Trump puts decision on allowing elephant trophy imports on hold

Postponement amid backlash over move to end ban of protected animal body parts from Zimbabwe

 A group of elephants, believed to have been killed by poachers, lie dead at a watering hole in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in October 2015. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

A group of elephants, believed to have been killed by poachers, lie dead at a watering hole in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in October 2015. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump has said he would delay his administration’s decision to allow the importing of elephant body parts from Zimbabwe “until such time as I review all conservation facts” in a tweet Friday evening.

The postponement came just one day after the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) indicated that it would reverse an Obama administration ban on importing elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The agency said Thursday that the decision “will help protect wild elephants for future generations” because the money generated by US big-game hunters seeking trophies helps fund conservation efforts in many African countries.

Many conservationists opposed the decision, however, arguing that the Trump administration was pandering to big game hunters.

“President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical,” Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior, said in a statement Friday evening. “As a result, in a manner compliant with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed.”

Elephant populations in Africa have declined precipitously over the past 15 years, despite crackdowns on poaching and the ivory trade.

The Obama administration implemented the ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe in 2014 due to a lack of information about the status of the country’s population and conservation program. African elephants are protected under the US Endangered Species Act.

On Thursday, FWS said its decision to lift the ban was based on “more than two years of extensive assessments”.

But the agency raised concerns about its motivation by announcing the policy change at the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzania - an event co-hosted by the hunting rights group Safari Club International (SCI). SCI had joined the National Rifle Association in a court challenge to the 2014 ban. Both groups praised the FWS reversal on Thursday.

Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, are both big-game hunters.

Donald Trump Jr has been photographed with the corpse of a elephant, holding its severed tail in his hand.

Ed Royce of California, the Republican chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, on Friday criticized the decision to lift the ban, calling it the “wrong move at the wrong time”.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of considerable political upheaval, after the army seized power from 93-year-old Robert Mugabe this week. Mugabe has ruled the country for 37 years. – Guardian News and Media 2017