On November 16th the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that the Obama-era ban on importing elephant hunt trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia had been lifted, but in the face of severe backlash from The Humane Society of the United States and several other animal-rights activist groups, Trump announced by the next day that he was going to, “Put the decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts.” This ban was put in place by the Obama Administration in 2014 due to preserve the African elephant population in the face of the insignificant conservation efforts in the two countries.
The African elephants are labeled as threatened on the Endangered Species list and are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which allows the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to authorize imports of trophies if the hunts are determined to be contributing to the survival of the species. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is the leader of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which manages the USFWS. Zinke has publicly supported the plan to lift the import ban. Contrary to hunting supporter Zinke, on November 19th Trump tweeted that he’d be “hard-pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”
Trump’s aversion to hunting isn’t a new development. In response to a tweet from J.K. Rowling (aka Queen of Comebacks), which pictured Donald Trump Jr. posing with big game animals he had hunted in 2012, Trump declared on Twitter, “My sons love hunting, I don’t.”
In theory, hunting big game can benefit endangered populations by providing incentive to local communities to preserve the animal population, and revenue to conservation efforts. This theory was challenged in an article published on Africa Geographic last year, “Missing the Mark: African trophy hunting fails to show consistent conservation benefits;” the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee concluded: “Poorly regulated hunting can decimate wildlife populations and lead to the collapse of ecosystems and the disappearance of hunting opportunities. We have a responsibility to set an example for the rest of the world and make absolutely certain that Americans are not contributing to the decline of species already facing extinction or severe population loss.”
The United States agency declared that it is impressed with Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts and predicts that hunting may be beneficial for the species, despite the fact that the African elephant population has been diminished by six percent in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census.
Alexzia Shobe is a screenwriting major at The New School and writes for The New School Free Press. Follow her on Instagram at @lexzi97.