The Trump Administration is now allowing hunters import of trophies from two African countries back to the United States. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today formally reversed an Obama administration ban on importing trophies from Zimbabwe. Making the announcement as a coup is ongoing on in Zimbabwe, Zinke’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claimed that Zimbabwe can sufficiently manage its elephant population to enable U.S. hunters to resume importing trophies.

The directive states –  the Service is able to make a determination that the killing of trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant. With the information currently available, applications to import trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to have met this requirement.

“This is horrific news for Africa’s rapidly vanishing elephants, and the Trump administration’s timing couldn’t be more bizarre,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Corruption was already a huge concern in Zimbabwe, and it’s shocking that Zinke is lifting the trophy ban during a military coup. With tanks in the streets, whoever is actually running the Zimbabwe government just can’t be trusted to protect elephants from slaughter by poachers.”

Mama and baby elephant

Mpumalanga-South Africa-Mama and baby Elephants. Photo: Chris Eason via Flickr

Poaching of elephants for their ivory remains a significant threat in Zimbabwe. According to aerial surveys — known as the Great Elephant Census — Zimbabwe’s elephant population decreased a shocking 18 percent between 2007 and 2013, when the aerial surveys were performed.

A 2017 report to an intersessional committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) found that Zimbabwe’s elephant population is continuing to decline as a result of poaching.

Overall, the Great Elephant Census of savannah elephants conducted over the past couple of years revealed that only roughly 375,000 savannah elephants (not including the smaller forest elephants in western-central Africa) remain across the continent. The census results also documented the loss of 140,000 elephants over seven years due to poaching.

“U.S. trophy hunters shouldn’t be killing elephants when their populations are in decline. There’s no conservation in that,” said Sanerib. “The Trump administration’s decision to greenlight the slaughter of this imperiled species is absolutely unacceptable, and we’ll fight it every way we can.”


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