Trump Puts Hold on Decision by Fish and Wildlife Service on Elephant Trophies

President says he will review conservation facts after Fish and Wildlife Service decided to issue import permits for elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia
November 18, 2017 Updated: November 19, 2017

President Donald Trump put a hold on a decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to issue import permits for trophy elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

In 2014, import permits were suspended from the two nations. A lengthy FWS review of that suspension culminated in the announcement on Nov. 16, that Zimbabwe and Zambia qualified for permits again. The next day, the president put that decision on ice.

The African Elephant, or Loxodonta africana, is listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Under the act, permits for imports of trophy animals can only be issued if it is determined by the FWS that killing the animal enhances the survival of the species.

According to the service, Zimbabwe and Zambia now meet those requirements.

A young male elephant acts defensively at the Pafuri game reserve on July 21, 2010 in Kruger National Park, South Africa. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In documents filed in the Federal Register, the service said that mechanisms had been put in place in the two African countries that would effectively monitor the flow of money from trophy hunting.

The money is intended to be used for conservation efforts.

“The Zambian government has done a good job of identifying how resources from hunting-generated revenue would be shared with communities,” the FWS said in the documents.

“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,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Nov. 17, before Trump’s announcement.

“A ban on importing elephant ivory from all countries remains in place,” Sanders said.

A baby elephant crosses a dry river bed at the Mashatu game reserve on July 25, 2010 in Mapungubwe, Botswana. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Concerns have been raised over the years about the effectiveness of trophy hunting on conservation efforts given the opaque distribution of money.

The Fish and Wildlife Service argued in its assessment for Zambia that some communities, which deal with “problem elephants” that destroy crops and properties, were more likely to welcome the conservation efforts.

Trump said that he would personally review all the conservation facts. Meanwhile, the issuing of new permits would be suspended.

The decision to halt permits and review the issue received praise from many Twitter users.

“BOOM! Thank you, Mr President. Trophy-hunting is repellent,” wrote British TV personality Piers Morgan on Twitter.

Radio host Michael Savage wrote on Twitter “Thank you, President Trump!”

Africa’s elephant population plunged by 110,000 over the past decade to a total elephant population of about 415,000, according to estimates by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published last year. In recent decades there has been a sharp increase in poaching for ivory, a coveted commodity used in carving and ornamental accessories in China and other parts of Asia.

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