Gun Lobbyist Shoots Elephant on TV, Then Drinks Champagne

It’s terrible enough to hear about an elephant being killed. It’s even worse to see such a thing happen — but the violent killing of an endangered animal was just what was shown Tuesday on the NBC Sports Network’s Under Wild Skies show.

Under Wild Skies is sponsored by the National Rifle Association. The show is also hosted by Tony Markis, a gun lobbyist and a long-time friend of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. As the Chicago Tribune says, Makris was also very involved in the rise of the late actor Charlton Heston into the NRA’s upper echelons.

Given the show’s sponsorship and the history of its host, viewers are forewarned that Under Wild Skies is not exactly going to be a show celebrating the many wonders of the animal kingdom. This past Tuesday’s episode simply went too far.

In the show, Makris is shown hunting with a group in Botswana. After he sees an elephant in the brush, Markis approaches and shoots the animal twice in the face. There is a short chase after which Makris fires his .577 rifle and the elephant dies; Makris then poses with the dead animal while brandishing his gun.

The episode concludes with Makris and the other members of the group drinking champagne, admiring the sunset and making comments such as “to hunt an elephant and to harvest an elephant and to bring the ivory back to camp is a very, very special occasion.”

It is simply unnecessary, not to mention unethical, for NBC Sports to air footage of the brutal killing of an elephant. The boast about bringing “the ivory back to camp” is unconscionable at a time when conservationists predict that Africa’s elephants could be extinct in the next few decades.

NBC Sports and Makris Respond to Viewers’ Complaints

After receiving a (not surprising) massive amount of criticism, NBC Sports said via a statement released on Thursday to the Los Angeles Times that it will not re-run the Under Wild Skies episode in which Makris kills the elephant and that the footage “should not have aired. ” But the latter claim seems at least a bit contradictory, given that Under Wild Skies is a show all about “showcas[ing] the finest big game hunting in the world.”

Both NBC Sports and Makris have been seeking to justify the killing of the elephant. “This form of hunting is legal,” NBC Sports said in its statement. On Media Matters, Makris accused critics of practicing “animal racism,” on the grounds that people would not have minded if he had been shown shooting ducks or squirrels.

Elephants in Zimbabwe Poisoned With Cyanide

There’s a defiant tone in both NBC Sports’ and Makris’ remarks. Both are dodging the real issue, that elephants are an endangered species.

This sad fact is why Botswana has said that it will outlaw commercial hunting of wildlife by January of 2014. Reports about elephants dying and/or being killed (and of other wildlife being slain — a record 688 rhinos have been killed so far this year in South Africa) are sickeningly commonplace. Just recently, Zimbabwe reported that 80 elephants died in the past few weeks in Hwange National Park after poachers laced their water holes with cyanide. Along with the poison and 19 tusks, police and rangers also found wire snares.

Some of Africa’s largest herds of elephants lives in Zimbabwe; about half are in Hwange, with their numbers estimated to be anywhere from 20,000 to 75,000. On Wednesday as Zimbabwe’s government announced it was declaring war on the poachers, three of those caught were sentenced to at least 15 years in prison. Many argue that penalties need to be far, far more harsh, as elephants continue to be killed for their ivory tusks.

In truth, a ban on commercial wildlife  hunting cannot happen soon enough. Canceling a show like Under Wild Skies that showcases the brutal killing of wildlife and glorifies violence — and putting the brakes on any future shows with similar content — is just as much called for.

Tell NBC Sports to cancel Under Wild Skies!

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a month ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown
Carrie-Anne Brownabout a year ago

glad the show was cancelled, thanks for sharing

Mark Donner
Mark Donners2 years ago

Diane L. I disagree with your backing of NBC, my opinion is this goes far beyond "poor taste" and into the worst criminality. Whoever at NBC that was involved with this CRIME should not only be fired they should be thrown in prison with that Makris coward and made to pay dearly. They should be happy they are not paying for this with their lives, just like the poachers who are justifiably gunned down in their tracks, that's what those NBC/Makris criminals deserve.

Kate S.
Kate S.2 years ago


Angela l.
angela l.2 years ago

When those bastards are stepped to pieces by elephants, I drink champagne!!!

Karil Daniels
Karil Daniels2 years ago


Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim2 years ago

What a stupid thing. Who likes that is even more stupid.

Virginia Abreu de Paula

Lots of TV shows showing hunting. They are all americans but get to my country. And hunting is not allowed here. I don't know their titles, but one is about hunting alligatores. And there is another about hunting ducks. They are presenting as something wonderful to do. Nobody here seems to care. I am glad now there are people writing to the channels asking these things to be removed. And this one here was called off. :)

Deborah W.
Deborah W.2 years ago

Seems to me that the balance of nature was working just fine before "human intervention" reared its ugly head ... most often for greed not the greater good. Humans, in my humble opinion, have rightly earned their place at the bottom of the species chart through all manner of manipulation and so deserve to be next in line for extinction ... earned and owned, period.

Programs like this would evaporate if there was minimal audience participation, low ratings, sponsorship retreat from a failed production, causing eventual shutdown.

Perhaps paintballing? ...

Frie Van Nuffel
Frie Van Nuffel2 years ago

Yes I WOULD be upset if the killing of ducks and squirrels was just for fun!
Also, everyone knows that every show gets screened before airing, so these bastards knew very well what they where showing. Just shows which low lifes the NRA stands for!