WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday reversed the government’s decision to start allowing hunters to import trophies of elephants that were killed in two African countries, pending a further review.
Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, said in a statement later Friday night that the decision applied to two African countries, though it did not name them. For now, “the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being removed.”
The US Fish and Wildlife Service was looking to end the 2014 ban, citing Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts and announced that it would begin issuing permits to allow the import of elephants hunted from 2016 to 2018, with two trophies allowed per import.
The population of elephants in Zambia and Zimbabwe have had mixed results in a recent study by the Great Elephant Census, that found that the elephant population shrunk nearly 30 percent from 2007 to 2014.
The White House argues that the hunting would bring money to local communities and incentivize efforts to protect elephants from a recently completed Park Service review that had begun during the Obama administration.
This review established that both Zambia and Zimbabwe had met new standards, strict international conservation standards that allowed Americans to resume hunting in those countries but under President Barack Obama, the practice had been banned because of a lack of data on conservation efforts in Zimbabwe.
In a taped interview on Shake, Rattle and Troll Radio, Joe Notcha of Lookout Mountain Outdoors, a lifelong big game hunter, states that the elephant population in Zimbabwe is currently at approximately 100,000 elephants in an area that can only support approximately 45,000.
A provision of the Endangered Species Act allows for restricted activities like the import of trophies if they are done “to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.” The 2014 restriction on importing elephant trophies included those that were hunted legally in those two countries.
Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group that filed a lawsuit challenging the restriction, first announced the regulation change on their web site.
In order to fulfill its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United States restricts the number of legally-hunted elephant trophies to two per year.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service confirmed the change in regulation and told us:
“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve those species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the hunting and management programs for African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia will enhance the survival of the species in the wild. These enhancement findings are required prior to allowing import of these trophies under Endangered Species Act regulations. The finding applies to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, and to elephants hunted in Zambia during calendar years 2016, 2017 and 2018, for applications that meet all other applicable permitting requirements.”
The Result? On 17 November 2017, the Trump administration abruptly announced that it would be placing a “hold” on reversing the ban, pending further review.