Africa |Developing

Trump lifts ban, allows importing of elephant-hunting trophies from two countries

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Charles Turner

Charles Turner

"Could you give me links to those repo..."
Charles Turner

Charles Turner

"Updated now. Thanks"

Bill Crider

"The story as written implies a partis..."
Gareth Lewis

Gareth Lewis

"The ban was actually reinstated for n..."

U.S. President Donald Trump has tabled a decision that would have reversed a ban on the import of trophy elephant and lion carcasses from Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!” President Trump said on November 17 on  Twitter.

The tweet is in reference to a policy change announced the day prior by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The wildlife service lifted a ban that prevented hunters from importing elephant and lion trophies from the two African nations. After President Trump’s tweet, the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who manages the Fish and Wildlife Service, confirmed that the policy will undergo further review. 

The ban, which is now back in effect, was originally implemented under the Obama Administration in 2014 to boost conservation and anti-poaching efforts. The African elephant population in Zimbabwe was an explicit concern in the order. 

Before Barack Obama issued the ban, elephant poaching was severe. The elephant population in the savanna of Zambia and Zimbabwe declined by 30 percent between 2007 and 2014 due to poaching, according to the Great Elephant Census. The African elephant has been listed as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1978.

Hunting of African elephants in Zambia and Zimbabwe has always been legal with the proper permits. But the ban prevented big-game hunters from importing the trophies into the U.S. as a way to discourage the practice.

Several trophy hunting companies based in Zimbabwe and Zambia already advertise to U.S residents. Nyamazana Safaris, for example, quotes elephant hunting at $1,700 a day, and $17,000 for the carcass as a trophy, before the import ban was lifted.

The ‘Big Five’ of big-game hunting, according to the African Sky, a Zambia-based company (Screenshot)

Why Trump initially lifted the ban

The Trump Administration lifted the ban for two reasons, stating in a report that “facts on the ground have changed and improved” in Zimbabwe. The same report also cited “inadequate information” regarding the country’s elephant population. 

The second reason stemmed from the belief that trophy hunting can help with conservation efforts.    

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,” reads the initial statement from the Fish and Wildlife Service, which lifted the ban.

This line of argument was met with backlash from conservation groups and public figuresThough many in the conservation community see benefit in trophy hunting, if well-regulated. 

Argument for well-regulated hunting

The Trump Administration and advocates of legal trophy hunting claim that that the money from these expeditions helps finance and encourge conservation efforts because they give these elephants value outside of poaching.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an example of a conservation organization that supports big-game hunting if it is well-regulated. In a 2012 report, the group wrote that trophy hunting  “may assist in furthering conservation objectives by creating the revenue and economic incentives for the management and conservation of the target species and its habitat, as well as supporting local livelihoods.”

African governments are some of the supporters of big-game hunting. The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism has been particularly vocal in seeing hunting as a means of wildlife conservation.

There are more elephant in Namibia today than at any time in the past 100 years. One of the reasons for their increase in numbers is that they have a value,” the ministry said in a 2014 statement.

Support for legal hunting of elephants and rhinos has increased as the role of private landowners has grown in conservation discussions. In May 2016, for example, Zimbabwe sold wildlife in public national parks to private buyers after a drought made it impossible for the government to care for all of the animals.

When national parks reach capacity, private landowners should be given a “financial incentive” to protect endangered species, according to Nigel Leaders-Williams, professor of geography at the University of Cambridge, and an advocate for well-regulated hunting. 

In a 2005 report in the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, Leader-Williams cited the rhino population growing by 80 percent in Namibia as an example of responsible trophy hunting.

“Legislative changes allowed landowners to benefit directly from managing wildlife on their land,” he wrote.


Argument against trophy hunting

While supporters of trophy hunting point to Namibia, detractors point to Kenya as their success story. Kenya has outlawed big-game hunting and has low poaching rates compared to other African nations.

This is in large part because the country has prioritized funding conservation parks, according to Andrea Crosta, executive director of the Elephant League.

The benefits of trophy hunting are not even remotely comparable with the benefits that local communities enjoy from millions of tourists that visit Africa every year, without a rifle,” Crosta told WikiTribune via email.

The most significant concern is that trophy hunting lets poachers more easily get their product, ivory in particular, on the black market. News 24, a South-African media outlet, found that a Thai businessman was able to sell ivory on the black market in 2011 from carcasses he said were “trophies”.

Trophy hunting is the perfect laundering mechanism,” Crosta said. “You legally import ivory, rhino horn or lions as trophies and sell them to the illegal wildlife market.”

Little evidence shows that the revenue generated from foreign trophy hunters actually trickles down to villagers who live near the hunting grounds. An estimated 3 percent of profits from big-game hunting goes towards local communities, according to a report from Hassanali Thomas Sachedina of the University of Oxford. (Study made publicly available by CNN). Similar figures have been cited by the African Lion Coalition.

The conservation and economic benefits of big-game hunting in Africa are exaggerated, said the African Wildlife Federation.  

“If the Trump administration is serious about conservation, AWF encourages the U.S. government to step forward with the necessary financial support to Zimbabwe and other wildlife range states for anti-poaching and associated rural community development,” the AWF wrote in a November 16 statement.

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Charles Michio Turner is an American journalist who reports on labor, politics and development. In 2016, he reported from Myanmar on the several growing social movements in the country. His goal is to find new ways to include audiences in the new reporting process. Let him know if there's an issue or question that you see as being underreported or poorly reported. Twitter: @charlesmichio

History for stories "Trump lifts ban, allows importing of elephant-hunting trophies from two countries"

Select two items to compare revisions

20 November 2017

06:41:06, 20 Nov 2017 . .‎ Jodie DeJonge (Updated → Edits recast story)
04:44:15, 20 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → update with policy reversal)

19 November 2017

04:38:46, 19 Nov 2017 . .‎ Gareth Lewis (Updated → Conservation rather than conversation)

17 November 2017

17:52:08, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → )
16:31:43, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Steve Beatty (Updated → remove abbreviation)
16:11:16, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → community edit)
16:00:22, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → included community edit)
15:36:33, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → )
01:49:14, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Daniel Marsh (Updated → Removed some small text-size formatting.)
01:27:23, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → )
01:16:56, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Daniel Marsh (Updated → Added some tags.)
00:24:18, 17 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → publish with steve edits)

16 November 2017

23:55:06, 16 Nov 2017 . .‎ Steve Beatty (Updated → prepub edit)
23:23:06, 16 Nov 2017 . .‎ Charles Turner (Updated → first)

Talk for Story "Trump lifts ban, allows importing of elephant-hunting trophies from two countries"

Talk about this Story

  1. Rewrite

    The story as written implies a partisan slant (Obama vs Trump). It may give both presidents too much credit. Reports I have heard said it was the same career officials at Fish and Wildlife that suggested the ban and also suggested lifting it. I do not know if this is true – but it bears investigation. The Fish and Wildlife officials should get the credit for changing the policies and saving the widlife, not the presidents.

    1. Rewrite

      Could you give me links to those reports, Gareth? I would like to include that.

  2. Rewrite

    The ban was actually reinstated for now, right? I couldn’t see mention of this in the article

  3. Rewrite

    I think that the link for Nyamazana Safaris is broken.

  4. Rewrite

    Dan Marsh
    1 min ago
    I think you’re right Joel.

    I haven’t been able to find a non-news source that mentions anything about the ban being lifted in Zambia, only Zimbabwe.

    This news article seems to be correct, and only mentions Zimbabwe.

    Was the ban lifted in Zambia at an earlier date, I wonder?

    1. Rewrite

      On send thoughts that article does mention Zambia.

      “The decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to reverse the ban, which will also apply to trophies from Zambia, follows moves in favour of the US hunting sector that are worrying some observers.”

      But no source for that.

  5. I’d suggest that it should be made clear that this was only ever a conditional suspension, not an outright ban. I may be wrong, but I think there’s a difference between a conditional suspension and a ban. Which in turn suggests that they would be obligated to end the suspension in the event of the conditions being met. That then begs the question, were those conditions really met?

    1. Rewrite

      Hi Dan- I included a paragraph, with a link, on the Trump Administration’s justification for lifting the suspension. Thanks.

    2. Rewrite

      I’ve read the news release for the the 2014 Suspension and I’m not seeing that it was a conditional suspension, but it does provide a timeline of when the trophies where hunted. I agree that it would be interesting to know if it was in fact a conditional suspension, have they met the conditions to remove it accordingly.

      Also, I’m confused as to where the second country came into play. The 2014 article talks about Tanzania & Zimbabwe; however, the linked press release only talks about Zimbabwe. All of the social media stuff that I’ve seen so far have been talking about the two countries. Does anyone have a source for the second or did I simply miss it?

      1. Rewrite

        I think you’re right Joel.

        I haven’t been able to find a non-news source that mentions anything about the ban being lifted in Zambia, only Zimbabwe.

        This news article seems to be correct, and only mentions Zimbabwe.

        Was the ban lifted in Zambia at an earlier date, I wonder?

      2. Rewrite

        Hi Joel and Dan,

        You’re right about Zambia not being explicitly mentioned in the statement from the Fish and Wildlife Service. The inclusion of Zambia in the order was realized from a press release from the Safari Club, a pro-trophy hunting organization. I added a paragraph explaining this.

        The Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists Zambia as “approved” for trophy import between January 2016 and December 2018.

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