The Trump administration and the NRA argue that big-game hunting is necessary to finance preservation efforts to support endangered animals.
In a new move by the Trump administration, the ban on importing elephant trophies from certain African countries has been lifted.
The New York Post reported that The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as directed by the Trump administration, will reverse an Obama-era policy that banned importation of sport-hunted trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the FWS wrote, “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.”
This follows another policy reversal on Oct. 20, when the FWS decided to allow the importation of lion sport-hunted trophies from these same nations.
These policies cut close to home for Trump, whose sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, are avid big-game hunters who came under fire in 2015 when pictures of them with wildlife trophies came to light.
“By lifting the import ban on lion trophies in Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Trump Administration underscored the importance of sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting to the survival and enhancement of game species in this country and worldwide,” said Chris Cox, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.
The argument of these organizations and agencies is that big-game hunting is necessary to financially support the wildlife preserves that house most of Africa’s threatened and endangered species.
However, there is little evidence that this trophy hunting actually benefits the animals hunted.
While big-game hunters are a source of revenue for many African nations, a 2016 report by the House Committee on Natural Resources explains how there is no guarantee that any of the revenue generated through trophy hunting will be directed into conservation efforts.
This is especially true in nations like Zimbabwe, that score poorly on government corruption indices.
Furthermore, the report shows that the hunting and poaching of wild elephants is outpacing the species’ reproductive rate, making it hard to justify the killing of further individuals to save the species.
The Elephant Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of African elephants, took a similar stance, tweeting, “Reprehensible behavior by the Trump Admin. 100 elephants a day are already killed. This will lead to more poaching.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Zimbabwe’s elephant population has declined six percent since 2001 and evidence shows that poaching has increased in areas where trophy hunting is permitted.”
There are less than 400,000 African savannah elephants left in Africa, and their population declined by 30 percent in the last 10 years.
These organizations worry that allowing this importation will only increase this decline.