Texas club's latest auction: A hunt for African elephants

DALLAS (AP) -- A Texas hunting club again will auction off Saturday a chance to kill a large animal whose numbers are dwindling, a year after it faced international criticism over doing the same with a permit to shoot an endangered black rhino.

The Dallas Safari Club plans to auction a 12-day African elephant hunt in Cameroon during its annual three-day convention at a Dallas hotel, a hunt valued in the auction catalog at $20,000.

The African elephant is the Earth's largest land animal. The World Wildlife Fund, the world's leading conservation group, regards it as "vulnerable," a step below "endangered" and defined as "facing a high risk of extinction in the wild."

Last year's permit went for $350,000, but the club says the hunt has been postponed until the winner receives permission to import the carcass of the animal he'll shoot in Namibia.

Animal welfare activists plan to picket the convention hotel Saturday, but the club's Executive Director Ben Carter says elephants "in fact, are overpopulated in certain areas of Africa."

"Elephants, lions and leopards are not listed as endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and, in fact, are overpopulated in certain areas of Africa," Carter said in a statement. "These species are commonly hunted where legal, sustainable and where populations need to be managed."

Jeff Flocken, the North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, called the club's position "disingenuous."

"It's disingenuous to say it's being done for conservation," he said. "Elephants and rhinos are in the middle of intense poaching."

The club's auction catalog notes that although the top bid would win "the right to hunt a mature bull elephant," it also notes such quarries "are not importable to the U.S."

The African elephants' range in equatorial Africa has been steadily dwindling, from 3 million square miles in 1979 to just over 1 million square miles in 2007, the WWF has reported. Expanded logging and other agriculture, along with mining, have eaten into that habitat. They also are frequently the targets of illegal hunting for their prized ivory tusks.

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