Donald Trump postpones decision on allowing import of elephant parts
Donald Trump said that he would delay his administration’s decision to allow the importing of elephant body parts from Zimbabwe “until such time as I review all conservation facts” in a tweet on Friday evening.
The postponement came just one day after the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said it would reverse an Obama administration ban on importing elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, arguing that it would actually save the animals.
Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2017
The agency said the decision “will help protect wild elephants for future generations” because the money generated by US big-game hunters seeking trophies helps fund conservation efforts in many African countries.
Many conservationists opposed the decision, however, saying the Trump administration was pandering to big game hunters.
Elephant populations in Africa have declined precipitously over the past 15 years, despite crackdowns on poaching and the ivory trade.
The Obama administration introduced the ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe in 2014 due to a lack of information about the status of the country’s population and conservation programme. African elephants are protected under the US Endangered Species Act.
On Thursday, FWS said its decision to lift the ban was based on “more than two years of extensive assessments”.
But the agency raised concerns about its motivation by announcing the policy change at the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzania – an event co-hosted by the hunting rights group Safari Club International (SCI). SCI had joined the National Rifle Association in a court challenge to the 2014 ban. Both groups praised the FWS reversal on Thursday.
Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Trump Jnr and Eric Trump, are both big-game hunters. Donald Trump Jnr has been photographed with a dead elephant, holding its severed tail in his hand.
Ed Royce of California, the Republican chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, criticised the decision on Friday, calling it the “wrong move at the wrong time”.
French screen legend and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot added her voice to the chorus of criticism, slamming Trump as “unfit for office” after his administration’s “shameful actions”.
“No despot in the world can take responsibility for killing off an age-old species that is part of the world heritage of humanity,” Bardot said in a letter to Trump.
The move is “a cruel decision backed by Zimbabwe’s crazy dictator and it confirms the sick and deadly power you assert over the entire plant and animal kingdom”, the 83-year-old actress said.
“Your shameful actions confirm the rumours that you are unfit for office.”
According to the Great Elephant Census project, African savannah elephant populations fell by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2014, while Zimbabwe saw a drop of six per cent.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse