USA TODAY - The Trump administration is reversing an Obama-era ban on hunters importing trophies of elephants killed in Zambia and Zimbabwe during government-approved big-game expeditions.
The move was confirmed to ABC News by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday following a recent announcement at a wildlife forum in South Africa, according to Safari Club International, a hunters’ group that filed a lawsuit to block a 2014 ban imposed by the Obama administration. A notice regarding this change will be posted in the Federal Register on Friday with more specifics on what new information justifies the changes, ABC reported.
Though elephants are listed as endangered, a provision of the Endangered Species Act allows the government to give permits to import such trophies if there is evidence that the hunting benefits conservation for that species. Hunters typically pay hefty fees to local government agencies for permission to pursue the animals. The official told ABC that they have new information from Zimbabwe and Zambia to support reversing the ban to allow trophy hunting permits.
"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," a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said in a statement.
The decision sparked immediate outrage from animal-protection advocates.
"It's a venal and nefarious pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry," said 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?"
And the Elephant Project, which tries to protect the pachyderms called the suspension of the ban "reprehensible" in a Tweet.
The reversal follows a similar, though not well-publicized move in October in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service overturned a similar ban on lion trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, having found that hunting has enhanced the survival of the lion in these two southern African countries. The service, according to statement on its website, will re-evaluate the hunting programs in Zimbabwe and Zambia in mid-2018 to determine if import permits can continue for 2019 and beyond.
A Minnesota wildlife photographer captured images of Cecil the Lion four years ago and says he didn't realize he had pictures of the animal until his death was reported this week. (July 30) AP
It was the death of a well-known and protected Zimbabwean lion, Cecil, at the hands of a Minnesota dentist in 2015 that brought huge attention to the industry, in which hunters pay as much as $50,000 to track and kill animals. In the incident, the dentist, Walter James Palmer, killed Cecil after he moved outside a national park, sparking a torrent of outrage. The animal had been fitted with a tracking device and was the subject of a study by Oxford University scientists.