COMMENTARY: Trump scores for elephants by keeping “trophy” ban

Even President Trump doesn’t buy into the false argument – “you have to kill it to conserve it” – that trophy hunters and Safari Club International continue foisting upon the public about rare wildlife.

In an interview, President Trump confirmed that he directed his administration to retain the ban on the import of so-called hunting trophies – parts of African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) and other wildlife under attack – from Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Despite a shocking decline in the elephant population over the last century, the ban on body part imports was not put in place until the Obama administration. Then in November 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was planning to reverse that decision, again putting forth the faux argument that the blood money of trophy hunters goes back to conservation.

A Humane Society International report found that in several African countries, including Zambia and Zimbabwe, the contribution of those who travel to strip Africans of their wildlife heritage for blood sport and animal body parts is a mere .78 percent of all tourism dollars.

“I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country] and people can talk all they want about preservation and all of the things that they’re saying where money goes towards — well, money WAS going — in that case, going to a government which was probably taking the money,” said the president.

“I thought it was terrible. That was done by a very high-level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around … No, I was not believing in [the conservation argument].”

Trump should have taken one more step and fired U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for undermining wildlife at the behest of a special interest group, Safari Club International.

In the 1500s, there were an estimated 26 million elephants across the African continent. Today there are just 350,000 African savanna elephants surviving in only 18 African countries, a 30 percent decrease in just seven years. African elephants, the largest land animal, were listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1978.

The ICUN Red List of Threatened Species says loss of habitat, illegal hunting and poaching are continuing threats to the elephant population. Last year the largest seizure of illegal elephant ivory was made in Hong Kong, 7.2 tons, or 1,000 elephants murdered out of greed for trinkets. More than a million people have called on Hong Kong to shut down the trade, which could very well drive the African elephant to extinction if it’s not stopped.

The plight of the elephant is not helped by the piling on of Safari Club International members and others who have more dollars than brains to travel around the world to murder “the Big Five” – Cape buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions and rhino in an anachronistic killing competition. A survey conducted by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) found that 78 percent of American voters oppose elephant and lion imports. Several African countries, including Botswana, Kenya and Rwanda, all ban trophy hunting.

The president has been broadly criticized by conservationists and environmental organizations for the largest national monument reduction in history, the rollback of protections for migratory birds and relaxing sage grouse protection, among other changes impacting our natural world. Give him credit for ensuring the ban on importing animal parts remains, that is, let him know you approve –— it may inspire him to do more for our wildlife.

As Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, wrote, “Our intolerance for animal cruelty, especially when it is purposeful, wasteful, and done for boastful, selfish purposes like trophy hunting and dogfighting, is an American characteristic that binds us together as a nation and is something we should be proud of. President Trump has keenly tapped into this American value by imposing a ban on the imports of trophy-hunted elephants and lions from two countries, and we hope that’s just a start.”

Maria Fotopoulos writes about the connection between overpopulation and biodiversity loss.

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