Trophy Hunting & Poaching


Pay money to kill | Kill to make money | Making a killing

Trophy hunters shoot more animals in South Africa each year (almost 50,000 animals were shot by trophy hunters in 2011) than in any other country on the planet besides Canada. The hunting permits South Africa sells to foreign and local trophy hunters are death certificates for countless animals that are in some cases endangered species. The animals that get shot are sometimes wild animals that roam ‘free’ in large open areas, but many are kept in captive environments and are shot in these confined areas. The demand for certain species that are rare, or considered as prized trophy room specimens makes animal killing a lucrative business. To keep up with demand one needs to have a product, animals in this case are the ‘products’. These animals are sometimes bred just to become trophy specimens, and sometimes these breeding ‘factories’ force animals to live in confined, unnatural conditions, and they become reliant on man to feed them and make them look healthy and pristine. Many of these animals that are bred will become the targets for some wealthy person willing to pay for the price on its head. Poaching is also about money, someone pays someone to acquire a certain species they are after, the poachers then get money to go hunt down and kill the desired species. The valuable parts then get removed and smuggled illegally back to the person who paid for the body parts, in most cases these are endangered animals or animals with valuable body parts, like the horn of a rhino, the tusks of an elephant, the flesh of a pangolin or the bones of a lion. The animals that poachers go after in many cases are the same animals that trophy hunters choose to shoot for fun.


If one questions this whole notion of trophy hunting at this point one firstly asks why is there this need to kill wild animals, or to kill wild animals that are often simply bred as ‘living targets’? When asked why they like this ‘sport which involves the killing of an animal as a recreational activity, trophy hunters will say they do it for conservation or to help feed poor starving Africans who need the protein. Why do these locals not make weapons and go shoot their own protein supply? They do not do that because the animals have a high price tag, killing them without paying for the rights to do it makes you a poacher. Poachers go to jail, but if you are a trophy hunter you pay your ‘death tax’ and therefore you can shoot your purchased animal. Who decides how many animals can be shot each year? Who decides when it is unwise to kill a certain species because there are just too few available to shoot? The profits generated from selling the rights to shoot certain animals can corrupt many a person who decides the fate of these animals. How does one control these permit issuing decisions, how does one safely decide if you are killing too many? Is an obsession with collecting the world’s rare species so you can own a complete museum of things you have chosen to shoot with a gun at or arrow considered a healthy and sustainable pastime? You are killing so you can take that carcass back to your living room, cleaned up, propped up and made to look like a wild animal frozen in time. No life, no character, a ghost. Yours is a selfish decision, you take a life, turn its shell into a collectors piece for you to admire and brag about. A poacher does not hold onto his ‘prize’, it is sold on, turned into a product or an item that is valuable because of what it is made of or because of the supposed medicinal benefits it claims to have to those whom consume it. Poachers kill for profit, trophy hunters kill for prestige and the thrill of taking a life. The world sees poachers as criminals and killers, but yet trophy hunters are considered sportsmen?


There are an estimated 20 000 wild lions left in Africa, there are roughly 6 000 captive bred lions in South Africa. These captive bred lions lions can not be reintroduced back into the wilds, they are hand reared from birth by volunteers who pay to take care of the intentionally orphaned baby lions. They are taken away from their mothers just after they are born in order to force the female into oestrus again so she produces more baby lions. While they are cute and fluffy the tourists pay to either walk with them or play with them. To innocent tourists the whole ‘lion petting park’ thing seems entertaining, they take their selfies of themselves rolling around with a baby lion, but when the lion gets older and a bit dangerous to play with where do these cuddly toys go? They get sold as targets that rich people pay large sums of money to shoot at. The poor volunteer gap year students who thought they were paying lots of money to get the ‘once in lifetime experience’ of helping raise orphaned baby lions are victims to a big con, how cruel a trick is it to fool these innocent do gooders.

The adult lions are sold to hunting farms and kept in fairly small enclosures that they are unable to escape from. They have no survival skills, they are used to man feeding them meat. The hunter climbs on a vehicle, he or she is driven up to the lion, the lion approaches the vehicle expecting food like any other day but but instead meets its killer, or it comes to a dead carcass, laid down as bate for it, and is then shot. What a waste of life, how is this pleasurable in any way to anyone? After the shooting someone grabs a spade and puts a mound of sand below the lions lifeless head, they do this to make the lion look more imposing than its current ‘pathetic’ slumped state. Photos and videos of the trophy hunter and his ‘conquest’ are taken. These serve as a reminder of his thrill killing expedition, they also serve as a way to prove that this particular species was killed and can therefore be entered into the record books. Each life the trophy hunter takes raises his status in the hunting circles, it breeds envy as well in those who have still to get their sought after ‘lion’ or other hard to get species.

South Africa is the world’s top ‘canned’ lion hunting destination, the majority of lions shot in South Africa are shot on ‘canned’ hunting farms. About 800 lions are shot each year by trophy hunters in South Africa. It takes only three days to shoot a lion, you select your specimen from a photo you see online, you then pay the price of the chosen lion. You fly to South Africa, arrive at the lodge on day 1, have a few drinks, get entertained by stories told to you about brave near death hunting adventures. Day 2 you get to shoot at a target practice range, this is to make sure that you have the basic skills required to shoot a tame lion. On day 3 you are driven into the lion’s cage, from the safety of the vehicle you shoot the lion as it eats its meal or when it walks up to the vehicle it thinks has food for it to eat.


Tiger bone wine is made from bones of African lions because there are too few tigers left to kill for their bones. Some places that breed lions only do it so they can ‘harvest’ the lion’s bones when it is an adult. These breeders do not have to look after their lions and make them appear to be healthy and happy, they are just there so their bones can be used to make wine. Bones from trophy hunted lions also get sold to the ‘tiger bone wine’ market, the bones from lions shot in the past are even worth digging up to sell, so they must be worth a fair amount.

The trade in lion bones is not illegal, the shooting of up to 1,000 lions a year in South Africa and the breeding of lions for the lion bone market so far provide the ‘tiger bone wine’ manufacturers with sufficient bone matter to keep up with the demand for the product. Few lions are poached, the trophy hunters shoot enough of them. The bones of a lion shot by a trophy hunter are not used by the taxidermy specialist, wire and foam modelling products are used for the internal form of the dead animal. Just the skull is used.


The largest land based mammal on earth, sought after by trophy hunters because of the ‘dangers’ involved when one decides to shoot such a majestic beast, an intelligent member of our global community, an icon of strength and wisdom, an animal that can cover vast distances as they take their journeys across the plains of Africa. In the East the ivory is what they are after, ivory is a status symbol, it gets finely carved into ornaments, and sold at high prices. The money generated from the illegal sales in ivory is often used to fund terrorist organisations or other illegal activities. Every 15 minutes an elephant is slaughtered in Africa, up to 30,000 are being killed annually by poachers on the continent, they are being wiped out at an alarming rate. Territories are also becoming smaller due to human encroachment, putting further pressure on them to survive. Trophy hunters do not worry too much about the numbers, the rarer the better, the best specimen possible in terms of size of body and especially of the tusks is all they are interested in. Elephants are very sought after by the elite of the hunting community, the ones with the money that can afford the prices charged to shoot such a magnificent animal, and there are many who seem to be willing to pay to do it.

This is how many tusks CITES allowed trophy  hunters to export from the big six countries in 2015:

1,000 tusks Zimbabwe
300 tusks South Africa
200 tusks Tanzania
200 tusks Mozambique
180 tusks Namibia
160 tusks Zambia

Total of 2,2040 elephant tusks from six countries in Africa in 2015.

In 2015 a German trophy hunter killed one of Africa’s largest bull elephants in Zimbabwe, it was the biggest elephant to be shot by a trophy hunter in the last 60 years, there was outrage over this, but many other elephants that get shot die without any public outcry occurring. From 2003 to 2013, trophy hunters exported more than 28 tons of tusks from Zimbabwe. To shoot an elephant can cost up to $10,000, the money made by these hunts is generated from a business that employs very few people, and the money generated rarely trickles down to the communities that live in the areas where the elephants get shot. Money tends to land up in the hands of the company selling the hunt and the bank accounts of the government department issuing the permit or the hands of some official that sells the permit.

Elephant populations have dropped from over a million a hundred years ago to 400,000 in 2015, that is a 60% drop in population in 100 years. The bulk of elephants are being killed by poaching, the number of elephants being killed is threatening the long term prospects of the species survival, but yet many are still killed by trophy hunters, the one threat to the elephants, namely trophy hunting, can be banned outright, but the money seems to be too tempting to those who benefit from allowing elephants to be hunted in their countries by rich trophy hunters.
In 2016 there were over a thousand rhinos poached in South Africa. The surge in demand, the scarcity of the species and the market value of the horns, make the two African species of rhino, the black and white rhino, one of the most valuable commodities on earth, rhino horn is more valuable than gold per gram, but yet it has no real value. it is made of keratin, the same substance your fingernails are made of.

Breeders are wanting the trade in rhino horns legalised, if they get it right they stand to make loads of money overnight from selling the stockpiles of rhino horns they have accumulated. Currently it is illegal to export rhino horn as a product but one can bypass the rules by buying a permit to trophy hunt a rhino. This is how many Vietnamese ‘trophy hunters’ manage to bypass the law by exporting rhino horn that is classified as a trophy and not simply as a horn harvested for its commercial value. If the breeders get to mass breed them are these breeders going to treat the rhinos they own ethically? Removing a horn from a rhino is a majorly stressful experience for the rhino, what is stopping these rhino breeding farms from doing what the ‘canned lion’ breeders did, and start mass producing a species as a means of profiting from ‘canned hunts’ or rhino horn sales.

In 1996 John Hume, a game breeder in South Africa, paid $200,000 for three black rhino he bought from the wildlife department of KwaZulu-Natal. One of these rhino, a male was given the name ‘Number 65’. There are just over a thousand of these black rhino left in South Africa. Seven percent of the land in South Africa falls under the control of state run parks, a lot of the other wildlife areas are privately run game farms. Sometimes when space is limited the National Parks sell rhinos to these privately owned parks because they can not accommodate the rhinos they have under their care. Some of these parks are tourist parks that make money from the selling of game safaris to to international and local tourists. Some of these parks however are hunting farms or breeding farms that sell their stock to these hunting farms.

John Hume made his fortunes in taxis, hotels and time-shares, he owns a 6,500-hectare game farm named Mauricedale in the northeastern corner of South Africa. He also owns another property that breeds rhinos and other game. He is now the largest private owner of white rhinos in South Africa. ‘Number 65’, one of the three black rhinos Hume bought from the national park, became a troublesome rhino to him. It was a good fighter and would soon take over the territories of his competitors, along with the new claimed territory came the female rhinos that resided in the territory. ‘Number 65’ eventually had a large majority of the female population under his control, there was just one small problem, he failed to reproduce, he was sterile, and despite numerous attempts at copulation he proved to have no commercial worth as a breeder.

From 1970 to 1992, Africa’s black rhino population dropped from 65,000 to fewer than 2,500. The horns were worth large sums of money. It is carved and turned into high-priced dagger handles that are sold in the Middle East or it is ground and crushed and sold to the market in Asia. It is sold as an apparent medicinal cure to a variety of ailments. In reality it has no medicinal properties at all. By December 2003 the black rhino population had managed to rise to 3,610 black rhinos in South Africa. The head of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism of South Africa in 2004 persuaded two-thirds of the parities at CITES to vote in favor of allowing five permits to be issued for the shooting of a black rhinos past their prime, one of them would be ‘Number 65’.

Peter Thormählen, a South African professional hunter, obtained one of these permits and John Hume chose him to organise the hunting of ‘Number 65’. He went to America to find a trophy hunter who was interested in shooting a black rhino and managed to sell a seven day hunt for $150,000 to an anonymous buyer.

At dawn on July 23, 2005, the hunter who was not named by Peter Thormahlen in order to protect his name from being made public, shot ‘Number 65’ as he was having a dust bath. The rhino was unaware of the two approaching hunters up until the last minute, it stood up from the dust bath when it saw them and the hunter fired his first shot into the rhino’s skull. ‘Number 65’ remained standing after the first shot, he only dropped dead after the second bullet hit him. A government representative accompanied the two hunters on this hunt to ensure that it was all done according the legal requirements stipulated at the time by the government.

South Africa boasts that it is the world premier rhino hunting destination. Simultaneously though, more rhinos have been killed illegally in South Africa from 2008-2016 than at any other time in the last 100 years. The government and hunting organisations in 2009 admitted that the hunting permit system has been inefficiently administered and that it was used to launder rhino horns into the illegal medicine trade. To bypass the law against trading in rhino horn, Vietnamese ‘poachers’ decided to use trophy hunting as a way to legally obtain rhino horn and avoid the heavy penalties involved when caught illegally smuggling the horns out the country. Companies that trophy hunters pay to secure their desired species soon learnt that selling a rhino horn to a ‘Vietnamese trophy hunter’ is far more lucrative than selling trophy hunts to trophy hunters from the USA and other places.

Rhino Poaching South Africa 2005-2015:

2007 - 13 rhinos poached
2008  - 83 rhinos poached
2009  - 122 rhinos poached
2010  - 333 rhinos poached
2011  - 448 rhinos poached
2012  - 668 rhinos poached
2013  - 1004 rhinos poached
2014  - 1215 rhinos poached
2015  - 1175 rhinos poached

South African Department of Environmental affairs and Tourism issued 72 permits to trophy hunters to shoot rhinos in the Eastern Cape from 2008-2013:

13 Issued 2008
6 Issued 2010
14 Issued 2011
10 Issued 2012
12 Issued 2013

The number of permits issued for the entire country is unknown. These figures have not being published.

Pay as much as R 800,000 - R 1,300,00 and you can legally shoot a rhino (a rhino sells for about R550,000). Their commercial value and scarcity have made them a very pricey animal to shoot, but the profits made from selling their horns makes it a worthwhile price to pay by someone who is not even a hunter, but someone just posing as one so he can obtain the rhino horn without having to worry about the law. The government of South Africa sits on huge stockpiles of rhino horn and have considered lifting the ban on the trade in 2016. The abuse of the trophy hunting permits being used to kill rhinos to bypass the laws just shows how the trophy hunting business has generated profits by taking the gap where they saw a loop in the rhino protection laws. When the money is good the two normally opposing teams, the poachers and the trophy hunters, join forces to take advantage of legal loopholes in the system by taking men clearly not interested in trophy hunting on rhino hunts simply to harvest their horns.

Rhino horn is currently worth about $60,000 per kilogram. In 2014, 40 horns were stolen from a South African tourism organisation, these were worth about $14,600,000 on the black market (roughly $36,000 or R 530,000 rand per horn). The year before this another 66 horns were stolen from a South African game reserve. In 2011 trophy hunting of white rhinos generated almost R90,000,000 for the trophy hunting industry. Their value as a commodity and as a trophy specimen make the killing of rhinos a lucrative business, not only for poachers, but for those who sell trophy hunts. This income generating potential of the rhino makes it a highly threatened species on out planet. It is estimated that there will be no more rhinos left in 6 years time if the poaching and hunting of rhinos continues at its current rate.

When the trophy hunter wants something that he is not able to obtain legally he steps into the shoes of the poacher or pays someone to do his poaching in order to acquire his selected victim. This was what happened when Walter Palmer decided he wanted a lion from Zimbabwe. He claims that he did not know that he had shot a protected lion after he was caught, the man who arranged the hunt took the fall instead. He lured Cecil from the Hwange National Park by laying down the scent of a dead animal to lead Cecil to the bait. When Cecil appeared Walter Palmer shot the lion with a high powered bow. Cecil was not killed outright, he managed to escape and was then later tracked down by Walter Palmer and the guides and found 40 hours later, badly wounded from the arrow, but still alive. Cecil was then shot with a rifle and Walter Palmer thought he now had captured his ‘prized lion trophy’, but he was wrong, news broke out about the killing of a well known lion, loved by tourists, had been shot by a dentist from Minnesota. He never got to take his trophy back home. This incident attracted loads of media attention and the world united in uproar over the trophy hunter’s killing of a lion from a protected national park in Zimbabwe. Walter Palmer paid the ‘right people’ to get his perfect specimen and it was not the first time he had bent the law in order to acquire a hard to obtain species, he had illegally killed a bear in the USA and got into legal trouble over the circumstances in which he shot the bear. He is not the first trophy hunter to step on the wrong side of the law in order to get what he desires.

In 2010 Dawie Groenewald and his ten accomplices were arrested in South Africa for the killing of 59 rhinos and the selling of at least 384 rhino horns over a four-year period. Groenewald started selling rhino hunts on his farm ‘Prachtig’, in the Limpopo province of South Africa, as far back as 2008. His brother Janneman Groenewald, who had based himself in the USA to sell the rhino hunts, attended the meetings of hunting clubs and sold these hunts to the American hunters. They were told that they had obtained special permits to shoot ‘troublesome rhinos’ and that they unfortunately could not export the dead rhino as a trophy back the the USA due to the laws at the time prohibiting the trade in the rhino species. These hunters would pay for these illegal hunts and pose with the dead rhino so they could have proof of having shot them for their record books, but the body would be left behind. Dawie Groenewald would then sell the rhino’s horns on black market making money from both the hunters paying to shoot the animal and the selling of the horns. At a certain point Dawie Groenewald realised that the money he was being paid by these American hunters was minimal compared to what ‘trophy hunters’ from Vietnam were prepared to pay. People in the East who profited from the sale of rhino horn had discovered a loophole in the South African rhino protection laws. You could legally export a rhino out the country if it was shot as a trophy hunted animal. The opportunity to make loads of money by selling trophy hunts to these Vietnamese trophy hunters made Dawie Groenewald a very rich man. Many of these rhinos he sold to trophy hunters were sold to him by the South African National Parks who sold the rhino at public auctions. In 2008 SANPARKS made R22 million from the sale of rhinos and in 2009 they made R52 million. Many of these rhino were bought by hunting farms and would end up being shot by trophy hunters. Rhino that were being protected from poachers in National Parks end up being sold to establishments that sell them as hunting trophies. Poachers by creating a threat to rhinos in the National Parks forced the National Parks to sell their rhinos due to space limitations and fears about their safety, but in the end they suffer the same fate and get shot by a trophy hunter.


When too many animals are being wiped out by poachers it becomes harder to get permits to shoot animals that are facing extinction. To try get a species off these lists which make importation of these species harder or in some cases impossible, the big clubs like the Safari Club
International throw lots of money into the hands lawyers who fight for the hunting restrictions placed on certain species to be lifted for certain species, so as to allow trophy hunters to acquire them. Their argument is that trophy hunting benefits the communities where it takes place and that the money paid goes to these communities. This is however not true, the money goes to just a few, the local communities tend to just get the meat of the animal that gets shot by the trophy hunters. These trophy hunting clubs sometimes sponsor conservation projects, but this is used as a way to make the trophy hunting community look good in public and has little to do with conservation.

The SCI has a membership of about 55,000, 55% of these members earn an income of more than $100,000 per year. Two thirds of its members spend more than a month hunting each year and a quarter of them spend more than 50 days a year hunting according to the Humane Society. On their website they claim to have spent $140 million since 2000 on protecting the freedom to hunt through policy advocacy, litigation and education for federal and state legislators to ensure hunting is protected for future generations. The SCI aims to basically weaken or eliminate species protections. It litigates to remove protections from most endangered, rare and iconic species for elite trophy hunting, including elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos.

An Italian professional hunter and his son who did voluntarily work with an anti-poaching unit in the Mana Pools area in Zimbabwe got shot by a member of another anti-poaching team early in 2016. One wonders why would a trophy hunter become involved in anti-poaching? Is it because too much poaching is bad for the trophy hunting business? If the poaching gets out of control it threatens certain species more than others, helping with anti-poaching work can only help your business when it comes to getting the permits you require to shoot threatened species like the elephant or rhino. Sometimes to beat the bigger enemy one has to make friends with your less dangerous enemy, those who are prepared to pay money to kill animals if you grant them the necessary permits to do so. Helping finance these anti-poaching units is good public relations, so sometimes one will hear of professional hunters and anti-poaching units helping one another. When it is good public relations  the trophy hunters will aid conservation initiatives like anti-poaching patrols, but when there is money to be made the trophy hunters will happily work with poachers to make money. The lack of ethics in the trophy hunting world is a major threat to wildlife on this planet, money and greed will always influence people’s decision making powers.


One might ask if there is any place in South Africa where animals are safe from trophy hunters and one would think the answer would be ‘yes’, in the countries National Parks trophy hunting is not allowed and the only threat in these parks is poaching. One of the largest national parks in South Africa is the Kruger National Park, it is the largest state owned wildlife park in the country. The fences between the Kruger Park and its neighbouring parks were taken down in recent years to create a larger area for the animals to roam. These neighbouring reserves are called Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR - Timbavati, Klaserie, Balule and the Umbabat Private Nature Reserves and the Makuya and Mthimkhulu Provincial Nature Reserves are some of these). The animals in the Kruger Park can now move freely from the Kruger Park into these reserves. Some of these reserves are like the Kruger Park and offer game drives and opportunities to see the animals in their natural environment, but some of these APNR are hunting areas and sell trophy hunts to generate an income. They are issued permits by the government to allow for a certain number of species to be shot by trophy hunters on their properties. These animals are however not only animals that are born and raised on their properties, but also animals that come from the Kruger Park. The fact that even the animals that are meant to be protected by the state are being shot legally by trophy hunters who get permits issued by the authorities who are aware of the fact that these animals could have been originally from the Kruger Park is concerning. When will we draw the line between what is right and wrong? Will we sell every animal we have to these trophy hunters from abroad?

Of the 28,000,000 hectares of land used for wildlife in South Africa, only 7,500,000 is state owned, so about 70% of land used to raise and house wildlife is in the hands of private individuals or companies. Why is it then that trophy hunters can still gain access to animals in protected reserves owned by the state? Is it because they are wanting certain species that are not available on these private farms or is it because the money made from the selling of these hunting permits is going towards keeping the countries national parks afloat because the government is failing to provide adequate funding from its tax revenues?


First time I learnt what extinction truly meant was when I asked my parents what the saying ‘as dead as a dodo’ meant. It was not a nice word to learn, but it opened my eyes to the world and the sometimes cruel nature of man. How many species will I see go extinct in my lifetime? How many more animals will be shot either by trophy hunters or poachers? In 2007 the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) published information that stated that 16,000 foreign hunters had come to South Africa that year and shot 48,000 animals and that the figures were increasing each year. That is a lot of killing, that is a lot of pain, for what? Money and the thrill of taking an animal’s life? The differences between poaching and trophy hunting and their sometimes questionable grey areas is to me proof that if these activities are allowed to continue we will be seeing a lot more animals disappear like the dodo did years back. The animals that generate the most money are the ones we need to be concerned about as a matter of urgency. Trophy hunting of white rhinos in South Africa in 2011 earned the industry R87,337,500 and the trophy hunting of lions generated R79,265,625. Both these animals are under threat, but yet South Africa is the top seller of trophy hunts when it comes to these two species. Is an animal not worth more to us and future generations than the profits made from selling its head as a trophy? The tourism industry in South Africa is worth R95 billion, but only R1.2 billion is made from hunting, one in seven people earn a living from the tourism industry. If we continue to promote ourselves as one of the worlds top destinations for trophy hunting are we not running the risk of killing the part of the business that generates the most money? Selling death is making a handful of people very rich, but the majority of the people see no or very little financial reward from this business that involves the killing of animals.

Income From Trophy Hunting 2011:

Buffalo R149,775,000
White Rhino R87,337,500
Lion R79,265,625
Kudu R37,814,400
Sable R36,735,000
Total: R390,927,525

Income From Local Hunting 2010

Kudu R972,750
Blue Wildebeest R646,898
Eland R566,300
Impala R456,820
Gemsbok R433,511
Total: R3,076,279

Income Generated by Trophy Hunting 2011

Species Fees (49,040 taken) $96,000,000
Daily Rates $29,000,000
Total: $125,000,000

Income Generated by Local Hunters 2010

Game fees R2,97 billion
Average Expenses R2,59 billion
Total: R5.56 billion