WASHINGTON— Newly surfaced video shows Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, trying to kill an endangered savanna elephant in Botswana during a trophy hunt.
The 2013 footage, released Tuesday by The New Yorker and The Trace, shows the NRA leader shooting and wounding an elephant and then failing to kill the animal with three shots at point-blank range. Savanna elephants were recently assessed as endangered on IUCN’s RedList.
“Savanna elephants were just declared endangered by international experts, and these intelligent beings certainly shouldn’t be used as paper targets by an inept marksman,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s sickening to see LaPierre’s brutal, clumsy slaughter of this beautiful creature. No animal should suffer like this.”
In March the International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that elephants in Africa face a serious extinction risk. The organization also officially identified African elephants as two distinct species: savanna elephants and forest elephants.
The reclassification — part of an update to IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species — could boost recognition of the dire plight of both species. Forest elephant populations were found to have declined by more than 80% in the past 93 years, savanna elephant populations by more than 50% over the past 75. Poaching continues to be a key threat to both species.
“We’re in the midst of a poaching epidemic, and rich trophy hunters like the NRA leader are blasting away at elephants while the international community calls for stiffer penalties for poachers — what message does that send?” Sanerib said. “We need to halt all elephant killings or these beloved animals will vanish forever.”
Botswana lifted its trophy-hunting ban in late 2019, causing great concern among conservationists, who point to an uptick in elephant poaching that same year in the country. U.S. officials determined in 2017 that 54% of all wildlife hunted for trophies in Africa are killed by U.S. trophy hunters.
Savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) have larger frames and ears and curving ivory tusks and are found in southern, eastern and central Africa. Forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) have slightly smaller builds and ears and thinner, straighter ivory and are found in western and central Africa.