This story was updated on 11/20/17
Friends of Animals is poised to take legal action again after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrongly changed its tune this week about the trophy hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe, reversing the ban it enacted in 2014.
“There is simply no plausible reason for the government to reverse its three-year policy on prohibiting U.S. hunters from importing elephants from Zimbabwe, which has mismanaged wild elephants for decades now. We are looking forward to seeing the government’s official reasoning for this uncalled for reversal of policy, which is expected by the end of the week,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program.
President Trump in a two recent tweets seemed to backpedaled the agency’s decision saying in one that he was going to put the decision to reverse the ban on hold and in another said:
Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017
But tweets are not policy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has published a final decision that stated:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made a finding that the killing of African elephant trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant.
Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program Director Michael Harris said FoA will continue to explore a legal challenge to the agency’s decision.
We all know that what the President says one day can be changed the next. More importantly, the underlying finding by FWS that places Zimbabwe back onto the list of countries that hunting is considered sustainable has not changed. And we intend to move forward with challenging that finding in court
Last year, a federal judge upheld the agency’s ban, striking down a challenge by the Safari Club and the National Rifle Association—a case that Friends of Animals intervened in.
The Fish and Wildlife Service enacted the 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. If it turns out, as it appears to be, simply a gift to the U.S. sport hunting industry, then you can bet that Friends of Animals will take this to court. Trophy hunting of elephants can in no way save elephants in Zimbabwe or any other African country. If we are serious about maintaining and protecting wild African elephants, both legal and illegal killing of these animals must be stopped,’’ said Harris.
From 2005-2014, 4,624 elephants 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. Six elephants trophies were imported into Connecticut from 2005-2015.
Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral said the Fish and Wildlife Service’s reversal of its ban calls into focus the pressing need for the passage of Cecil’s Law, which was drafted by Friends of Animals. The current legislation is named after the Cecil the lion, who was killed in July of 2015 by an American trophy hunter outside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
The bill has been introduced in Connecticut and New York, would ban the importation, sale, possession and transportation of African elephants, lions, leopards and black and white rhinos and their body parts.
“The federal government’s actions mean it is more critical than ever that states like New York—which have designated ports where a large number of these trophies are imported—take action on their own,” said Feral.
Friends of Animals is an international animal protection organization founded in New York in 1957, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world.