Friday, 19 October, 2018

US Lifts Ban on the Import of African Elephant Trophies

Kevin Lamarque  Reuters
Facing widespread public outrage the president called elephant trophy hunting a “horror show” last year Kevin Lamarque Reuters Facing widespread public outrage the president called elephant trophy hunting a “horror show” last year
Melinda Barton | 08 March, 2018, 05:19

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly announced the policy shift in a March 1 memorandum that withdrew previous trophy hunting rulings, including an Obama-era ban on imports of elephants hunted for sport in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Donald Trump said in November the practice was a "horror show" but the department responsible decides to back the policy anyway.

After US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a repeal of the ban on the importation of elephant-hunt trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, wide public outcry prompted Trump and Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the Department of the Interior which houses the wildlife agency, to put the repeal on hold until further review.

"The service intends to grant or deny permits to import a sport-hunted trophy on a case-by-case basis pursuant to its authorities under the" Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, the memo says.

Elephants have been on the endangered species list since 1979 and their population has dropped dramatically due to poaching, the hunger for ivory trophies, and human kind's general disregard for their natural habitats.

It comes after Donald Trump branded big game trophy hunting a "horror show" past year, and suggested he would not allow the move to go ahead. The court also said the FWS should have gone through the extensive process of proposing a regulation, inviting public comment and making the regulation final when it made determinations in 2014 and 2015 that elephant trophies can not be brought into the country. Trophies will be allowed for import on a "case-by-case" basis.

The Trump administration acted after an appeals court ruled in December that the Obama administration did not follow proper procedures in issuing the original ban.

"The Trump administration is trying to keep these crucial trophy import decisions behind closed doors, and that's totally unacceptable", said Tanya Sanerib, global legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

However, he has also said that the agency has not been transparent, and that there still remain various questions from those working in conservation, adding: "The confusion is not helpful". Donald Trump Jr. drew criticism after a photo of him holding the severed tail of an elephant he allegedly killed in Zimbabwe in 2011 surfaced.

Supporters of big game hunting say the practice provides funding for conservation efforts and local economies.

Jimmiel Mandima of the African Wildlife Foundation told NBC News that he does not see the new process as completely lifting the ban, but rather taking into account the differences among African nations regarding trophy hunting. This time, the SCI and the NRA intervened to protect their members' financial interests and senseless desire to slaughter elephants and lions and to import their tusks and hides for trophies and bragging rights. The spokesperson did say, however, that the "president has been very clear in the direction that his administration will go".