Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rich Chinese thrill seekers paying £50,000 for ‘trip of a lifetime…’ to kill endangered polar bears

'If you believe the ice caps are melting as some claim, these bears are going to die anyway, so you may as well hunt them'
Alan Wilson, Wikimedia

China’s thrill-seeking nouveau riche are being offered a £50,000 trip of a lifetime – hunting down endangered polar bears, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The expensive price tag for the 10-day expedition across the polar ice pack in Canada includes the services of a taxidermist, who at the end of the hunt turns the trophy specimens into prized rugs for the “rookie” hunters’ living rooms.

‘The polar bear is the most extreme of natural enemies in North America,’ declares the Beijing-based I Love Hunting Club in its brochure.

‘Their weight can reach one ton, and they can grow to more than three meters in length. The huge male bear specimens are the most majestic, most beautiful of hunting prizes![sic]‘ reads the advert in Chinese.

After flying first class and acclimatising at their five star hotel, the hunters – super rich Chinese business men and women -  set out on dog sleds across the protected polar bear habitats in search of their controversial quarry.

With the help of expert trackers from local Inuit communities, they stalk their prey and dispatch the iconic animals with bullets from a high-powered rifle, for which they are given fast-track training.

As an extra souvenir, the hunters are also given a personalized photo album and DVD film of their “exotic shoot”.

Included in the cost are luxury facilities, hunting licenses issued by the Canadian Government, visas, an interpreter, “rifles and bullets” and the “highest standard of outdoor sports insurance”.

‘Each hunter is allowed to kill one male only. We then turn them into rugs.

‘Many Chinese buy expensive polar rugs smuggled into China. But these cost up to £40,000 pound each, so going to hunt for your own is attractive to my clients,’ said the hunting club’s owner, Scott Lupien, a professional hunter from California.

Mr Lupien says his club caters to two kinds of clients – experienced enthusiasts and novice tycoons seeking their first kill.

‘I also teach the Chinese about conservation. That is an important part of the trip. Hunting by quota helps endangered species,’ said Mr Lupien, who also offers hunting trips to South Africa, the US and South America.

‘If a male runs into a female with cubs, it attacks the cubs. Hunting males actually helps the young population survive,’ claimed fluent Chinese-speaker Mr Lupien, 43, who has been running his club in China for four years.

‘The animal rights guys know this but they don’t want to admit it. And if you believe the ice caps are melting as some claim, these bears are going to die anyway, so you may as well hunt them,’ he told the Daily Mail.

Mr Lupien’s website, 52safari.com, shows numerous videos  of Chinese hunters shooting lions, zebra, gazelles, moose, black bears and mountain lions, among other species.

Scores of photos show the hunters posing with their kill.

The “only professional hunting club” in China was last night condemned by international animal rights groups and the public.

The UK Director of International Fund for Animal Welfare, Robbie Marsland, said putting a price tag on wildlife was the quickest way to drive species to extinction.

‘The IFAW opposes the cruel and unnecessary killing of these animals which are already under increased threat from habitat loss. We urge members of the [Chinese] public to avoid taking part in the needless slaughter of polar bears for trophies and instead encourage their protection for future generations,’ said Marsland.

Some Chinese media have tapped into the fledgling animal rights movement among China’s pet-owning urban middle classes and yesterday slammed Mr Lupien’s hunting club.

But trophy hunting appeals to the hundreds of Chinese tycoons keen to pit themselves armed against wild animals armed with a gun.

Canada is the only country to allow international, non-native trophy hunters to kill on its soil and approximately 500 polar bears are killed each year.

Scientists claimed in 2008 between 20-25,000 remain in the wild.

But that number could be cut by two thirds by mid century if the Arctic continues to warm due to climate change, as many experts predict.

In 2008, the US government declared polar bears an endangered species and banned all American hunters from returning from Canada with their trophies.

Norway is the only country that has banned all hunting for the  species, with Russia, Alaska and Greenland allowing native communities to hunt the bears as a food source.

By Peter Simpson

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