Johannesburg - The international wildlife charity Born Free on Monday pleaded with the public to take action after shocking statistics revealed that almost 300 000 trophies from threatened wild animals were exported around the world over the past decade.
This comes a day before the fourth anniversary of Cecil the lion's death after he was wounded with a bow and arrow by American dentist and trophy hunter Walter Palmer, and only killed several hours later.
It was a moment that caused a worldwide public outcry, bringing the brutal practice of trophy hunting to the fore.
Trophy and canned hunting involve killing animals for pleasure, often times in a closed space, in order to display part or all of their bodies as trophies.
Hunters pay to hunt animals and after slaying them will display their trophies, which is usually horns, antlers, hides or heads.
"Trophy hunters value rarity, and the rarer the animal, the more they are willing to pay," Born Free said
"Hunting fees for bushpigs or antelope may cost a few hundred dollars; a hunting safari which includes an elephant or lion will set you back tens of thousands; and in January 2014, a wealthy American reportedly bid $350 000 for a permit to hunt and kill a critically endangered black rhino in Namibia."
While trophy hunters target free-living wild animals, canned hunters target captive-bred animals, specifically lions and other predators in South Africa, in a confined area from which they cannot escape.
Among the trophies exported in the last 10 years, were nearly 40 000 trophy items from African elephants, over 8 000 from leopards, and 14 000 from African lions.
The wildlife charity said these shocking figures are made more gruesome as there are only an estimated 400 000 elephants and perhaps as few as 20 000 lions left in the wild.
However, although not documented, Born Free says leopard populations are decreasing and they are vulnerable to extinction.
"Animals belong in the wild, not on a wall – and we want a future where no animal suffers the agonising death inflicted upon Cecil the lion," Born Free CEO, Howard Jones said.
"We campaign tirelessly to end the practice, working with airlines, travel and shipping companies to ban the transportation of trophies, whilst putting pressure on the UK and other governments to introduce a ban on the import of hunting trophies."
Jones said public support was needed more than ever.
"Simply helping us raise awareness of this barbaric sport on social media or sharing the truth with friends.
" Born Free is determined to end trophy and canned hunting for good," Jones said