Greens sue Trump over elephant trophy decision
Two environmental groups are suing the Trump administration over its decision to allow hunters to import trophies from hunting African elephants and lions in Zimbabwe.
The lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., federal court Monday, claims that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) violated the Endangered Species Act when it reversed Obama administration policies banning hunters from bringing into the U.S. heads or other body parts from elephants and lions they killed in the southern African country.
The elephant decision, which was more publicized than the lion one, garnered significant, bipartisan backlash from lawmakers, commentators, environmentalists and others, causing Trump to personally intervene and put it on hold late Friday.
Now the Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council want to permanently stop it from going back into force.
“The Trump administration must clearly and permanently halt imports of lion and elephant trophies to protect these amazing animals from extinction,” Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
“Trump’s abrupt backpedaling after public outcry, while appreciated, shows how arbitrary this deplorable decision was. These incredibly imperiled creatures need a lot more than vague promises.”
Elly Pepper, deputy director of wildlife trade at NRDC, said the putting the trophy imports on hold “isn’t enough.”
“Elephants are in crisis now,” Pepper added. “If we don’t force the administration to completely revoke its decision, President Trump could quietly start allowing these imports as soon as he stops facing criticism on Twitter.”
The lawsuit rests largely on the argument that Zimbabwe, which is currently undergoing a coup d’etat, is not equipped to manage elephant and lion populations in a way that can sustain trophy hunting while not harming the species.
“These two final agency actions are arbitrary and capricious, as the conclusions that trophy hunting of elephants and lions in Zimbabwe enhances the survival of the species are not supported by the evidence in the administrative record,” the groups wrote in their lawsuit.
“The decisions undermine the agency’s statutory duty to promote the conservation of species threatened with extinction and thus are not in accordance with law.”
The Interior Department, of which the FWS is a part, declined to comment on the lawsuit.