The Trump administration on Wednesday made it legal once again for hunters to kill elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia and bring their remains back to the U.S. The move reverses a 2014 Obama administration ban on the imports that was put in place to stave off population decline brought on by “uncontrollable poaching.”
Elephants are protected under the Endangered Species Act, but trophies of the dead animals can be brought to the U.S. if the federal government determines that hunting them will help the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said that is now the case in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“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,” a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said in a statement.
The move is a part of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s goal to promote hunting, which has included overturning a ban on lead ammunition and installing the arcade game Big Buck Hunter in the department’s cafeteria.
Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle wrote Wednesday that this move is bound to backfire since “trophy hunting undermines the conservation of threatened and endangered species.”
“Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them,” he added.
The past decade has been rough on the elephant population in Africa, ABC News reports.
Savanna elephant populations declined by 30 percent across 18 countries in Africa from 2007 to 2014, according to the Great Elephant Census published last year, which put their remaining numbers at just over 350,000.
The elephant population declined 6 percent overall in Zimbabwe but dropped by 74 percent within one specific region. Elephants saw “substantial declines along the Zambezi River,” in Zambia while other areas of that country were stable, according to the census.
Of course, there are some people celebrating the move. Outfitters are already offering elephant hunting trips to Zimbabwe, despite the political unrest in the country. We can think of one guy who’s surely already booked his ticket.