Other Animals

An Australian filmmaker who went undercover to film a documentary about big game hunting in Africa is hoping the movie will help to end trophy hunting.

Melbourne-based Rogue Rubin is a conservationist who wanted to explore the trophy hunting industry.

Her initial efforts to infiltrate were unsuccessful so she created a new online identity.

“I thought I’d better be one of them,” she said.


“I went on Facebook and said I love eating meat — I’m a vegetarian.

“I said my views are more Republican than they are — I created all of these things that fitted the mould of a stereotypical person who would love trophy hunting.”

It worked.

Rubin was granted a photographic internship on a game hunt in exchange for the photographs and footage she captured.

“That changed the game for me and I didn’t just go on lion hunts,” she said.

“I went on all forms of hunts because I had to prove myself to be invited on a major lion hunt.

“You are essentially working as an undercover operative.”

It is illegal to bring lion trophies into Australia.(Supplied: Olli Teirila)
It is illegal to bring lion trophies into Australia.(Supplied: Olli Teirila)

Fears of blowing her cover

The filmmaker said she wanted to understand the mindset of trophy hunters and highlight the plight of wild lions, which WWF listed as vulnerable.

“[Trophy hunting] is legal, it’s not an illegal practice, and the problem is that it should be illegal,” she said.

“I knew elephants were endangered with about 50,000 left in the wild.

“I knew rhino were endangered — we all hear about rhino going extinct and there are 30,000.

“I had no idea that lions were on the verge of imminent extinction, there are only 20,000 left in the wild.”

While filming Lion Spy, Rubin said she feared her cover may have been exposed on a few occasions and she did initially feel unsafe.

“I am with men, alone in place I can’t pronounce in Africa and no-one knows where I am and what I’m doing,” she said.

The filmmaker said hunters paid between $110,000 and $140,000 to kill a lion.

“It’s lucrative to a select group of individuals, a very highly select group of individuals,” she said.

“It’s a billion-dollar industry.”

Rubin said 64 per cent of lion trophy hunters were from the United States.

“Let’s not discredit that Australians are trophy hunters too,” she said.

“We are the only country that has banned the importation of lion trophies.”

Political change key to end slaughter

Rubin hoped her film would bring about change and put an end to trophy hunting.

“I am already working with a few organisations internationally and we’re looking at taking it further into politics,” she said.

Big game hunting is legal in Africa.(Supplied: Rogue Rubin)
Big game hunting is legal in Africa.(Supplied: Rogue Rubin)

“We’re not looking at changing the African political landscape — that’s not a battle we’re going to win.

“We have to look at changing the international view of the subject and we have to look at changing international politics.

“If you cannot take a lion trophy home, you will not go hunt a lion.”

Preview screenings of Lion Spy will be held at various locations around Australia, including the Gold Coast and Toowoomba.

The film will screen nationally on November 24.

This article by Nicole Dyer, Tom Forbes, and Kirsten Webster  was first published by ABC.net.au on 16 November 2021. Lead Image: Rogue Rubin says she feared for her safety while filming undercover for her documentary Lion Spy.(Supplied: Rogue Rubin).


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