Trophy hunting: open-data exposes ethics problem

Open-source/OSINT data shows how the sector’s unethical marketing and promotion practices continue. It risks jeopardising the future of more ethical conservation efforts in South Africa.

Trump Jr is the poster child of trophy hunting PR and spoke at one of the largest trophy hunting conventions last year, the Safari Club International (SCI) convention. Trump Jr was spotted in images posed by African Safari Films production, one of the largest companies in South Africa to assists international hunters to film and promote their trophy hunts.


False narrative

Farrow’s post on Twitter.

Analysing open-source video/image evidence

Tight collaboration between filming production and trophy hunting organiser for US hunting clients. Cape Buffalo are not endangered, but habitat loss and hunting pressures threaten them, activist group warn

2020 and 2021

Desperate during Covid times, safari organiser HuntingAfrica lures customers from around the world with financing schemes: “Hunting is fantastic this year”. Lions are still being killed and video production firms may offer to fill the gap as trophies are ‘not exportable to the US any longer’. says that shooting a male lion used to cost around € 25,000 but now with the travel industry affected by Covid-19, prices are down, It’s a vulnerable time for authorities in need of income, who may turn a blind eye on illegal/questionable hunting practices to keep the hunters happy.
Image of Trump Jr photos by AfricanProduction. We see him in a number of images. Trump Jr added PR value to the SA hunting small business.
The man behind the camera and trophy hunting marketing expert (right): Morgan Harris, according to the website “owner of African Outdoor Visions and conducts most the office work and editing process. Filming and hunting is his passion as he was born into this lifestyle. With his love of hunting, he started African Outdoor Visions in 2005. Being a professional videographer, avid professional hunter and editor”.

Harris‘s connections

Connections to safari organisers with poor ethics

Online, we find eight other TakeAimSafari videos on the YouTube channel maintained by Harris and his team. The image (right) where Knight pulls the lion’s mouth open shows poor characters and would likely be judged as poor behaviour under the HSCF Visual and Audio Display Rules & Regulations

The media narrative

Feb 17, 2019 — bait in video at 3:19

Other safari hunters

Link to image (left), video link (right)

Other connections Harris maintains

Colorado Buck, half a million followers on Facebook, is well known in the industry and a big Trump supporter. We find his company address here and a holding address on Open Corporates

Exif data

Metadata analysis

Screenshot of the YouTube video metadata analysis (BH)

Other channels

The video production pixilated the shooters

Video/Display standards

HSCF Guidelines on visual display standards (link)
After delivering a close range shot (that took a long time to deliver), the hunter says in the video “that was very very nice” (inappropriate language) — Mar 20, 2021, YouTube. A drone shot later shows a pool of blood next to the animal (no excessive blood).
In this video (at 6:56) we see a violation in the fact that the animal isn't dead, probably still suffering, long after being shot and its head violently moved (breaching the rile of avoiding wounded or prolonged dying animals). Also, there are questions on ‘proper background music’ — Feb 20, 2021
Hippo hunt shows how a dead as well as bleeding hippo (portraying excessive blood) is pulled out of a waterbody after being shot. In the background bottles of alcohol (no alcohol in hunting scenes) — Feb 17, 2021
Promotion of unethical bow hunting practices, as here, we see crossbow arrows shot at animals that fail to hit vital organs, prolonging the suffering of the animals (2:27 to 2:23) — May 16, 2020
Shooting such large buffalos with a bow gun risks prolonged suffering (also, the shot delivered at 1:06 clearly shows that the hunter has trouble seeing the whole animal due to the bushes, which worsens precision where the arrow should hit)
Experimenting with handguns at far range: Experience hunters caution against using a premium gun or bow. Hunters caution against “taking extreme long-range shots on an animal when hunting. Long-range is a flexible term that depends on the weapon and the conditions”, an author of a post for a Biggamehunting websites explains. Promoting such practices in videos raises ethical questions — March 9, 2020. The same hunter hunts a lioness with such a gun in March 2020 (1:25min) and shooting/killing a lion hiding in a tree (possibly a breach of unfair hunting rules).
Hunting a lioness with a crossbow (in the Kalahari), raising ethical issues (possibly prolonged suffering, as the hunter is naturally a far distance away from the lion)
Shooting from a vehicle: a video from Zimbabwe shows how a hunter delivers shots from a vehicle (the engine is still running) 2017.

The Marketing Machine

Rainer Scholl came under fire on social media platform Twitter


Final thoughts

Investigative journalist with a technical edge, interested in open source investigations, satellite imgs, R, python, AI, data journalism and injustice