Published: Fri, March 09, 2018
Economy | By Shawn Conner

White House quietly allows hunting trophies to be imported

White House quietly allows hunting trophies to be imported

But last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly announced it would weigh big-game trophy permits on a "case-by-case basis", and repeal all previous species- or country-wide policies.

The memo is dated March 1, stating that the FWS will consider a species' "status and management program" and "ensure that the program is promoting the conservation of the species" when determining whether or not to issue a trophy permit.

Conservationist activists have expressed skepticism that fees paid by big game hunters actually get to the wildlife agencies they're meant to support.

At the time, Mr. Trump also publicly expressed his opposition to the idea of importing big-game trophies, tweeting, "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".

But in December of 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling on a lawsuit brought by Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, found that the Obama administration did not follow proper procedure when implementing its ban.

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Zinke recently told people privately that Trump has called him several times to discuss what to do about elephant trophies. Neither the Interior Department nor FWS issued a press release over the last week to announce the decision, which was quickly condemned by environmental advocates. This may please Trump's two oldest sons, who have vacationed in Africa where they shot large game animals - like elephants and leopards.

Under the new policy, the agency, which Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke oversees, will give hunters permits for trophy items on an individual basis "pursuant to its authorities under the Endangered Species Act and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species".

"The Trump administration is trying to keep these crucial trophy import decisions behind closed doors, and that's totally unacceptable", said Tanya Sanerib, who is the worldwide legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

If elephants could watch the news, they'd be going into hiding right about now. Why?

"The president has been very clear in the direction that his administration will go", a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson told NBC News - but would not comment further on next steps, as the broadcaster reports, "citing ongoing litigation".

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The bureau insisted it has kept in place its obligations under the Endangered Species Act, which designated the African elephant as endangered in 1979.

Illicit demand for elephant ivory has led to devastating losses from illegal poaching as the natural habitat available for the animals to roam has also dwindled by more than half. A licensed two-week African elephant hunt can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates.

The World Wildlife Fund said the African elephant population was now around 415,000, compared with as many as five million in the early part of the 20th century.

And the numbers of these animals continue to decline.

The United Nations estimates that as many as 100,000 African elephants were killed from 2010 to 2012, according to the AP. A census of African elephants, for instance, said their population had plummeted roughly 30 percent from 2007 to 2014 alone.

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