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LA hunter who killed elephant is now PETA target in bid to end trophy hunting

Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- In mid-December, Aaron Raby shot and killed an elephant. Hours later, he had a piece of it for dinner, with a side of sliced tomato and avocado.

A self-described "blue-collar" Los Angeles crane operator, Raby paid more than $30,000 for the once-in-a-lifetime experience -- traveling more than 10,000 miles to South Africa to shoot and kill the tusked pachyderm. He then paid roughly $10,000 to have its head preserved as a souvenir of his adventure.

Yet Raby may never receive his trophy -- which is still in South Africa being prepared by a taxidermist -- if California enacts new legislation, Senate Bill 1175.

The legislation, which has passed the state Senate and is expected to pass the Assembly on Tuesday, would prohibit the importation and possession of animal parts from a list of endangered and threatened African species, including elephants, lions and rhinos.

"It's time to wake up and realize that we're in the middle of a mass extinction event," said Democratic state Sen. Henry Stern of Canoga Park, who wrote and shepherded the bill through the Senate.

Similar legislation passed both the Assembly and Senate two years ago but was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who called the trophy ban "unenforceable." Stern said circumstances have since changed, and is confident the current governor, Gavin Newsom, will sign this year's bill.

 

For Raby, the consequences of his latest kill are just starting to unfold. After the hunt, he posted images of his trophy on Facebook, YouTube and AfricaHunting.com, a website for hunters.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights activist organization, independently obtained video of the elephant shooting, which it released Monday and plans to use in a late-session campaign to ensure passage of Stern's legislation.

Raby said he has faced threats and online harassment before, such as when he posted an image of himself with a lion he had killed. But the PETA campaign is sure to bring him a new notoriety, and deepen the debate about trophy hunting.

"I don't understand why this is anybody's business but my own," Raby said. "What I did is legal. I didn't break a law. They're going to place a ban because a bunch of ... crybabies that don't like hunting."

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