US Centre for Biological Diversity sues Trump ahead of 'big-game trophy decision'

2017-11-22 14:40 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town – While the world awaits US President Donald Trump’s decision on elephant trophy imports, the Centre for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defence Council in the US sued the Trump administration for allowing US hunters to import elephant and lion trophies.

Although Trump and his Department of Interior Affairs Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that they have halted the reversal of a ban on the importation of elephant hunt trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia on Monday, 20 November, the Centre filed the lawsuit on Monday saying that “The lawsuit aims to protect animals and resolve confusion created by the administration’s contradictory announcements in recent days”.

SEE: Trump halts lifting of import ban on elephant trophies following global outcry

“The suit comes days after the US 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,” says the Centre.

Trump tweeted that his “big-game trophy decision” will be announced next week, but the Centre says that the “new federal policies allowing imports of elephant and lion trophies —  referred to as “positive enhancement findings” under the US Endangered Species Act — remain in effect”.


Tanya Sanerib a senior attorney with the Centre for Biological Diversity encourages the Trump administration to permanently halt imports of lion and elephant trophies to protect them from extinction.

“Trump’s abrupt backpedalling after public outcry, while appreciated, shows how arbitrary this deplorable decision was. These incredibly imperilled creatures need a lot more than vague promises,” she says.

SEE: US to reverse elephant trophy ban while COP23 is under way

According to the Centre, the lawsuit notes that the Trump administration “acted arbitrarily in its rush to reverse course” and made a decision contrary to the Endangered Species Act.

Elly Pepper, deputy director of Wildlife Trade for the Natural Resources Defense Council says that “Putting trophy imports ‘on hold’ isn’t enough.”

“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,” says Pepper.

Threat to elephants and lions

While many people have responded to Trump’s tweet urging him not to reverse the ban, others don’t fully understand the impact that removal of the ban will have on elephants.

“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,” adds the Centre for Biological Diversity.

SEE: COP23: SA's Environment minister throws shade at Trump, developed countries

The Centre adds that poaching elephants for their ivory “remains a significant threat in Zimbabwe” with research proving that Zimbabwe’s elephant population decreased 6% between 2001 and 2013 and continues to decline.

Lions in Africa are also facing extinction and the Centre notes an “estimated 43% decline of African lion populations over 21 years”. 

SEE: #WorldLionDay: Awareness needed to double endangered lion numbers by 2050

“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,” says the Centre, adding that corruption in Zimbabwe raises concern about where trophy hunters’ fees really go.

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