Americans Killed More Wild Animals Than Anyone Could Have Imagined

Over the past 15 years, 1.2 million animals have been killed by Americans who traveled overseas to snag their trophies, according to a thoroughly chilling investigation by NBC Bay Area. That breaks down to about 70,000 animals each year. Many of these animals are endangered, threatened or near-threatened species.

If the numbers aren't staggering enough, the regulation of these imports sounds like a losing battle, since violations abound. In the Bay Area, according to the report, there are only four wildlife inspectors who only have time to inspect 50 percent of trophies shipped back to the states through that region.

In the past five years, there have been 2,963 documented violations in the U.S. - such as hidden trophies, or skins rolled up in other skins - and a majority of the violations (54 percent) related to the Endangered Species Act. Because of spotty oversight of U.S. trophy hunting imports, poachers can take advantage of the system to bring back carcasses and sell them on the black market.

When Walter Palmer gunned down Cecil the lion in July, 69 other African lions were being slaughtered by U.S. trophy hunters that month. In the last 15 years, 7,297 lion trophies were brought back to the U.S.

Perhaps the most chilling part? The bears, wolves, deer, birds and other animals U.S. hunters kill each year right here in their home country: over 200 million.

Read NBC Bay Area's full report here.

Add your name to a petition urging the major airlines to stop shipping these trophies here.