We all know about trophy hunting – and we regularly see famous faces hounded for posing with endangered animals that are tragically killed for sport. But very few people know that CITES, the multilateral treaty that allegedly protects endangered species, exempts trophy hunting from its scope, giving hunters across the world a licence to kill.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty granting degrees of protection to over 35,000 species. As an ‘Appendix I’ species, trade in tiger body parts is banned under all but ‘exceptional circumstances’. Yet despite being one of the most endangered species on earth, tigers are still being shot by hunters for sport as one species of many that are the victims of the so-called ‘canned hunting’ industry – where animals are bred in captivity and shot in enclosures.
In South Africa for instance, dozens of businesses are breeding tigers including for the purpose of offering tiger hunts to tourists. Once killed, these tigers become trophies, or have their bones and skins harvested to export around the globe. Of the tiger body parts which CITES shows as having been traded as trophies, a number end up in the UK – and the trade in tigers is on the rise. In the last decade alone, trophy hunters have imported over 2,500 animal parts of threatened species into the UK.
This country now has a historic opportunity to be one of the most progressive countries on earth, with a total ban on trophy hunters bringing their souvenirs back to the UK. This would be a vital first step towards concerted international action to ban trophy hunting for good.
Polling shows that the UK public is on the right side of this debate, with 76% of voters wanting a trophy hunting import ban on all species, not just endangered animals. Boris Johnson has also shown his support for the ban, and as Foreign Secretary was instrumental in banning the trade in ivory. Yet after a 12-week consultation that ended in February, and after promises from Boris Johnson at the despatch box, the Government continues to drag its feet over the issue, and legislation is yet to be moved.
This is why, on this World Tiger Day, we the founders of Planet Shine and the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting are calling on Boris Johnson to put his money where his mouth is, and lead the world once more by outlawing the spoils of trophy hunting from being imported and sold in this country – before tigers are a species of the past.