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Trump Administration Reverses Ban On Importing Elephant Trophies From Africa

Did you know? Within the next ten years, the African elephant is expected to go extinct. This means your grandchildren may never see one of the mighty beasts up close. Though the pachyderms are still listed as “endangered,” the Trump administration just reversed a ban on the importation of elephant “trophies” into the U.S. As ABC News reports, the ban was put into place in 2014, by former President Barack Obama.

Many conservationists are outraged by the development, as the elephants are still listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. However, a provision in the act allows the government to give permits to import trophies from the animals if there is evidence that the hunting actually benefits conservation for that species. Apparently, if information from authorities in Zimbabwe and Zambia supports reversing the ban, trophy hunting permits can be handed out again.

Credit: WWF

A Fish and Wildlife Spokesperson supported Trump’s decision in a statement: “Legal, well-regulated sports hunting as part of a sound management program  can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

The government has not actually announced this policy change yet, but news was shared of the development at a recent wildlife forum in South Africa, according to Safari Club International. More information will be obtained this Friday after details are posted in the Federal Register explaining the justification for the change.

Not all support the reversal of the ban. The president of the Humane Society of the United States, for instance, pointed out that poaching has been a problem in Zimbabwe for years. He added that the hunting industry there is riddled with corruption.

“Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them,” wrote the president of the Humane Society of the US. “What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive cannot kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it’s just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?”

ABC News reports, “The finding applies to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, and elephants hunted in Zambia during 2016, 2017 and 2018 for applications that meet all other applicable permitting requirements, according to Fish and Wildlife spokesperson.”

Credit: National Geographic

Between 2007 and 2014, the savanna elephant population decreased by 30 percent across 18 countries in Africa, according to the Great Elephant Census which was published last year. That means there are just over 350,000 African elephants left in the world.

In Zimbabwe, the elephant population decreased 6 percent overall. However, it also dropped 74 percent in one region — along the Zambezi river. Other areas of the country were “stable,” according to the census. There are approximately 22,000 elephants in Zambia.

After former President Obama passed the ban on the importation of trophies from elephants, the US Fish and Wildlife Service began working with wildlife officials in Zimbabwe. Since then, officials have improved efforts to combat poaching, establish a system to report financial benefit from American hunters, and provide more information on how officials establish hunting quotas have been improved.

Tourists will now be allowed to hunt elephants on private game ranches or in specified areas in Zambia — most of which are on the outskirts of national parks. Zambian officials will continue to carry out anti-poaching efforts and manage hunting of the elephants through permits and quotas. Fees paid by the hunters will go toward the country’s conservation efforts.

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Source: ABC News, Humane Society of the US

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