Reversing a ban placed back in 2014 from former President Obama through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the Trump administration decided to allow hunters to bring trophies of elephants they killed in African countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia back into the U.S. However, on Friday Nov. 17, President Trump placed his decision on hold as he tweeted that evening by explaining to further discuss the issue with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank You!”
“President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical. 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,” said Zinke.
More recently, on Sunday night, Trump announced that he will finalize a decision in the next week, as his tweet read “… will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”
Elephants are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. However, it describes a provision in the act that allows the government to sign permits allowing imports, such as hunting trophies, if there is evidence that hunting can actually benefit conservation for that species. Officials in Zimbabwe and Zambia support this ban-reversal as Zimbabwe officials have strengthened efforts to combat poaching, created a system to report assets from American hunters and have provided more information on establishing hunting quotas.
Officials reported a population of 82,000 elephants in Zimbabwe. According to the Federal Register notice, wildlife officials had set an annual quota to limit hunting in Zimbabwe to 500 elephants in different areas. In Zambia, elephant hunting has been banned throughout the past years, since its population was declining. This was reestablished in 2015 when surveys concluded that there were larger populations in some areas. Ac- cording to the census, about 22,000 elephants live in Zambia.
Currently, tourists may hunt elephants on private game ranches or specified areas in Zambia in which several include areas of national park outskirts. Hunters are required to pay fees to fund the country’s conservation efforts.
More specifically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and professional hunting advocates explain that hunting big animals, such as elephants and li- ons, benefit conservation. This is because hunting brings in money that countries use for anti-poaching programs.
“The Service will continue to monitor the status of the elephant population, the management program for elephants in the country to ensure that the program is promoting the conservation of the species, and whether the participation of U.S. hunters in the program provides a clear benefit to the species,” said a U.S. Fish and Wildlife official.
Hunting excursions can cost up to $50,000 including fees of individual animals. Arguing in favor of trophy hunting explains that it makes animals more valuable, giving local farmers and residents a reason to care for the animals. In 2015, Melville Sayyman, a tourism and economics professor from North- West University in South Africa explained that hunting actually increases wildlife populations in countries that permit this.
On the other hand, countries that do not allow hunting face more poaching threats. “From a conservation point of view, wildlife is not doing well and one of the reasons for this is because hunting creates huge value. People protect what is valuable to them. And if hunting helps them get money and other goods from the animal, it is certainly in their best interest to look after the animals,” explained Saayman.
However, conservation advocates argue that elephants bring in more revenue from tourists who want to see them alive. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust estimates that over an elephant’s lifetime, it can bring in about $1.6 million from tourist revenue. In addition, others simply argue that hunting endangered species is unethical and should not be used as its own business. Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the U.S. ex- plained that hunting cannot support conservation if people who travel to these countries want to see live animals in the wild. “You shouldn’t be conduct- ing unethical activities to create commerce. It’s laughable to think that somehow they have strict controls in Zimbabwe,” said Pacelle.