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SOS Rhino : In the News : SAFARI SLAUGHTER
 

SAFARI SLAUGHTER

  Dec 1 2003
By Ryan Parry
MIRROR.co.uk

WEALTHY British businessmen are paying up to £40,000 to slaughter endangered animals on hunting holidays to Africa, North America and Eastern Europe.

These "trophy hunters" are forking out huge sums to blast rare rhino, lions and elephants on the highly-organised safaris.

Wild game are tracked, killed and then stuffed so clients can ship their bloody souvenirs home.

And the venture - which amazingly is not illegal - is being organised by travel firms in the UK for more than 700 British customers every year.

Companies specialising in safaris and sporting holidays are advertising the slaughter packages over the internet and customers can book online using a credit card.

One website, www.sporting agent.com, offers VIP clients the chance to slaughter the "Big Five" - buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino from less than £300 a day.

The packages, known as trophy hunts, offer trips to the world's most exotic locations to hunt and kill wild game.

Other animals being offered as targets include cheetahs, hippos, polar bears, grizzlies and mountain lions.

This shocking "entertainment" has been exposed by investigators from animal rights group League Against Cruel Sports.

Records of permits obtained for importation of 'trophy parts' back to the UK reveal that in the past six years at least 40 African elephants, 32 leopards, 26 American black bears, 18 polar bears, 16 cougars, 10 grizzly bears, seven cheetahs, six lions and six hippopotamuses have been killed.

In a two-month undercover investigation League workers posed as wealthy thrill-seekers looking for a new challenge.

T HEY approached a string of reputable UK travel firms and were shocked at what they discovered.

Berkshire-based firm Roxton Bailey Robinson is one of many companies which specialises in sport shooting, safaris and fishing holidays.

But when investigators rang Roxton they were offered the chance to travel to British Columbia in Canada to shoot up to six grizzly bears.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species grizzlies are listed as vulnerable to exploitation for their trophy parts.

Not surprisingly, Roxton makes no mention of this activity on its main website or in its brochures.

On a different occasion, investigators walked into the Roxton shop in Hungerford, Berkshire, and secretly filmed a sales assistant offering them a chance to shoot baboons and zebras at the Ant's Nest game reserve in South Africa's Northern Province.

Employee Colette Ingledew said she could arrange a trip for as little as £180 per person.

She described how hunters would get up "really early" to track and kill game animals for either trophy purposes or culling.

Hunters there can choose to track and kill a range of species, including baboon (trophy fee £40), eland, oryx, impala, waterbuck, jackal, warthog (trophy fee £145) and zebra (trophy fee £550) either by stalking on foot with a rifle or on horse back.

Last night a Roxton spokeswoman denied the company had any involvement in trophy hunting.

She said: "We do not sell hunting, we don't book hunting, we don't encourage people to go hunting.

"We are an eco-safari company. If you want to go and look at elephants or look at crocodiles, that's not a problem."

Another large firm linked with trophy hunting trips is Holland and Holland, the royal gunsmith based in Mayfair and best known for supplying guns to the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.

It has also supplied shotguns to celebrities such as Madonna and her husband, Guy Ritchie.

The firm boasts of its long history of hunting in Africa, saying: "In the last 100 years it is probable that more game has been shot in Africa by visiting sportsmen and professional hunters using Holland and Holland rifles than any other make."

It adds that its Kihurumira camp in Tanzania is one of the best in Africa, claiming, "you have the best opportunity possible for an extremely successful hunt, particularly for elephant, buffalo, big black-maned lion, leopard and kudu... due to the abundance of game and the massive area that is seldom reached by hunting parties.

"Quotas for certain animals are generous and trophy fees are generally lower."

Posing as customers, investigators approached Holland and Holland and were told they could hunt down a male elephant at their Matetsi camp in Zimbabwe for the trophy fee of £10,000.

And on different occasions staff offered the chance to hunt cheetah for £2,000, crocodile for £2,000, hippo for £2,000 and lion for £4,500.

Prices quoted by Holland and Holland for package trips in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa start from £240 per person, per night, including full board, airport transfers, safari fee, a licensed professional hunter, a tracker, skinning of trophies and government and other licensing fees. Dead trophy animals are shipped to South Africa where they are stuffed, mounted and sent back to the UK by a specialist taxidermist.

Bizarrely, when we rang Holland and Holland asking to speak to somebody about trophy hunting they said they had stopped doing trips last December and directed us to speak to Roxton.

Roxton later described this as a "miscommunication".

They claimed to arrange all package holiday deals for Holland and Holland but to have nothing to do with hunting trips of any description. Another London-based firm, Pemba Adventures, specialises in tailor-made sporting holidays to New Mexico and the American South West but investigators quickly established that the company can also arrange fox hunting-style trips in which mountain lions are hunted with vicious dogs.

Pemba also boasts of being able to arrange the hunting of the protected black bear.

Last night Rupert Mayhew freely admitted his company arranges hunting trips.

He said: "It's not illegal, it's all about animal quota.

"January is the best time of year to hunt mountain lion. The hunters use snow in the mountains to track the cats.

"It is much easier to hunt on horseback... but we can arrange to hunt on foot."

He added: "Either way, it is an exhilarating experience."

Another company, the Arctic Discovery Outfit, based in Cumbria offers the chance to track and kill moose in Lapland.

They use unleashed dogs, controlled by handlers who wait until a moose has been located and bolted before shooting it with rifles.

The firm offers hunting in the "beautiful unspoilt wilderness with ancient forests, big mountains, high fells and crystal clear rivers", adding: "the supply of game is very good."

A SPORTING agent responded to our investigator's inquiry with a breakdown of trophy prices.

Mark Curtis told us it would cost us £40,000 to shoot rhino, £7,500 for lion and leopard, £6,999 for buffalo and £10,000 upwards for elephant.

This hard-hitting investigation will send shockwaves through the world of wildlife conservation.

A report compiled by the League Against Cruel Sports is published today revealing that trophy hunting is expanding internationally.

The report, Wild About Killing, claims that in parts of South Africa trophy hunting represents almost 70 per cent of the annual revenue brought in from foreign tourism.

The region is also believed to have 4,000 big game reserves catering for hunting, with over 50 million acres devoted to game ranching.

Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "Trophy hunting is a bloody business. It starts in the UK, with organisations that promote it, and organisations that sell it.

"If people knew more about this awful business they would demand it be stopped today.

"The League aims to put the facts before the people, by naming and shaming those involved in this vile sport."

A World Wildlife Federation spokesman said: "Amazingly, anyone can shoot a lion or an elephant within the law if they have enough money.

"Travel companies can easily get hold of the relevant hunting permits and African governments sell the animals off to gain revenue."