The Trump administration has decided to undo yet another policy enacted by the Obama administration, news reports on Thursday, Nov. 16 reveal. This time, Trump reversed a ban allowing elephant hunting trophies — as in, parts of elephants killed recreationally — from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported back to the United States. Elephants are currently listed under the Endangered Species Act, however, if there is evidence that hunting will somehow contribute to helping that species, the act allows the government to give permits to import the trophies.
UPDATE: On Nov. 17, the Trump administration announced they are putting the decision to lift the elephant trophy ban on hold for now.
EARLIER: A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official confirmed this to ABC News, saying they also have information from officials in Zimbabwe and Zambia that are in support of reversing the ban and allowing permits for the hunters.
The U.S government is yet to make an official announcement of this policy change, but it was reportedly announced in South Africa at a wildlife forum this week with Safari Club International, who filed a lawsuit in 2014 in favor of blocking the ban for hunters, according to ABC News.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a statement saying, "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."
Upon hearing about the new policy, here is how people on Twitter are reacting:
According to the Great Elephant Census from 2016, the populations of Savanna elephant declined 30 percent in 15 countries in Africa between 2007 to 2014, with an estimated 350,000 remaining in 18 countries the census surveyed. There are reportedly around 82,000 elephants in Zimbabwe and around 22,000 in Zambia. Currently, wildlife officials set a limit on hunting in Zimbabwe to 500 elephants as an annual quota, per ABC. The current rate of decline for elephants is 8 percent per year, which is mostly because of poaching, according to the Great Elephant Census.
Poaching is the illegal hunting of wildlife animals, which has proven to be a major problem for hunting in Zimbabwe, leading to claims of corruption. But after Obama put in the ban in 2014, Zimbabwe worked on stopping poaching and creating a way to record financial gains from American hunters, according to a Federal Register notice obtained by ABC News.
The new policy change will apply 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, a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson told ABC News.
Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Project told the Independent, "It’s time for the era of the trophy killing of Africa’s most majestic and endangered animals to come to a final close, and the United States should not be retreating from that commitment.”
Just as the United States has banned the trophies in the past, elephant hunting has been banned in these African countries before. In Zambia, hunting has been banned several times due to the declining population of elephants in the area. However, in 2015, hunting was re-established after surveys found a larger population in some areas, according to ABC News.
While the reversal of this Obama-era ban appears to be motivated by economic interest for both the African countries and the United States, the general reactions by the American public reveal a much more concerned and outraged opinion of this new policy. The policy allows the government to justify "conservation of species" in regards to the trophies, however, endangered elephants are rapidly declining, and hunting them as trophies does not seem like the best way to conserve their specifies.