US to reverse elephant trophy ban while COP23 is under way

2017-11-16 11:50 - Gabi Zietsman
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Cape Town - Despite negative reactions to the US presence at COP23, the Trump administration announced that they will reverse the Obama-era ban on elephant trophy imports.

According to Buzzfeed, the US Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that it will once again allow the importation of elephant trophies, including their heads, obtained during hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia. 

The department claims that this is for the benefit of the species, not a detriment. 

SEE: Animal interactions: Elephant tramples tourists to death in Zambia

“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” a spokesperson told Buzzfeed.

This reversal will only apply to these two countries. 

Safari Club International (SCI) welcomes the reversal, who together with the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit against the ban back in 2014 when it was first instituted. 

“These positive findings for Zimbabwe and Zambia demonstrate that the Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that hunting is beneficial to wildlife and that these range countries know how to manage their elephant populations,” said SCI President Paul Babaz.  “We appreciate the efforts of the Service and the US Department of the Interior to remove barriers to sustainable use conservation for African wildlife.” 

Some on Twitter have started sharing photos of President Trump's son, an avid hunter, posing with animals that he's hunted, including an elephant.

SEE: Trumps to host bizarre hunting 'Camouflage and Cufflinks' fundraiser

US reception at COP23

Since the US left the Paris Agreement, environmentalists have berated the US for their stance, which became especially evident after protests erupted around the US' fossil fuel panel that tried to market the contentious energy source as 'clean'. 

SEE: COP23: Growth in SA energy sector, protests over US fossil fuels panel

On Wednesday COP23 hosted a high level segment where around 25 ministers and heads of state announced their commitment to fighting climate change and their goals for 2020. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the European country's plans to double climate finance in the next ten years.

Germany's president Frank-Walter Steinmeier also highlighted the Paris Agreement's importance.

“The Paris Agreement will only have been a real breakthrough if the agreement is followed up with real action. Constructive, multilateral work under the umbrella of the UN the only way forward,” said the president.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended Fiji for their role in mitigating climate change, especially as climate change poses a direct threat to island state.

“The voice of small island states that are on the front lines of climate change must be voice of us all,” he said.

“Floods, fires, extreme storms and drought are growing in intensity and frequency. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they have been for 800,000 years." 

"Climate change is the defining threat of our time. Our duty - to each other and to future generations - is to raise ambition,” he added.

SEE: CoP23: Climatic extremes SA's biggest climate change concern

The US will only speak on Thursday, and instead of a high-level official the Trump government sent Judith Garber, an acting assistant secretary of state, according to AFP.

She is replacing the original speaker Thomas Shannon, who is the current under secretary of state for Political Affairs and had to pull out due to  'family emergency'. Both seem like small-fry compared to officials sent from other countries to represent them at the event.

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