Nairobi, March 7 – The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly begun allowing more trophy hunting of African elephants, despite President Donald Trump’s pledge last year to uphold a ban on importing parts of animals killed by big-game hunters in Africa, the HuffPost reported.
The agency issued a formal memo last Thursday saying it would consider issuing permits to import elephant trophies from African nations on a “case-by-case” basis ,with immediate effect. The new guidelines, first reported by E&E News and later by The Hill end US bans on the import of such trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The decision comes nearly four months after Trump stepped in to halt his own administration’s decision to begin allowing hunters to import elephants killed in the two African countries. The president called such trophy hunting a “horror show.”
“What the agency just did with this memo is completely contrary to everything Trump has been saying,” Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in an interview with HuffPost.
Environmental advocates say it’s unclear if the new move will result in additional elephant trophy imports, but the guidelines give more leeway to hunters to apply for permits. The Fish and Wildlife Service has already updated its webpages on the import of sport hunted trophies for both elephants and lions.
In November, the agency reversed an Obama-era ban on the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, determining that sport hunting in those countries would “enhance the survival of the species in the wild,” a spokesperson said at the time.
The decision was first revealed publicly by Safari Club International, a trophy hunting advocacy group with close ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The group, along with the National Rifle Association, sued to block the 2014 ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. Late last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the Obama administration did not follow proper procedures when it instituted the ban. Among other things, it failed to invite public comment, the court said.