The sons of President Donald Trump already have a lot of trophies, and soon they won’t have to worry about parading out the new ones they have bagged.
The Trump administration is reversing a U.S. ban on importing trophies of elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia, under the guise that fees for hunting can help fund conservation programs in these nations. That doesn’t make sense. The ban imposed by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2014 bars hunters from bringing back elephant tusks and heads, and specifically focuses on countries federal officials said are unable to establish and enforce laws that protect the elephants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided no evidence that anything has changed since then. Last month, it made a similar decision reversing a ban on lion-hunting trophies.
African elephants are a dying breed. The majestic creatures, known for their memory and intelligence, and their social and emotional connections to one another, are considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act. They are hunted for their valuable tusks, ivory that’s bought and sold, and used for jewelry and sculpture. The African elephant population has been declining rapidly, falling 30 percent across the continent’s savannas between 2007 and 2014 — a loss of a 144,000 elephants — according to last year’s Great Elephant Census. The elephant population in Zimbabwe alone has declined 6 percent in recent years, now standing at 82,304, according to the census.
President Donald Trump’s decision to allow hunters to return home with elephant trophies is heartbreaking and horrifying. It won’t save the elephants, sustain their population, or allow for greater conservation efforts.
Trophy imports benefit only one group: those who live to hunt, a sport Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said he hopes to promote. There are two hunters we know who will love this rule change: Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. The Trumps, you’ll recall, posed for photos with carcasses of a buffalo and leopard during a 2011 hunting trip. In one photo, Donald Jr. held the severed tail of an elephant.
The location of that hunting trip? Zimbabwe.