North America

'Savage': Trump's plan to reverse ban on African elephant trophies slammed


Animal rights groups, celebrities and scientists have all expressed anger at a move by the Trump administration to lift an importation ban of elephant trophies from Africa to the US.

A host of public figures have slammed US President Donald Trump's administration as it prepares to lift the ban on the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the looming reversal of Obama's policy despite elephants remaining part of the Endangered Species Act.

Animal rights group, The Elephant Project, spearheaded the condemnation of the decision.

"Reprehensible behaviour by the Trump Admin. 100 elephants a day are already killed. This will lead to more poaching," the organisation wrote.

UK comedian Ricky Gervais called the move "savage and pointless", while prominent biologist and writer Richard Dawkins questioned whether Trump was deliberately reversing the decision to "spite" former president Barack Obama.

Actress Mia Farrow also retweeted an old photo of Mr Trump's sons holding a dead Jaguar with the caption: "What went so wrong with Trump sons that they could kill this beautiful creature."

The Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle slammed the decision as giving US hunters the "green light".

He believed the reversal sends the wrong message to poor Africans who are struggling in poverty, but are prohibited themselves from killing elephants and selling their parts to improve their standards of living.

"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," he wrote.

"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?"

Trump Jr seen with the tail of an elephant he killed
Trump Jr. is seen with the tail of an elephant he killed during a 2011 hunting trip. HUNTINGLEGENDS.COM/HUNTING LEGENDS

The ban was put in place by the Obama administration in 2014, after determining that sport hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia would help conserve the species. 

Elephants are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but a provision in the act allows the government to give permits to import these trophies if there is evidence to suggest that hunting benefits conservation for that species.

A US Fish and Wildlife Service official said new information from officials in Zimbabwe and Zambia had been supplied to support reversing the ban to allow trophy hunting permits.

A group of elephants in Zambia
A group of elephants in Zambia. Getty Images.
Getty Images

"Legal, well-regulated sport 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," a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said in a statement.

The proposed change only applies to elephants in those two countries. 

The government is yet to announce the policy change, but it was reportedly raised at a wildlife forum in South Africa this week, according to Safari Club International.

A notice regarding the change is set to be posted in the Federal Register this week outlining information to justify the changes. 

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, according to Fish and Wildlife spokesperson.

The Great Elephant Census published last year found that from 2007 to 2014, savanna elephant populations decreased by 30 percent across 18 countries in Africa.

There are about 350,000 left in the wild. 

The elephant population declined 6 percent in Zimbabwe, but dropped by 74 percent within one region.

According to the census, elephants saw "substantial declines along the Zambezi River," in Zambia while other areas of that country were stable. 

The census also reported that there are around 82,000 elephants in Zimbabwe.

Wildlife officials set annual quotas to limit hunting there to 500 elephants in different areas.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch