A male lion sits with head raised against a grassy backdrop

Trophy Hunting

Cecil the lion lived wild and free on the plains of Africa. He was head of two prides, protector of his families and the king of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. But in July 2015, Cecil was callously killed with a bow and arrow by American dentist Walter Palmer.

Cecil’s death caused worldwide public outcry, bringing the brutal sport of trophy hunting to the fore.

Cecil and his cubs © AJ Loveridge

Trophy hunting is the killing of an animal for sport or pleasure in order to display part or all of their bodies as trophies.

Trophy hunters slay wild animals for recreation, displaying their ‘trophies’ – usually in the form of horns, antlers, hides or heads – as proof of their kills. Hunters often hang the animal parts in specially designed trophy rooms, also known as game rooms or gun rooms.

Sadly, many animals like Cecil are needlessly killed by trophy hunters every day. More than 336,000 trophy items from protected species were exported across the world between 2011 and 2020, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Among these were nearly 40,000 trophy items from African elephants, more than 7,000 from leopards, and more than 11,500 from African lions.

Born Free is opposed to the killing of any animal for sport or pleasure, and strongly refutes claims by trophy hunting proponents that their activities significantly support conservation or local communities.

Bizarrely, supporters of trophy hunting claim that killing endangered animals is an effective way of protecting them.

Born Free’s Position on Trophy Hunting – Full Statement


Trophy hunting is big business. Every year, many thousands of wild animals, often from threatened species, are killed with rifles, bows and other weapons by hunters who pay large amounts of money for the privilege. The rarer and more impressive the animal, the more they are prepared to pay.

To maximise their profits, hunting operations manage wildlife to make more trophy animals available, often to the detriment of the wider environment. Many thousands of lions and other animals are also intensively bred in order to provide trophy hunters with their prize.


Trophy hunting proponents claim their activities somehow promote wildlife conservation, by providing jobs and resources for local communities who will then value and protect the wildlife, and by funding conservation programmes directly.

However, the evidence shows that, typically, very little of the revenue from trophy hunting ever reaches local people or parks authorities, with corrupt officials and trophy outfitters (often based outside the country in which the hunts take place) taking most of the spoils.

Trophy hunting is a cruel throwback to a colonial past, and the targeting of particular animals (usually those with the most impressive traits such as the biggest tusks or the darkest manes) disrupts animal societies and has knock-on effects for populations and ecosystems that we are only just beginning to understand.

Born Free opposes all forms of trophy hunting. Notwithstanding our ethical opposition to the practice, Born Free works with policymakers to strengthen the rules governing trophy and sport hunting, as part of our wider mission to reduce and ultimately eliminate human-induced negative impacts on animal welfare and wildlife conservation.

Born Free also works closely with enforcement agencies, wildlife managers and other stakeholders to ensure that rules, regulations and guidelines relating directly or indirectly to trophy and sport hunting are strictly applied and enforced.

Furthermore, Born Free campaigns to change public attitudes towards trophy hunting and implement sustainable, non-lethal ways of protecting wild animals that deliver  real and sustainable benefits for conservation and local communities.

Together we can end this barbaric so-called sport.


It’s time to #GetTheBanDone – we’re tired of waiting, and we’re calling on the UK Government to make sure the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill passes through into law.


Further Information:


A dead lion turned into a rug is laid out on grass

Help us put an end to trophy hutning

Your donation will help us campaign for an end to the practice, and put pressure on the UK and other governments to introduce a ban on the import of hunting trophies.