The Trump administration said it will allow the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport, contending that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill them will aid the vulnerable species.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written notice issued Thursday that permitting elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back as trophies will raise money for conservation programs. A licensed two-week African elephant hunt can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates.
In the Friday notice, FWS said it had determined that Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts for elephants are sufficient to protect the population and that hunting fees benefit conservation, both necessary factors in allowing trophy imports.
“The Service is able to make a determination that the killing of 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,” the agency wrote.
“With the information currently available, applications to import trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to have met this requirement unless we issue a new finding based on available information.”
The Trump administration also lifted the Obama administration’s ban on African elephant trophies from Zambia. But officials are not obligated to publish a Federal Register notice on that.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Thursday that the policies had been made final.
“There hasn’t been an announcement that’s been finalized on this front,” she told reporters. “Until that’s done, I wouldn’t consider anything final.”
But Interior Department spokesman Russell Newell, whose agency includes FWS, confirmed Friday that both the Zimbabwe and Zambia elephant decisions are now final.
African elephants are considered both by FWS and by international conservation officials to be threatened species.
“By lifting the import ban on elephant trophies in Zimbabwe and Zambia the Trump Administration underscored, once again, the importance of sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting to the survival and enhancement of game species in this country and worldwide,” Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s advocacy arm, said in a statement.