Trump Reverses Obama Rule Banning Importation of Elephant Trophies, Angering Animal Welfare Groups

Trump Reverses Obama Rule Banning Importation of Elephant Trophies, Angering Animal Welfare Groups

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President Donald Trump's administration will end an Obama-era ban on the importing of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed to ABC News.

In a statement, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman explained the move to ABC News:

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 common refrain among proponents of big game hunting is an argument that the cost of purchasing a permit to hunt a single animal helps fund conservation efforts for the whole herd. But the ban on the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe was driven by the country's government not making proper efforts to conserve its elephant population.

A blog post from Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, takes aim at the decision on those grounds:

Zimbabwe's elephant population has declined six percent since 2001 and evidence shows that poaching has increased in areas where trophy hunting is permitted (such as in the Chirisa and Chete safari areas). A number of problems with Zimbabwe's elephant management remain unresolved to date: the lack of an elephant management plan; lack of sufficient data on population numbers and trends; anemic enforcement of wildlife laws; lack of information about how money derived from trophy hunting by U.S. hunters is distributed within Zimbabwe; and lack of a national mechanism, such as government support, to sustain elephant conservation efforts in the country.

Pacelle also points out that not only has the government in Zimbabwe not taken significant efforts to protect its elephant population since the Obama administration first implemented the ban in 2014, but the country is currently undergoing a reported military coup.

Trump's sons were widely criticized in 2012 after pictures from a big game hunt in Zimbabwe surfaced, showing Donald Trump Jr. holding the severed tail of an elephant. Trump's eldest son defended the hunt on Twitter, writing, “I hunt and eat game. I am a hunter, I don't hide from that.”