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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 17 October, 2018

Trump says he will KEEP ban on elephant trophies in US, reversing his earlier decision

The importation of Zimbabwean elephant hunting trophies to the US was authorised this week, before being reversed.

Updated at 9.40am

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump said he will uphold a ban on importing trophies of elephants hunted and killed in Zimbabwe, pending further review, reversing his own administration’s decision from just a day earlier after a public outcry.

“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!” Trump tweeted.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the pair came to the decision after they “talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical.”

Just hours before, Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders had defended the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s move to end the 2014 ban initiated under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.

The service said Thursday that it would begin issuing permits to import “sport-hunted trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe” between January 21, 2016 and December 31, 2018.

Zambia would also have been covered under the revised rule.


The move to lift the ban on trophies was met with a barrage of criticism from animal rights groups and activists.

It also came on the same day that the US State Department presented to Congress its first annual report on wildlife trafficking which, it said, “remains a serious transnational crime”.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service had said before the reversal that it “will begin issuing permits to allow the import of sport-hunted trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe” between 21 January, 2016 and 31 December, 2018.

The statement on the service’s website on Thursday confirmed an announcement made this week at a South African pro-hunting forum.

Donald J. Trump - Asia Trip Source: DPA/PA Images

Zambia will also be covered under the revised rule, which had been sought by the Safari Club International Foundation, based in Arizona, and the National Rifle Association.

An environmentalist group, the Center for Biological Diversity, said the new ruling will allow importation of the animals’ heads, feet and tails, “legalising the killing of endangered elephants.”

According to the Great Elephant Census project, African savannah elephant populations fell by 30% between 2007 and 2014, while Zimbabwe saw a drop of 6%.

Despite an overall fall in poaching, Africa’s elephant population has declined in part because of continued illegal killing, said a report this year by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

African ivory, in particular, is highly sought in China where it is a status symbol.

“Reprehensible behaviour by the Trump Admin. 100 elephants a day are already killed. This will lead to more poaching,” The Elephant Project, a group based in Florida that aims to protect the animals, said on Twitter, before the decision reversal.

Tumult in Zimbabwe

Updated information from Zimbabwe led US officials to find “that African elephant trophy hunting in Zimbabwe will enhance the survival of the species in the wild.”

It cited data showing the country has more than 80,000 elephants.

But the US-based animal rights group PETA had denounced the administration’s reasoning.

“Selling a threatened animal’s life to raise money for ‘conservation’ is like selling a child on the black market to raise money to fight child molestation,” it said.

Presenting its wildlife trafficking report to Congress, the State Department said Trump had called for “a comprehensive and decisive approach” to organised crime groups involved in the trade.

“The US government is combating this illegal trade at home and abroad,” the department said in a statement.

It identified several countries which are either a “focus” of trafficking or a more serious country of concern, but Zimbabwe and Zambia were not among them.

Trump’s sons are known to have a passion for hunting.

A photo widely shared on the internet shows Donald Trump Jr posing with a knife in one hand and an elephant tail in the other, the animal’s corpse beside him.

trumpjr The photo of Donald Trump Jr posing with an elephant's tail was widely shared online.

The US decision followed tumultuous days in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe refused to resign after the military seized control of the country.

© AFP 2017

Read: Zimbabwe crisis: Mugabe ‘under house arrest’ after army seizes control >

Read: Jared Kushner fails to hand over emails sent to Trump team about WikiLeaks and Russia >

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