Shooting wild animals in Africa — including elephants, giraffes and lions — was promoted to WA hunting enthusiasts at an expo in Perth this month.
The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia’s Shot Expo last weekend included Ian Head’s World Safari Xpeditions, which spruiks adventures costing up to $56,000 for a 21-day lion-hunting safari and $24,000 for a 14-day elephant safari.
For an extra cost of up to $30,000, hunters could buy an elephant bull trophy, which includes the tusks.
Trips were promoted to various African countries, including South Africa and Zambia, and most safaris were on private land.
The expo was attended by several politicians, including Federal Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie and Pauline Hanson from One Nation.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy said hunters were not allowed to import their hunting trophies, including elephant tusks, unless documentation proved the animal was killed before 1976.
The status of African elephants is listed as vulnerable, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and since 1976 they have been listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
While the Australian Government is considering tightening the trade of pre-CITES certified ivory, the US Government has lifted the ban on Americans bringing tusks and other elephant parts back into the country as trophies.
Poaching and habitat loss remain the biggest threats to the elephant population, which has dropped from five million about 100 years ago to about 400,000. Some conservation groups believe that hunting has also contributed to poaching.
Supporters of big-game hunting and the Trump administration claim that money from safaris, including permits, helped in the conservation of wild animals, including elephants, by supporting anti-poaching initiatives.
Mr Head said his business and other safari operators he was associated with promoted “responsible hunting which helped generate funds for conservation”.
He said all animals killed during hunting trips were eaten, mostly by locals, while money from tours generated employment and funded anti-poaching projects.
He said much of the meat was “exceptionally good”, particularly zebras. He said elephant meat was tough but tasty but he didn’t like hippo meat.
He said young big-game animals were not targeted by hunters, who instead shot older animals that were towards the end of their life, or “problem animals” that were a danger to communities or farms.
Mr Head said he sometimes received backlash from the Australian public over the hunting trips but it was normally due to people’s “ignorance” about the sport.
He said African countries that had banned hunting were now facing wild animal population decline due to poaching.
The website for World Safari Xpeditions includes photographs of hunters posing with animals they have killed, including elephants and zebras.
According to a guidebook on the SSAA website, the organisation “discourages hunters from taking photographs of hunters sitting atop their hard-won trophy, as we believe this cheapens the activity of hunting, as well as the animal”.
SSAA and Ms McKenzie’s office did not respond to requests for comment.