Under President Trump’s direction, the United States Department of the Interior is set to reverse a 2014 ban on the importation of elephant hunting trophies into the U.S. The notice is scheduled to be made public in the Federal Register on Friday, November 17, 2017. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as quoted in the Huffington Post, the notice will “allow for anyone who legally kills an elephant in Zimbabwe from Jan. 21, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018, or in Zambia in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to obtain a permit to import their trophy into the United States.”
The announcement came as a shock to all of us. It’s an insult to everyone working to protect and conserve elephants, in particular in light of this supposed reasoning behind the decision — that hunting of these animals “will enhance the survival of the species in the wild.” But it’s more than a shock and an insult. The argument is cynical and senseless on its face. As an organization based in India — where this is no trophy hunting at all — we can attest there there are ways to help wild populations without actually killing them.
There is no logical way in which hunting animals for sport can help a species or boost its populations. Claims that “canned” hunting are of conservation value because they either “cull excessive populations” or benefit local communities are easily refutable, with no supporting scientific analysis available regarding which elephants “need” to be culled for population management, how much of the money (if any) from trophy hunting actually reaches communities or conservation groups, or really anything that shows how the practice of trophy hunting positively benefits a wild population of a threatened species. Saving animals by killing them remains an absurd statement on its face.
On the other hand, what has been proven, time and again, what has been documented and researched extensively, is that hunting decimates populations. That corruption and bureaucracy eat away at any profit coming into countries from trophy-hunting expeditions for local communities and wildlife conservation. That populations of elephants continue to plummet, and that among the myriad threats these species face, poaching them for ivory is likely the primary one. In fact, legalizing supposedly “legally sourced ivory” and animal parts from trophy hunting provides the ideal cover for smuggling illegal ivory — particularly as this legalization will increase demand and encourage even more poaching for profit.
Problems like captive abuse, poaching for captivity, poaching for ivory, and human-elephant conflict are huge threats to an already embattled species. These are complicated problems and require reasoned, thorough analysis; they involve not just the potential disappearance of an entire species, but the lives and livelihoods of economically impoverished human communities too. To have President Trump undermine all of that for the perverted thrills of a handful of wealthy hunters in America — including his own son (Donald Trump, Jr. was recently photographed smiling proudly alongside a dead elephant, its severed tail in his hand) — is more than an insult. It’s a massive step backward that will have direct and lethal effects on elephants, already on the brink as a species.
One of the few small victories humankind has achieved for these amazing creatures is the U.S. ban on importing their severed body parts from sports hunters. Although organizations like Wildlife SOS and our supporters are working hard to conserve the few elephants left, the Trump administration’s decision is a violent blow to all of our efforts. It seeks to demean everything we stand for and all that we do — with one simple, selfish, and callous decision hastily crafted to appease a tiny sliver of the world’s human population. If it stands, this act will have devastating effects on elephants.
But we do not intend to let it stand. To our brothers and sisters in conservation who work so hard for the benefit of threatened wildlife, stay strong. Make noise. Do not give up on the elephants. Stand by us, and stand by the elephants; they need you now more than ever. Please sign our petition demanding that the ban remain in place, and ask everyone you know to sign it too. Our voices will be heard — indeed, they must be heard.
Petition link: goo.gl/MWzE48