The Trump Administration has quietly authorized the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to issue permits for imports of trophies taken from elephants. This after Trump called the practice of hunting elephants for their trophies a “horror show”. President Barack Obama’s administration had banned import of trophies taken from elephants Zimbabwe and Zambia in particular. The new FWS Memo effectively withdraws the Obama era ban.
African elephants are designated under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §1531, et seq. (ESA). An “enhance[ment]” finding is necessary under ESA to allow any hunting of a designated species. This is a finding that hunting a designated species will “enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species” or is for scientific purposes consistent with the conservation purpose of the ESA”. 16 U.S.C. §§1538(a), 1539(a)(1)(A). The new memo effectively withdraws the Obama era findings that hunting African elephants in the wild will not enhance their survival. FWS will now issue permits on an undefined “case-by-case” basis to hunters and others who want to import parts or trophies from elephants hunted down in the wild.
That is not all….The Trump Administration has also lifted the ban on importing hunted lions. Effective January 22, 2016 FWS under President Obama reacted to the dramatic decline of lions in the wild by designating two subspecies under ESA. The new rules effectively protected all remaining lions from trophy hunting. In its new memo FWS has withdrawn all previous findings that hunting lions does not “enhance” their survival in the wild. Permits to import lion trophies are now available from FWS.