Quantcast

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration Over New Elephant and Lion Trophy Policies, Still in Effect Despite Trump's Tweets

Popular
African elephant. USFWS

The Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Trump administration Monday for allowing U.S. hunters to import elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe. The lawsuit aims to protect animals and resolve confusion created by the administration's contradictory announcements in recent days.

The suit comes days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abruptly reversed an Obama-era ban on elephant trophy imports based on catastrophic elephant population declines. Fish and Wildlife also recently greenlighted lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe, despite the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in 2015.


After massive public outcry, including from established Republican politicians and pundits, President Trump and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke announced a "hold" on issuing elephant trophy import permits late Friday night. President Trump suggested on Twitter that a new big-game trophy decision would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, the new federal policies allowing imports of elephant and lion trophies—referred to as "positive enhancement findings" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act—remain in effect.

"The Trump administration must clearly and permanently halt imports of lion and elephant trophies to protect these amazing animals from extinction," said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump's abrupt backpedaling after public outcry, while appreciated, shows how arbitrary this deplorable decision was. These incredibly imperiled creatures need a lot more than vague promises."

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, notes that the Trump administration acted arbitrarily in its rush to reverse course and open the U.S. to Zimbabwean lion and elephant trophies in a move that is contrary to the Endangered Species Act.

"Putting trophy imports 'on hold' isn't enough," said Elly Pepper, deputy director of Wildlife Trade for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Elephants are in crisis now. If we don't force the administration to completely revoke its decision, President Trump could quietly start allowing these imports as soon as he stops facing criticism on Twitter."

The Trump administration's decision to lift the ban on these trophy imports relies heavily upon Zimbabwe having the plans, resources, funds and staff to conserve elephant and lion populations. But, as the lawsuit notes, in a country where corruption is already a huge concern, a military coup that began Nov. 14 has cast further uncertainty on Zimbabwe's rule of law. Zimbabwe scored an abysmal 22 out of 100 on Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perception Index.

Poaching elephants for their ivory remains a significant threat in Zimbabwe. According to aerial surveys—known as the Great Elephant Census—Zimbabwe's elephant population decreased six percent between 2001 and 2013, when the aerial surveys were performed. Zimbabwe's elephant population is reportedly still in decline, largely due to poaching. Zimbabwe's lion population was estimated at roughly 703 lions in 2014.

The Great Elephant Census of savannah elephants conducted over the past couple of years revealed that fewer than 400,000 savannah elephants (not including the smaller forest elephants in western-central Africa) remain across the continent. The census results also documented the loss of 140,000 elephants over seven years due to poaching. In 2016, the IUCN found lions in Africa to be vulnerable to extinction, noting an estimated 43 percent decline of African lion populations over 21 years.

Studies show that trophy hunting is only a small portion of the funding all tourists, including those who do not deplete wildlife populations, provide in African countries that allow trophy hunting. Meanwhile, corruption in Zimbabwe raises serious concerns about where trophy hunters' fees really go, according to assessments by the Obama administration and a 2016 report from House Natural Resources Committee.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less
A new rule that ends limits for hog slaughtering speeds could increase animal suffering, advocates warn. kickers / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Trump's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized a new hog slaughtering rule Tuesday that environmental and food safety advocates warn could harm animals, plant workers and public health, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Prehistoric and historic walrus skulls, tusks and bone fragments often wash ashore on the southern coast of Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland. Hilmar J. Malmquist

A unique subpopulation of ancient walrus in Iceland was likely hunted to extinction by Vikings shortly after arrival to the region, according to new research.

Read More Show Less