We are pleased to report that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced that it will extend its ban of "trophy" hunting imports from Zimbabwe. First introduced last year, the ban prohibits Americans from bringing home elephant corpses after hunting and killing these endangered species in Zimbabwe.
The USFWS's decision is welcome news to everyone who loves elephants. It comes at a time when Zimbabwe is facing devastating losses among its elephant population, as both illegal poaching and government corruption run rampant. In particular, Zimbabwe has been critiqued for unreliable numbers regarding its current elephant population and dubious wildlife management practices.
When announcing its decision, the USFWS cited concerns with Zimbabwe's outdated elephant management plans, inadequate population data and questionable enforcement of laws and regulations. As a result, according to the USFWS, "The Service is unable to find that the killing of an elephant whose trophy is intended for import would enhance the survival of the species in the wild."
"Elephants are majestic, socially complex, emotional and family orientated beings. As endangered and sentient species, they deserve our protection," said Jen Samuel, president of Elephants DC, a nonprofit working to promote elephant welfare. "Killing elephants is not a 'sport' but rather a faulty tradition based on archaic beliefs. As HLN broadcaster Nancy Grace recently stated, 'Just because it is always been done doesn't mean it should be done. It is wrong. And we need to stop it. I'm ashamed that America has such a desire for the ivory of these beautiful animals.'"
Elephants DC commends the USFWS for their decision regarding the elephants in Zimbabwe, and we hope the Service will make a similar announcement for Tanzania soon. Unfortunately, despite public outcry, the USFWS also decided to allow two trophy hunting permits for Namibian black rhinos, a decision we do not support. We hope one day no permits to kill and import endangered species will be allowed.
Maintaining the ban on elephant "trophy" imports sends a strong message to the governments of Zimbabwe and Tanzania that their harmful wildlife management practices must change.
The ban has been extended; what's next for elephants?
USFWS's ban, while important, is just one small fight in the larger struggle to save elephants from extinction. Much work remains to protect vulnerable elephants in Zimbabwe and worldwide. In particular, we advocate for:
1. Ending the wild capture of baby elephants in Zimbabwe
The United States and the global community must do more to stop Zimbabwe from kidnapping and exporting baby elephants from the wild. It's been widely reported that the government of Zimbabwe kidnapped 80 wild baby elephants from their mothers for export to China. According to the Global Action Ending Wild Capture, credible sources state that China has ordered a total of 200 elephant calves for display in zoos and use in circuses.
These elephants belong in the wild, where they can flourish and help repopulate their numbers. "It is in the best interest of Zimbabwe to release the captive elephant calves, stop back room deals with China for endangered species, and invest capital into its tourism sector so that this iconic nation can once again thrive for the betterment of all," said Samuel.