Ex-NRA head Wayne LaPierre and his wife secretly turned an elephant they shot in Botswana into home decor: report

wayne lapierre
  • Wayne LaPierre and his wife secretly shipped elephant parts from their Botswana hunt to avoid public outcry.
  • Records obtained by The New Yorker showed Susan LaPierre requesting the shipment have no clear links to the couple.
  • Taxidermy records showed the parts were turned into home decor, like stools, an umbrella stand, and a trash can.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Wayne LaPierre, the former head of the National Rifle Association, and his wife, Susan, secretly shipped parts of an elephant they shot in 2013 to turn it into home decor, according to a new report published Thursday.

In late April, leaked graphic video footage obtained by The New Yorker and The Trace showed the LaPierres each shooting and killing two elephants in Botswana in 2013.

An export company in Botswana emailed the couple to confirm the shipment of animal parts, which included one cape-buffalo skull, two sheets of elephant skin, two elephant ears, four elephant tusks, and four front elephant feet, according to The New Yorker report published Thursday.

Susan LaPierre later requested that the shipment should have no clear links to the couple, asking to use the name of an American taxidermist as “the consignee” and that the company “not use our names anywhere if at all possible,” The New Yorker reported.

In one message sent by the taxidermist, who was not named in the report, to the shipping company, he explained that the LaPierre’s “can not afford bad publicity and a out cry,” which is “why they are trying not to have there names show up on these shipments so the information does not fall into the wrong hands,” according to records obtained by the news outlet.

Susan LaPierre also noted that the couple expected to receive “an assortment of skulls and skins from warthogs, impalas, a zebra, and a hyena” in the shipment, according to the report.

“Taxidermy work orders containing the LaPierres’ names called for the elephants’ four front feet to be turned into ‘stools,’ an ‘umbrella stand,’ and a ‘trash can,'” The New Yorker reported. “At their request, tusks were mounted, skulls were preserved, and the hyena became a rug.”

The request was made amid the public backlash against Tony Makris, a longtime adviser of LaPierre, after he shot and killed an elephant on the hunting show “Under Wild Skies.” The LaPierres’ hunt was filmed to air as part of an episode for the show, but it was canceled, The New Yorker reported.

There are approximately 415,000 African elephants in the wild, and the World Wildlife Fund lists the species as vulnerable, meaning they are not currently endangered but are at risk due to hunting and elephant poaching.

Representatives for the NRA did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment. Andrew Arulanandam, managing director of public affairs for the NRA, told The New Yorker that LaPierres’ “activity in Botswana – from more than seven years ago – was legal and fully permitted.”

“Many of the most notable hunting trophies in question are at the NRA museum or have been donated by the NRA to other public attractions,” Arulanandam continued.

Last August, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, saying the organization is “fraught with fraud and abuse” and accused LaPierre of leveraging his status as executive vice president of the NRA for personal gain.

In a complaint filed last August, James’ office claimed that the LaPierres received free taxidermy work, which “constituted private benefits and gifts in excess of authorized amounts pursuant to NRA policy to LaPierre and his wife.”

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What’s inside an elephant trunk

  • Elephant trunks are some of the most impressive noses in the animal kingdom.
  • Trunks are organs called muscular hydrostats and they contain around 40,000 muscles that contract and expand to create intricate movements.  
  • Elephants have a stronger sense of smell than any other animal scientists have studied, and can even sniff out landmines in Africa.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: What if you could use your nose to snorkel, or uproot a small tree, or smell water from several miles away? Well, elephants wouldn’t be that impressed. They do it on the daily, thanks to what’s inside their trunk.

If you were to dissect an elephant trunk, it would actually look more like the inside of your tongue than your nose. Trunks, tongues, and even octopus arms are unique organs called muscular hydrostats. That means they’re made almost entirely of muscle, and an elephant’s trunk has a lot of them, about 40,000, compared to around 650 muscles in the entire human body. Normally, muscles depend on bones and joints to move and exert force.

When we pick up a dumbbell, for example, our bicep pulls on our forearm bones and that causes them to swing up around our elbow joint. But in an elephant trunk, there are no bones to pull and no joints to hinge on. The muscles take on that role instead. This makes trunks incredibly flexible so they can move in all directions. And all those muscles mean they’re powerful enough to lift hundreds of pounds, yet delicate enough to pick up a tortilla chip without even cracking it.

But while trunks may be structured like a tongue and function like an arm, they are, in fact, a nose, and an exceptional one. An animal’s sense of smell is linked to the number of olfactory receptor genes it has. And elephants, well, they have a lot of them, nearly 2,000 – more than any other animal we know of. Bloodhounds, for example, only have about 800 while humans have even fewer. In fact, an elephant’s nose is so good it can actually sniff out bombs. People have reported that African elephants avoid land mines in Angola and in 2015, researchers put it to the test. Elephants were presented with a lineup of buckets filled with different smells, including TNT, the main ingredient in land mines. Out of 97 TNT samples, elephants detected all but one.

Of course, their trunks didn’t evolve as bomb detectors. They use their nose like we use our eyes, to find food and water, to avoid predators, and to map out other elephants nearby. That’s like walking into a family reunion with your eyes closed and knowing exactly where everyone is. But if you can believe it, there are even more tricks up their, trunks. When elephants traverse deep rivers, for example, they curve their trunk into a snorkel, and when bathing, they can use it as a hose, or more like a fire hose. With one suck, a trunk can pull in as much as 10 liters of water.

And the trunk’s impressive abilities haven’t gone unnoticed. In fact, if you stick a mirror in front of an elephant, one of their favorite activities is to open their mouth and check out their trunks. Let’s admit it, if you had a nose like that, you would do the exact same thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in January 2019.

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