American big game hunters, their itchy trigger fingers idle since 2006, may be on the verge of returning to China's Himalayan steppes. Applications made to the State Forestry Administration (China's top wildlife management authority) by a pair of U.S.-based travel agencies are currently under review and have a good chance of being approved.
China has not issued any permits to overseas hunters or their representatives since 2006, slamming the brakes on what had been a very lucrative industry. According to official government statistics, by the end of 2005 more than $36 million had been paid by 1,101 foreign citizens to claim 1,300 so-called "trophies" on Chinese soil.
The two agencies applying for hunting permits, China Adventure Travel and China Women Travel Service, represent well-heeled American hunters seeking to bag 9 Himalayan Blue Sheep (right) and 7 Tibetan Gazelles in the Dulan Hunting Ground located in China's far southwestern Qinghai province. The former are considered to be of Least Concern while the latter are rated Not Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“Trophy hunting is a popular sport in many Western countries including the US,” said Wang Wei, general manager of China Adventure Travel. Wang stated that his agency had been hired by 130 foreign hunters between 2002 and 2006. During that time, the going rate to hunt a Himalayan Blue Sheep was $7,900 and for a Tibetan gazelle, just $1,500.
Although the estimated populations of both of these creatures in the Dulan Hunting Ground have increased over the past 20 years, not everyone is in favor of inviting foreign hunters back. Hua Ning, China program director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, is urging the government not to lift the hunting ban without seriously considering the consequences. “Hunting is cruel,” stated Hua, “and most profits go into the pockets of the private owners of the hunting grounds instead of the local community and people.”
The late Chairman Mao Zedong once said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," but in today's China economic power is more often triumphant. (via China Daily, Hunt In Europe, Four Star Adventures, and Arkive)