LAS VEGAS (CN) - Hunt guides for the threatened Marco Polo argali sheep in Tajikistan secretly switched out the horns of a kill from a "once in a lifetime," $45,000 hunt, the hunter claims in court.
Richard Dale Vukasin sued Dave Frederick, Ameri-Cana Expeditions and Yuri Matison in Federal Court.
Vukasin, a Montanan, claims he hired Matison, of Tajikistan, through his agents Frederick and Ameri-Cana Expeditions, of Edmonton, Alberta.
He says he paid $27,500 for the hunt, plus a trophy fee of $10,000, another $8,000 on permits, supplies, hotels and services. After the alleged switcheroo, Vukasin says, he coughed up plus "another $15,000-20,000 in lost income, phone calls, letters, negotiations with the U.S. Government and Tajikistan in his attempt to receive the actual Marco Polo argali sheep he harvested in Tajikistan, and an additional $7,500 in attorney's fees," bringing the sum to $75,000.
Marco Polo sheep are threatened, but not endangered, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES. The sheep have enormous curled, flaring horns that look somewhat like titanic handlebar mustaches on their heads. Because they are threatened, but not endangered, it can be legal to hunt them under CITES.
Vukasin claims in the lawsuit that the defendants promised him by contract that "'every effort will be made to ship your trophies/meat with you'" from the December 2012 hunt.
"When plaintiff received the shipment addressed to him, he immediately discovered the Marco Polo sheep horns were not the horns of the animal he took," the complaint states. "Plaintiff contacted the defendants, who first denied the issue; then they advised plaintiff it may be possible for him to get another set of 'newer' horns with the same or similar dimensions as the one he took in December 2012. Plaintiff discovered the same thing occurred with hunters." [Sic. Recte: other hunters?]
Vukasin believes the guide swapped out his trophy horns for some cast-offs: "While plaintiff was at the lower camp, he discovered a pile of horns from argali sheep which were either sheds from a die off or from sheep which were taken and weather worn, but were definitely not taken in December 2012. Plaintiff believes the horns he received in Montana through the port in New York were not the horns from the argali he took, and this has been confirmed by experts in the field."
He claims the defendants violated CITES by swapping out the horns, and that they have neither explained nor offered to compensate him for the trick.
Vukasin claims that all of this cost him more than $75,000, made him "physically ill and emotionally upset," and that he "also suffered emotional distress from the fraudulent representations and intentional misrepresentations to him, which caused him to do a number of actions resulting in lost time, expense, worry, anxiety, loss of sleep, physical and mental distress, all to his damages to be further adduced at trial."
He seeks restitution and damages for negligence, fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract.
He is represented by Linda J. Linton.
Critics of hunts for rare and threatened animals are usually met with the rejoinder that hunters are among the world's leading conservationists, as they want to preserve the species to hunt, and that hunting fees can or should be used for conservation.