When the death of Cecil the lion drew outrage, it shone a light on big game hunters in Africa. A photo-heavy piece for the New York Times moves the spotlight to something that may surprise: exotic-game hunters scoring kills in Texas, where an estimated 1.3 million such animals are thought to live. The article specifically zeroes in on the 18,000-acre Ox Ranch, located near Uvalde and about two hours from San Antonio. As the Times describes, "it's not quite a zoo, and not quite an animal shooting range, but something in between." It occupies a hazy gray area, where its giraffes and kangaroos are off-limits to hunters, but a spiral-horned African bongo antelope can be yours for a $35,000 kill fee. And that's where it gets grayer.
Animal rights activists see that as unacceptable; the ranch's CEO says the fee for one bongo covered the annual cost of feeding the roughly 30 others who live there; and advocates see these ranches as helping to sustain threatened and endangered species. And the Times says that's actually happening, citing as example scimitar-horned oryx that were raised in Texas and sent back to their native lands in an effort to bolster their numbers. As for the legality of all this, these ranches are exempt from state hunting requirements, and as long as they're taking steps to bolster the survival of a threatened or endangered species and donating to conservation efforts, they're not in violation of the Endangered Species Act or any Fish and Wildlife Service regulations. Read the full piece, and see the photos, here. (Read more exotic animals stories.)