The world’s largest big-game hunting club is putting 600 animal lives up for auction this week

Bidding time.
Bidding time.
Image: Safari Club International
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More than 20,000 big-game hunting enthusiasts will be in Las Vegas today (Feb. 3) for the annual Safari Club International (SCI) convention. The main events on the four-day agenda are auctions for hunting excursions around the world, including  opportunities to kill African elephants, Australian water buffalo, and Alaskan bears.

In addition to being the world’s largest trophy hunting club, SCI also has the dubious distinction of counting maligned Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer among its members. Palmer, as few news readers are likely to have forgotten, is the guy who killed a beloved Zimbabwean lion named Cecil in an illegal hunt in July 2015.

Trophy hunting has become increasingly controversial since Cecil’s death, and Palmer’s SCI membership was briefly suspended in the wake of the media storm that emerged after the kill; it has since been reinstated, according to the Humane Society.

The Humane Society, which opposes trophy hunting, counts 301 hunts that will be auctioned at this convention, promising a total of 600 animal kills obtained through sanctioned hunts around the world, at this convention. Attendees can bid on packages such as a 21-day, big-game safari in Tanzania “for one hunter and one observer,” worth $85,000 but not including trophy fees; a seven-day crocodile hunt in South Africa, worth $25,000 with a trophy fee included “for one crocodile scoring 8-10 feet” and discounted taxidermy services; and a 10-day Grizzly bear hunt in Alaska for one hunter, worth $16,000 including the trophy fee. Aside from a few tags being auctioned individually, none of the items includes legal licenses to kill, nor government tags or other permits required for legal hunts; hunters have to apply and pay for those themselves.

A variety of weapons, vehicles, collectors’ items, and trophies are also up for auction. Examples include a Brown Precision High Country Rifle valued at $8,600, a “50 million year old fossil fish mural” valued at $4,000, and a pair of blue mammoth tusks valued at $100,000.

The majority of SCI’s annual revenue comes from this convention, which the club advertises as the “Ultimate Hunters’ Market.” SCI says its two main areas of focus are “protecting hunters’ rights and promoting wildlife conservation,” and the club has an associated foundation, called the SCI Foundation, “that funds and manages worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation and outdoor education.”