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Trump Admin. Again Lifts Elephant Trophy Ban

by Countable | 3.6.18

Update: March 6, 2018: The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has quietly announced that it will once again allow Americans to import the body parts of elephants shot for sport in African nations.

  • The agency, led by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, said that "effective immediately" it will consider issuing permits to import elephant trophies from African nations on a “case-by-case” basis.

  • In November, President Donald Trump tweeted: "Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal."

  • In December, however, an appeals court ruled the Obama administration did not follow proper procedures when issuing the original ban. The suit was filed by Safari Club International and the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

  • Interior Department Spokeswoman Heather Swift said Tuesday that Zinke and the president's positions remain unchanged:

"The recent FWS posting on the website does not break any promises. In response to a recent D.C. Circuit Court opinion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is revising its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species."

  • Neither the Interior Department or FWS issued a media release about the decision, nor did they respond to earlier requests for information.

  • "The Trump administration is trying to keep these crucial trophy import decisions behind closed doors, and that's totally unacceptable," Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the AP. "Elephants aren't meant to be trophies, they're meant to roam free."

Read Countable's original story below.


Trump Suggests He’ll Enforce Ban on “Elephant Trophies”

UPDATE – November 20, 2017: Last week, the Trump administration said it would allow hunters to import trophies (stuffed or mounted parts) of elephants they killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back into the U.S. But following an outpouring of bipartisan criticism, President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday:

Until it is finalized, hit Take Action and tell your reps whether you support repealing, or reinstating, the elephant trophy ban — because, clearly, your comments are getting through.

Countable’s original story appears below.

What’s the story?

The Trump administration will allow hunters to import trophies of elephants they killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia back into the U.S.

In 2014, the Obama administration banned big game hunters from bringing the remains of elephants into the U.S. after Zimbabwe failed to show it was taking elephant management seriously.

The new policy, announced at a wildlife forum in South Africa, reverses that ban.

A spokesperson from the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) said in a statement:

"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation."

FWS’ statement did not specify what had changed in Zimbabwe to prompt a policy shift; according to the Great Elephant Census project, the population of African elephants has declined by six percent in recent years.

Why does it matter?

While elephants are listed as endangered species under the international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, a provision of the U.S. law allows the government to issue permits to import trophies if there’s evidence that the hunting benefits the animals’ conservation.

In 2014, FWS said that elephant hunting in Zimbabwe, "even if legal, is not sustainable and is not currently supporting conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species." Safari Club International filed a lawsuit at the time, and the hunters’ group celebrated the ban’s repeal.

"We appreciate the efforts of the [Fish and Wildlife] Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior to remove barriers to sustainable use conservation for African wildlife," SCI president Paul Babaz said.

The Elephant Project summed up the response of animal-protection advocates, tweeting:

"It's a venal and nefarious pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry," Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society, told The Washington Post.

"What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive cannot kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it's just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?"

Days earlier, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke – a hunter himself - set up an "International Wildlife Conservation Council" to advise him on how to increase public awareness of conservation, wildlife law enforcement, and the “economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to hunt.”

The new rule applies to elephants shot in Zimbabwe and Zambia between 2016-2018. It is unclear how the recent political turmoil in the region will affect the elephant-hunting policy.

What do you think?

Will repealing the ban put "much-needed revenue back into conservation"? Or is this a “nefarious pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up”? Hit Take Action, tell your reps, then share your comments below.

— Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: Kenneth Canning / iStockphoto)

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