About Elephants and Their Hunting

Posted On : Sep 14, 2015

Posted By : Tom Murphy

About Elephants and Their Hunting

About Elephants and Their Hunting

The status of elephant hunting in Africa today is mixed.  As this is written, importation of ivory into the US is embargoed from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, and Mozambique.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) has made a determination on imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe for year 2015, and thereon.

Zimbabwe’s suspension of elephant imports was implemented starting April 4, 2014, and in March 2015, USF&WS announced that the suspension would be extended through 2015 and into the foreseeable future.  This suspension was based on the limited information available to USF&WS at the time.  Since then, the Zimbabwean government, certain non-government organizations (NGOs), professional hunter associations, and various individuals have provided additional information regarding status and management of the indigenous elephant population.  Hopefully this restriction will be re-examined and the country re-opened to sport-trophy elephant hunting in the near future.

Tanzania has been faced with a lack of effective law enforcement when it comes to poaching control.  It also has suffered from some questionable management practices, unsupported by a weak government, which has resulted in rampant poaching and elephant population decline throughout the entire country.  Should the USF&WS receive information at a later date that shows an improvement in the elephant condition, then it could reevaluate its position regarding elephant sport hunting.

If an elephant in either country was hunted prior to the rulings it may be imported into the United States with certain exceptions.  In particular, if a Zimbabwean elephant was hunted prior to April 4, 2014, it may be imported.  As far as Tanzania is concerned, the elephant would have to been hunted before January 1, 2014.

Hunting elephant in South Africa is an enjoyable experience partially because South Africa is one of the countries where you can either hunt non-trophy elephant, or trophy elephant.  Elephant trophies are currently allowed to be imported into the United States at this time. (September 2015).

The U.S. Fish & Game states:

There are special rules for products made from endangered wildlife. Many wildlife and wildlife products are prohibited either by U.S. or foreign laws from import into the United States. You risk confiscation and a possible fine if you attempt to bring them into the United States when you return. Watch out for the following prohibited items;

  •   All ivory, both Asian and African elephant, and rhinoceros

However, there is a way to hunt elephant and bring the ivory into the US legally.  It has to do with CITIES II (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild flora and Fauna, Appendix II), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.

CITIES Appendix II deals with certain animals, the African elephant among them, who are considered endangered.  The African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) native to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, is listed as a species that is not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless taking of such animals is limited by being subjected to strict regulations. 

Many thousands of Appendix II animals are imported annually.  No import permit is required under CITIES regulations.  Importation only requires obtaining a CITIES permit from the country where the animal was harvested.

There has been increasing willingness from CITIES member countries to allow international trade from countries that have sustainable well-managed populations.  For instance, it has been determined that sales of the South African elephant have generated income that is used to pay for the elephant’s protection.

These CITIES II elephants can, and are imported into the United States.  Currently, there’s an Appendix II elephant hunt on offer in South Africa that has its rates set by tusk weight.  For a tusk up to 30 pounds, the rate will be $28,500 all in. For tusks that weigh up to 40 pounds, the rate is $38,500. Tusks that weigh around 60 pounds are being offered for $60,000.  For more information on these, and other elephant and or other African animal hunts contact John Martins at www.discountafricanhunts.com

South African elephant hunts are held in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga provinces.  Most elephant hunts in Kwa-Zulu-Natal area are conducted on large nature preserves bordering on national parks.


Kwa-Zulu-Natal (Zululand) was once the hunting grounds of a infamous African warrior king, Shaka Zulu (Shaka kaSenzangkhona 1787-1826), and is a varied and unique terrain from the Drakensberg Mountains to the Zulu lowlands. It’s considered one of the best hunting areas in South Africa.  The best hunting months are from April to October, with the best months being July, August, and September, towards the end of the cooler African winter.

Limpopo is the northernmost province of South Africa, and is named after the Limpopo River.  It encompasses 48,000 square miles and has a population of 5.7 million, most of which reside in cities.  Elephant ivory tends to run between 30-50 pounds, with a few animals going over 60 pounds.  Elephant trophy fees for a 60-pound animal will run in the $60,000 range.

Mpumalanga is a province of South Africa that changed its name from the Eastern Transvaal in 1995.  The 4.5 million acre Kruger National Park is located in this province and numerous hunting concessions border the park.  This area also supports hippo, crocodile, Cape buffalo, leopard and limited lion hunting.

In Namibia, the Caprivi Strip region, located in the northeast, has produced some very large elephant bulls over the years.  The large Botswana herds move through the Caprivi up into Angola in search of food and usually follow a migration route that has been in use for many decades.  If this migration route was blocked, the elephants would be confined to a small area.  In the confinement, they would destroy trees and plants in every direction.  This destruction would affect other species that depend on the same habitat.

It is said about elephant hunting that you do it on your feet.  This is true in Namibia.  Elephants are constant feeders.  They eat mostly in the cool of the morning, and in the evening after the sun is below the horizon and the heat has gone out of the day. 

The hunt begins when fresh tracks are found.  Size of track has no correlation to size of tusk. Large tracks do indicate that the tracks might belong to a bull though, which often carry heavier tusks.  The elephant has to be seen to determine tusk size.  Sometimes the hunter will track through the heat of the day and into the early evening, only to find that the animal has small tusks, or one is broken.

Generally, old bulls will have younger bulls, or askaris, with them.  The younger, more alert, bulls will act as lookouts for the old bull.  They tend to cause problems if disturbed, and can charge at the slightest provocation.  Your humble author is mindful of the elephant hunt where the old bull went down hard from a close brain shot, but rose again in less than 30 seconds.  During this time, one of the askaris took it upon himself to run a downwind play that only became evident when he trumpeted from a very short 15 yards.  For some reason that hunt stays in the forefront of my mind even 20-some years later.

Now would be a good time to discuss that chunk of wood and steel in your hands.  There have been literally hundreds of thousands of words written about the proper firearm to utilize on an elephant hunt.  I’m not going to tell you that there is one, and only one, particular rifle to use.  If your desires run to a pukka double rifle that holds Cuban cigar-sized cartridges whose names all start with a number greater than 400; well, so be it.  If you have a favorite #1 buffalo-whopper that you have used on everything down to a bat eared fox, then, grab it and go.  Should you favor those types of weapons that only hold one shot, you might need some serious psychiatric counseling, but the hoary single-shot is my favorite, too. 

The only one constant regarding elephant-stoppers is that you can shoot whatever you carry, and shoot it well.  The elephant I mentioned above was hit with a .577 Nitro Express, 750 grains of solid point, over 7,000 ft/lb of muzzle energy.  The bullet went just above the brain, and would have given the old gray beast a monstrous headache, but that’s about all.

Should you decide that you REALLY need a set of tusks in your front room, go look up what’s available at www.discountafricanhunts.com, and talk to John.  He’s usually got a number of elephant hunts on offer that won’t break the bank.

Tom Murphy

September 14, 2015