as public participation closed on November 8 for a proposed hunting/export quota for elephant, black rhino and leopard hunting trophies.

Put forward by Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) Minister Barbara Creecy, the proposal, dated October 8 2021, gave 30 days’ notice for public participation in the form of written representations or objections for an annual quota for the three species for the 2021 calendar year. This time frame indicates this quota would be for next month.

The request for the hunting quota comes in the same month that the United States-based Humane Society International (HSI) revealed an undercover investigation on November 2, which laid bare “the auction house of horrors” in Iowa, US, which saw more than 500 hunting trophies which are no longer wanted going to the highest bidder.

These included “grotesque home decor such as tables and lamps made from giraffe legs and feet, tables made from African elephant feet and juvenile giraffe taxidermy”, said the report. Also for sale were two giraffe skulls and three full giraffe bodies and rugs made from animals such as zebras, grizzly bears and mountain lions.

Unwanted hunting trophies sold off at an auction house in Iowa, US, exposed by an undercover investigation by the Humane Society International. HUMANE SOCIETY US

A baby giraffe was punted as “the perfect size that can go in about any room in the house”.

Investigators also found hippo teeth, giraffe legs, and bones described as being “great for crafts” and “a dusty box labelled elephant ears and skin,” while photographs taken during the investigation showed a number of “trophy heads”, including zebra. There were also two hollowed elephant feet which auctioneers said: “would make a nice trash can”.

Giraffe taxidermy at the auction in Iowa.

HSI United States CEO Kitty Block said in the report: “It is unconscionable that not only are these threatened and endangered species of wild animals killed by trophy hunters, but the souvenirs from these hunts are ultimately mothballed and sold off at a fairground full of unwanted animal body parts. This massive display of animal death is a devastating snapshot of what it looks like when species are being pushed to the brink of extinction.”

One auction staffer told HSI investigators that “realtors tell homeowners to get rid of those ’dead critters’ when staging a house for sale.”

HSI president Jeffrey Flocken said: “It is deeply saddening to see this final stage of trophy hunting, where these majestic species are relegated to an auction house floor instead of fulfilling their role in their respective populations and ecosystems.”

Commenting this week on the shocking findings in the auction house, HSI Africa Wildlife director Dr Audrey Delsink said: “Investigations such as these are a shocking reminder that once vibrant and ecologically significant animals, including endangered species, are reduced to nothing more than dusty laurels or bizarre furnishings from hunting trophies”.

Delsink said HSI-Africa had noted the minister’s draft policy paper, saying that public participation was fundamental in allowing the public to voice concern and to help protect African animals who are classified as critically endangered and vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

She said the Minister’s Draft Policy Position acknowledged the risks of unethical and unregulated management and added: “We consider that hunting may be inconsistent with the stated consideration for welfare and wellbeing. As such, a zero hunting quota for these vulnerable species should be considered pending policy finalisation and regulatory review.”

She said that in the absence of any quotas, hunting of any of these three species would be prohibited.

Delsink said that not only were endangered species hunted, but also “a myriad other species”, including various antelope, baboons, genets, honey badgers, small cats and vervet monkeys.

A 2020 global assessment of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of the African savanna elephant published in 2021, assessed the species as endangered and as separate from the forest elephant for the first time. A regional assessment established that elephants were not yet endangered in South Africa, which has a population of more than 30 000.

The Black Rhino was listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List 2020. The species suffered a population decline of 85% between 1973-2017, with only 2 046 black rhino left in 2017.

Leopards were listed as vulnerable as per a 2015 global assessment, which was amended in 2019. In South Africa, studies demonstrate that leopard populations are declining at about 11% per annum.

While the proposed quota has been reported as 150 elephants, 10 black rhinos and 10 leopards, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment had not responded to questions sent to them at time of going to press. This included clarifying the time frame for the quota and whether such quota would be extended into 2022.

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