Trump opens door to hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe
The Trump administration on Friday formalized a new policy allowing hunters to bring back parts of African elephants that they killed in Zimbabwe.
A Federal Register notice made final the highly controversial policy that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Wednesday regarding African elephant trophies, which are usually the heads of the animals. It is a stark reversal of the Obama administration’s 2014 ruling that elephant trophies from the southern African nation cannot be imported.
In the Friday notice, the FWS said it had determined that Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts for elephants are sufficient to protect the population and that hunting fees benefit conservation, both necessary factors in allowing trophy imports.
“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,” the agency wrote.
“With the information currently available, applications to import trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to have met this requirement unless we issue a new finding based on available information.”
The Trump administration also lifted the Obama administration’s ban on African elephant trophies from Zambia. But officials are not obligated to publish a Federal Register notice on that.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Thursday that the policies had been made final.
“There hasn’t been an announcement that’s been finalized on this front,” she told reporters. “Until that’s done, I wouldn’t consider anything final.”
But Interior Department spokesman Russell Newell, whose agency includes the FWS, confirmed Friday that both the Zimbabwe and Zambia elephant decisions are now final.
African elephants are considered both by the FWS and by international conservation officials to be threatened species.
The new Trump policies have been highly controversial among conservationists, Democrats, celebrities and others.
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, for example, started raising funds for elephant conservation Thursday to push back against Trump.
“Elephants show compassion, sympathy, social intelligence, self-awareness. They’re excellent at learning abilities — all the things I have yet to see in this president,” she said.
Gun rights advocates and some hunters’ organizations praised the administration’s move.
“By lifting the import ban on elephant trophies in Zimbabwe and Zambia the Trump Administration underscored, once again, the importance of sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting to the survival and enhancement of game species in this country and worldwide,” Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s advocacy arm, said in a statement.