The killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe last year by a Minnesota dentist brought a lot of attention to the idea of trophy hunting. Washington is the only state that bans some hunters from bringing their trophies into the country. Now four other states are considering similar bills -- among them, New York and Connecticut.
Connecticut State Senate President Bob Duff was inspired to introduce a bill to ban trophy hunting after he attended a fundraising concert last fall to benefit the advocacy organization Friends of Animals. The concert featured a piece by pianist Christopher Jessup, who wanted to make people aware of the dangers to animals like Cecil the Lion.
“I went to the concert, met him and his family,” Duff says. “I figured that he had so much passion about it, that I should also try and do what I could do.”
Duff says this bill, which is called Cecil’s Law, is really about making a statement to the rest of the country, since federal lawmakers aren’t considering banning trophy hunting.
“We really don’t want to have these type of trophy animals here in our state,” he says. “We don’t want them coming into the state of Connecticut.”
But in order for a ban to fully work in Connecticut, New York must also pass its proposed ban on trophy hunting. That’s because New York is a designated entry point for hunting trophies from Africa. Connecticut is not.
“If we were able to get legislation in particular with the New York Port Authority, you would see initially a pretty major slide in the number of trophies entering into the United States,” says Michael Harris, director of the Wildlife Law Program at Friends of Animals.
About 4,000 lions, leopards, elephants and rhinos have come through New York from Africa in the past 10 years. The proposed bills in New York and Connecticut would ban those four animals as trophies.
Bob Crook is the head of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen. He opposes any ban on trophy hunting. He says a ban would actually hurt conservation, because of the fees trophy hunters pay to hunt animals in Africa.
“All these trophy fees go into law enforcement in the African areas to prevent poaching,” Crook says. “It’s a loss to the African nations, it’s a loss to the Connecticut hunters who want to go there.”
New York has the power to shut down a lot of trophy hunting traffic in the Northeast, including Connecticut. But if the bill passes, there are other states where hunting trophies can enter the U.S., like Texas and Florida. The only end-all solution, according to animal rights advocates, is a federal ban -- which so far, has not been raised.