Elephant Trophy Ban to Remain in Place, For Now
President Trump has put a halt on lifting the United States’ ban on importing elephant trophies one day after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the end of the ban.
Trump said that he is reconsidering the initial decision and Secretary Zinke said that the government will pause issuing permits for elephant trophies for now and will continue to review its decision.
This reversal of policy follows public outcry regarding the initial lifting of the ban, from public figures like Chelsea Clinton speaking out and celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres holding public fundraising campaigns for the African elephants.
The previous ban on importing elephant trophies came into effect under the Obama administration, which targeted the ban specifically at Zimbabwe and Zambia due to a falling elephant population in the two countries.
African elephants are considered to be endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which requires the federal government to protect endangered species in other countries. The act usually means banning their import into the United States.
The initial decision to lift the ban was cheered by organizations like the Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, both of which had fought the Obama-era ban in courts and claim that banning trophy imports hurts the rights of American hunters.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service argued for the lifting of the ban on the basis that revenue from game hunting benefits further conservation efforts for the elephants and local communities. The FWS also claims that conservation efforts for elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia have already improved the situation and that the elephant population has become stable.
On the other hand, critics point to a 6% decline in African elephant population recent years and a 74% decline in population in Zimbabwe’s Sebungwe region. The Humane Society of the United States points to continuing problems with the Zimbabwean government regarding the enforcement of anti-poaching laws and corruption.
Global wild elephant population has declined immensely since the early 1900s, from millions to a population of 350,000, mainly due to the habitat destruction and the demand for ivory.
Game hunters, including Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, argued that the high prices paid towards hunting trips create much-needed revenue for conservation. The money is often used for hiring more personnel for law enforcement and security against poachers.
However, critics have noted that game hunting revenue only helps in countries and transparent financial systems and flows, whereas many countries with existing game hunting programs often don’t see revenue from game hunting going to conservation.
For now, the ban on import permits for elephant trophies will mean a holdup for moving elephant trophies back the United States for some American citizens, according to Safari Club International.