Trump administration to lift ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, Zambia

Trump puts big-game trophy decision on hold

A US Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson said: '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'.

Last week United States interior secretary Ryan Zinke, a hunter himself and a keen supporter of hunting policies, established an International Wildlife Conservation Council.

Since 2005, Zimbabwe's elephant population has dropped 10 percent, while Zambia saw an 11 percent decline over the last decade, according to National Geographic, citing the 2016 report.

In Zimbabwe, according to the Safari Operators Association, annual revenue this year could be as much as $130 million (€110 million), mainly from the United States market.

A notice regarding the change is set to be posted in the Federal Register this week outlining information to justify the changes.

The population of African elephants fell by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, with poaching the primary reason for the decline, according to a report released past year.

The Fish and Wildlife Service did not say what specific conditions had changed in Zimbabwe and Zambia to justify lifting the ban, but it did say more information about the decision would be posted in the Federal Register on Friday (the Federal Register is where the US government officially publishes federal regulations).

Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group that has consistently opposed any restrictions on importing trophies from overseas, broke the news of the rule change a day ahead of Fish and Wildlife.

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The change marks a shift in efforts to stop the importation of elephant tusks and hides, overriding a 2014 ban imposed by the Obama administration. "This is a setback in the fight to ban all illegal wildlife trade".

Animal rights activists and environmental groups expressed skepticism Thursday that killing elephants could help save them.

"The conservation and long-term health of big game crosses worldwide boundaries", Zinke said in a statement announcing the group's creation.

Zimbabwe is now in turmoil, with President Robert Mugabe under house arrest as a military coup unfolds.

Tanya Sanerib, a lawyer with the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, called the timing of the Trump administration's announcement "bizarre".

But Elizabeth Hogan, World Animal Protection U.S. Wildlife Campaign Manager, said she was "appalled" at the decision by the Department of the Interior and is urging the Trump administration to reconsider.

In another potential policy reversal, Fish and Wildlife has posted an online guide for hunters on how to import lion trophies. The Service also banned imports of trophies from lion populations kept in fenced enclosures to be hunted.

The decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to reverse the ban follows moves in favour of the US hunting sector that are worrying some observers.

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