Trump Reverses Ban on Elephant Trophies From Africa

The Trump administration is set to overturn an Obama-era ban on bringing back into the U.S. hunting trophies of elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Elephants are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but that same act contains a provision allowing permits to be granted to important elephant trophies if hunters can prove killing the animal benefitted the species’ conservation.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services official told ABC News that the agency has received new information from both Zimbabwe and Zambia that would support lifting the 2014 ban on trophy hunting permits. The official also confirmed that the Trump administration was looking to overturn the ban. President Donald Trump’s sons are documented big game hunting enthusiasts.

Zimbabwe was the site of an apparent military coup this week against longtime head of state Robert Mugabe, and The Humane Society has noted that the country has had a significant poaching problem over the years and there is corruption in the hunting industry. The elephant population in Zimbabwe has been on the decline since 2001.

What’s also troubling is that the Trump administration’s decision has retroactive reach. It applies to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe as far back as January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018. It also applies to all elephants hunted in Zambia during 2016, 2017 and 2018 if the rest of the permitting process met requirements. Between the two countries, there are perhaps 100,000 elephants.

Elephants are prized for their ivory tusks and hunting has pushed them several times towards the brink of extinction in Africa and Asia. The trade of ivory trophies from elephants has also been used to finance militant groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army and al-Shabab in Africa, and is driven by transnational organized crime primarily based in China and other East Asian countries.

Last year, 182 nations signed an agreement to end the legal trade of ivory in domestic markets during the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species in South Africa. Zimbabwe, notably, had lobbied to lift the international ban on ivory trade.