The Trump Administration has reversed a policy that protected African elephants in Zimbawbe, Zambia and Tanzania from being hunted and brought back to the U.S. as trophies, announcing that it would now consider permits on a case-by-case basis for elephant parts from those countries.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency announced that it had changed its policy— without any input from the public—even after the agency was called out by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for not providing sufficient opportunity or public participation when Friends of Animals challenged agency actions on elephant trophies in court. 

“Once again, FWS demonstrates that it is more interested in shortcutting the legal process than protecting elephants,’’ said Mike Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “While the agency is busy playing a game of ping-pong policymaking with the likes of the NRA and Safari Club, elephants are continuing to die in countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania that have no desire to protect them from extinction.”

FoA filed another lawsuit against FWS after it announced in November that it was lifting the ban on trophies imported by U.S. hunters from Zimbabwe and Zambia and had quietly approved more than a dozen permits even after previous court findings had supported the need for the ban.

But instead of reinstituting the ban, FWS first reversed it and now is allowing the permits on a case by case basis. The decision imperils African elephants whose population continues to dwindle. The African elephant population has plummeted by 30 percent in seven years, with just 350,000 left in the world where once there were millions.

The policy change was announced despite President Trump recently telling a British journalist that he “didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back” into the country and that elephant trophies were a “horror show.” The agency’s policy change also withdraws a number of other Endangered Species Act protections regarding trophies of African elephants, lions and bontebok from countries that include Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia.

In addition to our lawsuit, FoA is pushing for legislation in New York known as the Big Five African Trophies Act that would prohibit the trophies of elephants, lions, leopards and black and white rhinos from being brought into its port. New York is the busiest port of entry in the U.S.

In New York, more than 150,000 trophy hunted animals have been imported from Africa from 2005 to 2014, including 1,130 elephant trophies and an additional 84 tusks.

“Justice arrives for threatened and endangered animals one animal and species at a time,” said Priscilla Feral, president of FoA. “We are targeting the motivations of vainglorious trophy hunters with educational and legislative remedies so well-heeled cowards who feel entitled to murder Africa’s wildlife are unable to ship the heads and carcasses back to adorn their walls of shame.”

For more about FoA’s efforts to protect elephants, click here.