WASHINGTON (CN) — Conservation groups failed Tuesday to persuade the D.C. Circuit that the Trump administration improperly carved out a loophole for big-game hunters to import elephant tusks and lion hides from Africa.

The challenge stems from a March 2018 memorandum in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed how it would handle applications from hunters to import the trophies of elephants they had hunted abroad.

Whereas the service previously conducted country-by-country assessments to determine whether hunting was needed to enhance the survival of a species — studies that in 2014 and 2015 led it to ban elephant trophies from Zimbabwe — the new standard switched to considering import permits individually.

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