Sunday, August 18, 2019

International Trophy Hunting, Part 1 - Killing a Leopard is a case study

Back in 2015 there was an international uproar over the trophy killing of Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion. Two years later the uproar renewed over the similar killing of his son, Xanda. You can find several posts at Scriber’s web site by a search for Cecil lion. I resume the story now with the late 2018 trophy killing of an African leopard and the 2019 report on trophy killings by the Congressional Research Service. The market for such trophies is, of course, whetted by the United States’ appetite for such gruesome art. We are by far the biggest importer of trophies.

Killing a leopard asks: Does This Photograph Show ‘Brittany L’ After Killing a Leopard? A photograph posted by Safari Club International went viral after being shared by outraged animal-lovers. (Published 17 September 2018)

The Claim: A photograph shows a woman named “Brittany L” on a hunting expedition, holding a recently-killed leopard.

Snopes’ Rating: True

In September 2018, a photograph went viral on social media along with a caption which claimed it showed a woman named “Brittany L.” holding a leopard she had just killed during a hunting expedition.

On 10 September, the wildlife artist Sue Dickinson posted the photograph to her Facebook page along with a message which read as follows:

This is Brittany L. She just killed this male leopard in his prime. According to SCI (Safari Club International) this leopard ranks as potentially the 9th largest leopard ever hunted. She’s a cretin. Please share if you agree. Let’s name and shame her.

Dickinson’s post was shared hundreds of thousands of times within a week and was re-published through multiple accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, including the supermodel Naomi Campbell.

The image is authentic and captures a woman posing with a real leopard that she herself killed.

The photograph was first posted on 7 September 2018 to the web site of Safari Club International, a hunting organization based in Tucson, Arizona, as part of a group of new entries into the organization’s online record book:

SCI members share their hunter pride

SCI Members hunt all over the globe, and are proud to share their successes. By entering their successful hunts in the SCI Record Book, they are not only documenting their hunting legacy for future generations, they are also adding to one of the largest and most comprehensive wildlife databases in the world.

The URL of the controversial photograph contains the words “Brittany L” and “leopard,” so it was reasonable for internet users to deduce that the woman shown with the leopard had the first name Brittany and a surname beginning with the letter “L.” Indeed, we can confirm that Brittany L. is the woman shown in the photograph (rather than the name of the person who submitted it to SCI’s record book).

On 7 September, SCI posted more details about “Brittany L.’s” leopard photograph on, a website affiliated with the organization. That blog post has since been removed, but we obtained an SCI newsletter email dated 7 September with content identical to the blog post’s embedded in it (despite the post’s having been removed from itself).

That blog post described the contentious photograph as follows: “Brittany L. is featured here with her African leopard that potentially ranks number 9 overall and scores 18 4/16.”

According to SCI, in defense of “Brittany L.” and the practice of hunting leopards: “Brittany Longoria is a philanthropist and develops ecotourism strategies for village communities in South and East Africa. Working in Africa since 2000, she unites governments, indigenous peoples and investors through local conservation projects. Sustainable hunting is part of their strategy. The goal: secure income for the local population and protection of native wildlife through their sustainable use. The best protection for the big cat and its prey: sustainable use.”

The bigger picture

This Photo Of A Woman Posing With A Leopard She Killed Sparks Mass Outrage. Big-game hunting enthusiasts say that their activities actually benefit wildlife conservation, and animal rights groups couldn’t disagree more.

A picture of a woman posing with a leopard that she apparently killed has made the rounds on the internet and ignited mass outrage from animal lovers and wildlife conservationists alike.

The image was originally posted by the hunter’s enthusiast group known as Safari Club International (SCI). The photo was posted on Sept. 7 to the site’s blog as a part of a collection titled, “SCI Members Share Their Hunter Pride.” The images are a part of the “SCI Record Book” — an international hunting record-keeping database for members of the group.

[Super model Doutzen] Kroes added her own caption to the image, in which she writes:

“How can you find pride and pleasure in killing a beautiful animal like this large male Leopard. The woman in the picture should be ashamed of herself! I find this disgusting and I’m so upset, sad and angry that this still happens!!”

Big-game hunting is a widely-debated topic among wildlife enthusiasts and big-game hunters. Hunters argue that their activities actually promote conservation. For example, after Corey Knowlton bid $350,000 to hunt and kill an endangered black rhino in Namibia in 2014, the money he paid went directly to government wildlife conservation anti-poaching efforts.

Indeed, SCI also states on their website that the organization “funds and directs worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation and outdoor education.”

But animal rights groups argue otherwise and assert that governments which argue big-game hunting is a viable conservation strategy are completely outlandish.

According to The Humane Society, African leopards have suffered a population decline in sub-Saharan Africa of more than 30 percent in the past 25 years.

The even bigger picture

Here s the Humane Society’s 2016 report, African leopards a step closer to endangered species list, protection from trophy hunters.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that all leopards may qualify for “endangered” status under the Endangered Species Act. The decision comes in response to a legal petition submitted in July 2016 by the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Center for Biological Diversity and The Fund for Animals.

Leopards are at risk of extinction across their African and Asian range, having suffered a population decline in sub-Saharan Africa of more than 30 percent in the past 25 years, in part due to unsustainable trophy hunting by Americans. Yet due to a loophole in place since 1982, hundreds of leopard trophies per year have been imported into the United States without proper scrutiny by the federal government or scientific experts. In 2014, hunters imported 311 leopard trophies into the U.S.

In making its decision, the agency found that the group’s petition presented substantial scientific evidence that endangered protections may be warranted. The decision kicks off a comprehensive review of the status of the species.

Teresa M. Telecky, Ph.D, director of the wildlife department at HSI, said: “African leopard numbers are plummeting and as the largest leopard trophy importer in the world, the United States has taken a critical step toward ensuring that our consumption does not threaten the survival of this species.”

Jeff Flocken, IFAW’s North America regional director, said: “This is a crucial step forward in saving these imperiled animals. We thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for recognizing that enhanced protections under U.S. law may be warranted.”

Anna Frostic, senior wildlife attorney for the HSUS, said: “Initiating a status review of the species is long overdue and it is imperative that FWS expeditiously conclude this process and take action to increase oversight of African leopard trophy imports, as required by law.”

Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “Leopards in Asia and northern Africa have long been recognized as endangered, and the United States must extend this same level of protection to all leopards to reverse their disturbing decline.”


  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the leopard population has declined by more than 30 percent in the past 25 years, and the species has lost 48–67 percent of its historic range in Africa.
  • Between 2005–2014, at least 10,191 individual leopards were traded internationally as hunting trophies, with the U.S. as the top importer (accounting for 45 percent of this trade).
  • The number of leopard trophy imports has remained over 300 per year since 1999, despite commitments from FWS in 1982 to only allow “very few” leopard trophies into the country.
  • Panthera pardus is listed on CITES Appendix I, which prohibits international trade for commercial purposes, but this international agreement does not prohibit trade in hunting trophies.
  • Competition for records and prizes, such as Safari Club International’s “Grand Slam Cats of the World” and others, drive wealthy trophy hunters to seek out the world’s rarest animals and encourage trophy hunting at a time when the long-held belief that such killing aided conservation efforts is crumbling under increasing evidence that ecotourism boosts economies more than hunting expeditions (PDF).
  • Trophy hunting is under increased scrutiny following the 2015 killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

For the biggest picture, see the accompanying post, “International Trophy Hunting, part 2 - Congressional Research Service reports”

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