'Pay to slay' trophy hunting convention begins in Las Vegas
Thousands of hunters take part in auction to kill polar bears, elephants and leopards
Nearly 25,000 hunters have descended on Las Vegas for Safari Club International's annual hunters' convention.
Those present will bid for the opportunity to kill almost 1,000 different animals over the course of a week in a fundraising auction held by one of the world's largest pro-hunting groups. The group, which has 55,000 members, is dubbed "pay to slay" by animal activists.
Animals up for slaughter include a Canadian polar bear, Namibian elephants and African leopards, reports the Huffington Post.
One avid hunter and spokesperson for Safari Club International (SCI), Stephanie Spika Hickey, told Las Vegas News that her aim was to win the auction for the wild antelope. "A couple of months ago I did my domestic dream hunt and hunted around in Texas," she said. "My next adventure, sometime in the future, would be to go hunt kudu."
Advocates of trophy hunting say the money raised to kill large game contributes to the conservation of wildlife as well as having educational value.
But Joanna Swabe, executive director of Humane Society International, describes the event as a "conservation con".
Swabe says: "This Las Vegas auction is a key event in SCI's fundraising calendar where the lives of nearly 1,000 wild animals will be sold off to trophy hunters in a sickening 'pay to slay' bidding war."
Protesters gathered outside the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip, where the convention is taking place, to speak out against trophy hunting.
Among the animals expected to go for the most money are the Canadian polar bear valued at £56,200 and the South African crocodile valued at £10,600.
The SCI describes itself as a "nonprofit organisation that funds and directs worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation and outdoor education".