Trophy Hunting Poses Threat to African Primates

Baboons and vervet monkeys among most targeted species by trophy hunters.

By Ruby Vise-Thakor

Primates are commonly killed by trophy hunters. While it’s shocking to think about humans killing animals so similar to us, the fact remains that African monkeys are being killed in droves. They are among the most targeted animals by trophy hunters from around the world. PASA stands firmly against the barbaric practice of trophy hunting.

Here’s what you need to know to help advocate against the trophy hunting of African primates.

What is trophy hunting?

Trophy hunting is the practice of killing animals for the purpose of displaying their stuffed bodies or animal parts as hunting trophies. In most cases, trophy hunters from wealthy countries crisscross the globe, sometimes spending tens of thousands of dollars to hunt exotic animals for their selfish enjoyment. In Africa, trophy hunters often pay huge fees to shoot large and rare animals like lions, leopards, elephants, or rhinos.

Yet smaller animals also fall victim to trophy hunting, such as African primates. One can find disturbing videos online of trophy hunters shooting monkeys for fun. In fact, monkeys are even regularly treated as “target practice” by trophy hunters as they track larger game.

Baboons are among the most commonly targeted primates by trophy hunters.

The scope of the primate trophy hunting trade.

Astonishingly, researchers found that exports of primate trophies more than doubled in recent decades. Numerous African primate species are among the most targeted species by international trophy hunters, including chacma baboons, vervet monkeys, and yellow baboons. An analysis of the trade data of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) found that chacma baboons ranked the fifth highest trophies imported and exported internationally, after American black bears, Hartmann’s Mountain zebras, African leopards, and African elephants.

The United States is by far the largest importer of hunting trophies, and Americans are responsible for the deaths of nearly 890 hunted primates annually. On the other side of the equation, South Africa is the largest exporter of primate trophies, especially chacma baboons and vervet monkeys. In the country alone, over 400 tour operators advertise monkey hunting.

Trophy hunting undermines protection of primates.

The trophy fees to hunt primates are extremely low, as little as $20 in many cases. Worse, it’s common for primates to be shot free of charge, “opportunity kills” that are thrown in as part of the larger hunting package. Regardless of the price – the financial aspect is not enough to offset the conservation impact, an argument that is frequently made to justify trophy hunting.

In fact, trophy hunting of primates serves no conservation purposes.

There is a sinister carry over effect of trophy hunting, too. Because some monkeys are considered “nuisance” species, when foreign trophy hunters deliberately shoot monkeys for their personal enjoyment, this practice encourages the slaughter of other African primates and severely undermines local conservation efforts to protect these animals. Additionally, trophy hunting is especially problematic for animals with complex social dynamics like primates and can upset the delicate balance of wild primate troops.

Some monkey species are considered “nuisance” species by local communities. Allowing trophy hunting of them reinforces this idea. ©Vervet Monkey Foundation.

What can be done to end primate trophy hunting?

As the largest association of wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, PASA strives to protect primates and their wild habitats on multiple fronts. First, we work with the 23 sanctuaries in our Alliance to support the rescue and rehabilitation of primates in need. Next, we amplify our members’ frontline efforts by collaborating with government partners and like-minded civil society organizations, and by representing the sanctuaries’ voices in multilateral conventions. Third, we rally compassionate animal lovers around the globe to speak out against shameful – and deadly – practices like trophy hunting.

PASA’s Head of Campaigns and Policy, Iris Ho, who has worked extensively against trophy hunting, said “Killing primates for thrill-seeking betrays common human decency towards animals. It is time to stop giving privileges to international trophy hunters – literally a license to kill – and instead, to focus on engendering lasting locally-led community efforts to protect African primates.”

To join our latest effort to stop trophy hunting, add your name to our pledge and fight the trade of African primates sold as hunting trophies, pets, and entertainment.