Here's How Much It Really Costs To Kill A Lion

<p>Derek Keats / <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr</a> (<a href="" target="_blank"></a>)</p>

Trophy hunting is big business. The industry employs ranchers, outfitters, professional hunters, gun manufacturers, and taxidermists alike. People with time, money and a propensity for killing, keep the business going at the rate of $200 million a year.

55 percent of trophy hunters bring home an annual salary over $100,000. This makes it easy for them to afford the hunt. Here's a breakdown of one camp's cost for an average hunt:

  • $450 per night for accommodations
  • $200 per night for non-hunting day(s)
  • $550 per gun per day
  • $14,500 for a buffalo or $22,000 for a lion (trophy fees vary according to animal)
  • Air transport, taxidermy, trophy packing and shipping extra

In addition some hunters have group memberships ($1,500 membership fee) to elite clubs such as Safari Club International. These clubs sponsor killing competitions. There are awards given to the most animals slaughtered. And they even keep a record book listing names of who killed what animal, when.

Good news if you make a living out of dead animals, bad news for the environment, for the safari/tourism industry, and the animals.

Each year tens of thousands of animals are killed by US hunters in foreign countries. The body parts are legally imported back into the US. (While the Endangered Species Act only allows importation of endangered species for scientific research, there are loopholes allowing trophy imports.)

Pro-trophy hunters argue this is good for conservation. Their stance is that the money spent on the hunt is poured back into the community for conservation efforts.

In reality, research published by the International Council by Game and Wildlife Conservation (a pro-hunting group), shows only 3 percent of revenue from hunts goes back to the communities.

In contrast, ecotourism is a $77 billion global industry; employing tour operators, guides, lodge and restaurant employees, vehicle drivers, park guards and people who benefit from the sale of souvenirs.

Photo: Håkon Thingstad / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Conservation is about protecting a species and environment. Killing seems a complete contradiction. Serious about conserving? Put the money toward donations or a safari trip where the only shooting is with a camera.

Taking conservation seriously is the only way to protect the rhino, lion, and elephant among others, is to ban hunting of endangered species all together, at least until trade in parts is under control. With poaching so widespread, it is too difficult to distinguish so-called legal horn or tusk from illegal.

The Safari Club International protects the hunter via lobbying the US Congress to weaken the Endangered Species Act and petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service not to list certain species as threatened or endangered.

But with the Endangered Species Act open to thrill seeking hunter lobbyists, who protects the animals?