The remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia can now be imported to the United States as trophies, according to new rules announced by the Trump administration on November 15. Former US President Barack Obama had banned the import.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the large sums paid for permits to hunt the animals could actually help “by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation”.
As reported by The Washington Post, the Obama administration had deemed elephant-hunting trophies were allowed in countries such as South Africa but not in Zimbabwe because Fish and Wildlife decided in 2015 that the nation had failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced the population. Zimbabwe could not confirm its elephant population in a way that was acceptable to US officials, and did not demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect it.
The service’s new statement did not specify what had changed in that country — where the African elephant population has declined 6% in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project — to allow hunting trophies.
The shift in US policy comes just days after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke established an “International Wildlife Conservation Council” to advise him on how to increase Americans’ public awareness of conservation, wildlife enforcement and the “economic benefits that result from US citizens travelling abroad to hunt.”
“The conservation and long-term health of big game crosses international boundaries,” Zinke said in a statement announcing the group’s creation. “This council will provide important insight into the ways that American sportsmen and women benefit international conservation from boosting economies and creating hundreds of jobs to enhancing wildlife conservation.”
Meanwhile, Fish and Wildlife also posted an online guide for hunters on how to import lion trophies. In 2016, after listing African lion populations as threatened or endangered depending on their location on the continent, the agency established specific requirements for allowing imports of their trophies. The Service also banned imports of trophies from lion populations kept in fenced enclosures to be hunted.