Trump Admin. Quietly Awards Dozens of Lion Trophy Permits to Hunters, GOP Donors
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued more than three dozen permits for hunters to bring back lion trophy parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia between 2016-2018, according to copies of the permits obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The documents were obtained by Friends of Animals and reported by Huffington Post on Thursday. Thirty-three hunters received a total of 38 lion trophy permits, according to the animal advocacy nonprofit.
More than half of those hunters donated to Republican lawmakers or have ties to hunting advocacy group Safari Club International, Friends of Animals said.
"The permits show that the current administration, not only has loosened restrictions on lion hunting, but is rewarding supporters," the nonprofit said in a press release.
#BreakingNews: FoA has learned that U.S. #hunters with connections to #Trump received FWS permits to hunt African… https://t.co/AgSSx9xmjO— Friends of Animals (@Friends of Animals)1532455606.0
The report follows the
Trump administration's move in March to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia on a case by case basis, a reversal from President Trump's previous statements that his administration would keep the Obama-era ban on imports of the animals.
Last year, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke created an advisory committee called the International Wildlife Conservation Council that is mainly comprised of trophy hunters and members of Safari Club International.
Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to HuffPost's request for comment.
Among the hunters who received a permit was Steven Chancellor, a wealthy Indiana businessman and major GOP donor who raised more than $1 million for Republican candidates at a fundraiser at his home headlined by Donald Trump in 2016, Friends of Animals said. Chancellor—an avid hunter who has registered 482 confirmed kills, including 18 lions, between 1980 and 2008, the Courier & Press reported—is an appointee on Sec. Zinke's International Wildlife Conservation Council. He was allowed to import lion parts from a July 2016 hunt in Zimbabwe, according to the FOIA request.
Another hunter who received permits was Virginia resident Kent Greenawalt, who has donated more than $100,000 to Republican candidates and committees and $5,400 to Trump. He was allowed to bring back lion trophies after a hunt in Zambia in 2017 and another hunt in Zimbabwe in 2016, Friends of Animals revealed.
Big game hunters say their sport provides a service through game management and the trophy hunting fees provide revenue that directly funds conservation and contributes to African economies.
However, opponents say that killing the animals is wrong and endangers vulnerable populations.
"If African wildlife is to survive the next few decades in their homelands, these elephants, lions and other animals—coveted by hunters for their strength and beauty—must be worth more alive than dead," said Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral in the press release. "That means safeguarding habitat along with photographic safaris and ecotourism must outpace blood-drenched trophy hunting expeditions. Trophy hunting must expire and collapse from its own dead weight. Let's press for an administration that stops catering to an industry that has actually been in decline with a dwindling number of hunters."
The New York Times reported that Fish and Wildlife Service previously made determinations about trophies publicly available, but under new rules, interested parties must file a FOIA request to see details of the permits.
Lion 'Trophy' Importation Ban Was Quietly Lifted by Trump Administration in October https://t.co/BmbXUk6MJi @WWF… https://t.co/eQ131tMxeD— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1510932469.0
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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