Trump Delays New Elephant Trophy Policy11/18 11:32
President Donald Trump said he's delaying a new policy allowing trophies of
African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he can review "all
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump said he's delaying a new policy
allowing trophies of African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he
can review "all conservation facts."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it would allow such
importation, arguing that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the
threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.
Animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision.
California Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, urged the administration to reverse the policy, calling it the
"wrong move at the wrong time."
Trump tweeted Friday that the policy had been "under study for years." He
said he would put the decision "on hold" and review it with Interior Secretary
Zinke issued a statement later Friday saying: "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."
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican who co-chairs the
Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, on Saturday said Trump's delay was a
"step in the right direction," but more needs to be done to protect the species
from extinction. In his statement, Buchanan called the sport hunting of African
elephants "shameful" and said the U.S. should support a permanent ban.
Royce questioned the action because of concerns not only about African
wildlife but U.S. national security, citing the political upheaval in Zimbabwe,
where the longtime president was placed under house arrest this week by the
"The administration should withdraw this decision until Zimbabwe
stabilizes," the committee chairman said in a statement. "Elephants and other
big game in Africa are blood currency for terrorist organizations, and they are
being killed at an alarming rate. Stopping poaching isn't just about saving the
world's most majestic animals for the future --- it's about our national
The Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written notice issued Thursday that
permitting parts of elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back as
trophies will raise money for conservation programs. The change marks a shift
in efforts to stop the importation of elephant tusks and hides, overriding a
2014 ban imposed by the Obama administration. The new policy applies to the
remains of African elephants killed between January 2016 and December 2018.
"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program
can benefit certain species by providing incentives to local communities to
conserve those species and by putting much-needed revenue back into
conservation," the agency said in a statement.
Royce said that when carefully regulated, conservation hunts could help the
wildlife population, but "that said, this is the wrong move at the wrong time."
He described the perilous situation in Zimbabwe, where the U.S. Embassy has
advised Americans to limit their travel outdoors.
"In this moment of turmoil, I have zero confidence that the regime --- which
for years has promoted corruption at the highest levels --- is properly
managing and regulating conservation programs," Royce said. "Furthermore, I am
not convinced that elephant populations in the area warrant overconcentration
The world's largest land mammal, the African elephant has been classified as
threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1979.
Illicit demand for elephant ivory has led to devastating losses from illegal
poaching as the natural habitat available for the animals to roam has also
dwindled by more than half. As a result, the number of African elephants has
shrunk from about 5 million a century ago to about 400,000 remaining. And that
number continues to decline each year.
Two other lawmakers, Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Earl Blumenauer,
D-Ore., co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, assailed the
"We should not encourage the hunting and slaughter of these magnificent
creatures," Buchanan said. "We don't get a second chance once a species becomes
One group that advocates for endangered species called for more action after
Trump's Friday night tweet. "It's great that public outrage has forced Trump to
reconsider this despicable decision, but it takes more than a tweet to stop
trophy hunters from slaughtering elephants and lions," said Tanya Sanerib,
senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "We need immediate
federal action to reverse these policies and protect these amazing animals."