Friends of Animals has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior to reinstate a policy that prohibits U.S. hunters from importing the trophies of elephants from Zimbabwe. Under the Trump administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed a ban that had been enacted in 2014.
“The United States has for too long enabled the killing of African elephants for sport. The U.S. needs once again the take a stand, or we will soon never again see these amazing, beloved animals roaming the wild,” said Michael Harris, general counsel and director of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “They will only be seen in movies, zoos, and on the walls of trophy hunters, and that is a crime against nature.”
FoA’s legal action comes on the heels of Zimbabwe announcing that it would be selling 500 hunts to kill African elephants. This deadly decision came about one month after the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified African savanna elephants as endangered.
FWS enacted the original ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe because of the country’s failure to prove that its management of elephants was enhancing the survival of the species. It expressed concern about the management, funding and resources of wildlife authorities.
“Zimbabwe is one of the worst wildlife managers on earth, and that hasn’t changed,” Harris said.
A spokesman for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority defended Zimbabwe’s decision to sell 500 elephant hunts not on the bases that it would help conserve elephants or that elephants are not threatened with extinction, but because the organization needs money due to the pandemic decreasing tourism revenues. While the pandemic has impacted economies worldwide, it should not be used as a basis for short-sighted wildlife policy in any country, FoA’s petition states.
“Hunting organizations and certain governments they cozy up to know very well that non-consumptive, community-based wildlife watching tourism provides more incentive for conservation in Africa. In contrast, trophy hunting provides a legal market to launder illegally obtained elephant parts,” Harris said.
From 2005-2014, 4,624 elephant trophies were imported into the United States. The majority entered through New York—1,130 African elephant trophies were imported, as well as 84 pairs of tusks.