U.S. to allow imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe

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President Trump has lifted a ban implemented by the Obama administration, which allows hunters to import trophies of elephants they harvested in Africa back to the United States.

Under the new change, hunters who legally hunt or hunted an elephant in Zimbabwe from January 21, 2016 to December 31, 2018, or in Zambia between 2016 to 2018 can apply for a permit to import their trophy into the U.S.

This latest decision, although limited to one species in two African nations, might signal the Trump administration's intent to increasingly use regulated sport hunting as an global wildlife conservation strategy. It also showed at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

This horrific news will naturally make Eric Trump and Don Jr., the avid, hunters really happy. "Hunting can play a positive role. And their relationship to these animals - which are majestic and we see them as majestic - is quite different than you would think".

Under Obama, hunters could import elephant trophies from other African countries, such as South Africa, but not in Zimbabwe because the Fish and Wildlife service determined that the country did not provide sufficient oversight and protection to its elephant population.

"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 Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said in a statement.

He added, "What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive can not kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it's just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?"

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A Reuters witness saw two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km from the city. Mugabe plunged the country into political crisis by sacking his vice president Emerson Mnangagwa last week.

Elephant hunting has been banned in Zambia several times over the years due to declining population size but was re-established in 2015 after surveys found a larger population in some areas.

Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group that has consistently opposed any restrictions on importing trophies from overseas, broke the news of the rule change a day ahead of Fish and Wildlife.

A notice regarding this change will be posted in the Federal Register on Friday with more specifics on what new information justifies the changes.

Conservation groups had blasted the move as further imperiling an already endangered species.

This change only applies to elephants in those two countries but questions about using game hunting to generate money for conservation efforts also came up during the controversy after Cecil the lion was killed in Zimbabwe in 2015. "This is a setback in the fight to ban all illegal wildlife trade".

The nonprofit group's report found a population drop of 6% in Zimbabwe alone. But conservationists, such as The Elephant Project, view this as a "pay to slay" tactic that will encourage more poaching of an intelligent, vulnerable species.

Zimbabwe is now in a leadership crisis, after the military seized power this week and placed President Robert Mugabe under house arrest.