Trump administration sued over move on elephant and lion trophies
Conservation groups sued the US government on Monday over President Donald Trump’s decision to let hunters bring in lion and elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, days after Trump said the move had been put on hold.
The Centre for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defence Council said in a statement that their suit intended to resolve “contradictory announcements” by the Republican administration about trophy imports of the at-risk species.
Last week, the administration drew a torrent of criticism over its decision to let hunters bring trophies back to the United States after killing endangered elephants in the African nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The suit does not mention Zambia.
Former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, had banned the imports.
Trump said on Friday he was putting the decision on hold to allow time to review it. The US Fish and Wildlife Service had said allowing trophy hunting of elephants would improve the species’ survival chances by providing incentives for conservation.
The Trump administration issued a similar import decision for lion trophies from Zimbabwe last month, the lawsuit said.
The 34-page lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington asks a judge to declare the policy move illegal and names as defendants Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Interior Department referred queries about the suit to the Justice Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Africa’s elephant population plunged by about a fifth between 2006 and 2015 because of increased poaching for ivory, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said last year.
Wildlife activists argue that corruption is endemic in impoverished Zimbabwe, and that money generated by big game hunting and meant for conservation has been diverted to crooks and poachers.