Donald Trump

Trump called elephant hunts a ‘horror show’. But now he’s ending trophy ban on tusks and other body parts

Son Donald Trump Jnr posed with the severed tail of an elephant he killed on an African safari in 2011

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 2:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 8:08pm

The Trump administration will allow Americans to bring tusks and other elephant body parts back to this country as trophies, in a pivot away from the support President Donald Trump voiced for an Obama-era trophy ban after outcry last year.

The decision, announced quietly last week in a March 1 memorandum from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, withdrew previous rulings on trophy hunting and said it would allow sport hunters to receive permits for the trophy items on a “case-by-case basis.”

The move contrasts sharply with the position taken by Trump in November.

After US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a repeal of the ban on the importation of elephant-hunt trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, wide public outcry prompted Trump and Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the Department of the Interior which houses the wildlife agency, to put the repeal on hold until further review.

Elephants aren’t meant to be trophies, they’re meant to roam free
Tanya Sanerib, Centre for Biological Diversity

Trump later called elephant hunting a “horror show,” and said that it would be very difficult for anyone to change his mind.

African elephants have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1979.

Proponents of big-game hunting and the current Department of the Interior leadership believe that money from permits to hunt elephants would help aid in their conservation by putting more revenue in the system. The agency’s memo cites a long-running lawsuit against the ban filed by Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm.

“The Trump administration is trying to keep these crucial trophy import decisions behind closed doors, and that’s totally unacceptable,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Centre for Biological Diversity told Associatd Press. “Elephants aren’t meant to be trophies, they’re meant to roam free.”

The president’s sons Donald Trump Jnr and Eric Trump are both avid game hunters. A photograph of Trump Jnr holding a knife and a severed elephant tail after a hunt in Zimbabwe in 2011 has drawn wide attention in the past.

Under Zinke, who is also a hunter, the Interior Department’s policies have become noticeably more pro-hunting. According to AP, the Department took a step in June to potentially allow grizzly bears near Yellowstone National Park to be hunted. And the Fish and Wildlife Service has begun allowing African lions killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported, AP reported.

The population of African elephants has shrunk from about 5 million 100 years ago to about 400,000, a drop precipitated in part by illegal poaching and the demand for elephant ivory and the loss of natural habitat.

Elephant hunting is not a sport that is widely accessible to American citizens. The safaris in Africa can run up costs of more than US$50,000 per person.