Trump Administration Fulfills Donald Jr.’s Wish List Amidst Escalating Military Action in Zimbabwe

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) posted in the Federal Register today that they’re reversing an Obama-era policy on allowing elephant hunting trophies from two countries, with shaky governance and conservation policies, to be shipped back to the United States. Under the new rule, elephants hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia between 2016 and 2018 can now be imported. Earlier this week at a forum co-hosted by the Safari Club International Foundation – an organization that frequently advocates for trophy hunting – it was announced that the ban would be lifted. The announcement was made before the Trump administration issued an official notice.

Elephants are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act. According to the 2016 Great Elephant Census, between 2007 and 2014, the number of elephants declined by six percent in Zimbabwe and showed substantial declines along the Zambezi River in Zambia. The total population of savanna elephants dropped by 30 percent (144,000 animals) across 18 African countries.

While FWS states that sport hunting can provide benefits to conservation, their finding that African elephant trophy hunting revenue enhances species survival in the wild has been debunked by a report released by Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and drawn into question by conservation groups. FWS also claims that the Government of Zimbabwe has shown that elephant management and facts on the ground have “changed and improved,” but provides little supporting evidence. FWS oversight of Zimbabwe’s elephant hunting and management program will rely on the country’s wildlife management authority to manage elephant populations and report on beneficial uses of hunting revenue.

“The Trump administration is so busy giving out early Christmas presents to Donald Jr., Eric Trump, and their rich big-game hunter friends that they’ve failed to notice the real facts on the ground: rapidly escalating instability in Zimbabwe,” Grijalva said. “Beyond the fact that the administration continues to use taxpayer dollars for something that has no concrete benefits for endangered species conservation, it is absurd that the Department of Interior believes there would be any oversight to protect these species while the government is undergoing a military coup.”

“It’s disgraceful that the Trump Administration is undercutting American efforts to stop elephant poaching,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “Once again Donald Trump is weakening US leadership on environmental protections, setting us apart from our allies and hurting our standing in the eyes of the world. Elephants are being slaughtered in massive numbers, and this move can only make the problem worse.”

The announcement comes on the heels of Secretary Zinke’s new “International Wildlife Conservation Council”, a thinly veiled attempt to allow permits for importing other big-game endangered species, such as lions, another of Donald Trump Jr.’s favorite targets. Ranking Member Grijalva denounced the council last week. 

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