Although the Obama administration banned the importation of African elephant trophies in 2014, on Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed with ABC News that the ban had been lifted for Zimbabwe and Zambia, two nations with sizable elephant populations.
"The United States has listed African elephants under the federal Endangered Species Act, and hunting trophies can only be imported if the federal government finds that killing them positively enhances the survival of the species".
According to the agency and groups like Safari Club International, a hunters' lobbying group which filed a lawsuit in 2014 to block an Obama-era ban on elephant trophies, hunting regulated by permits provides incentives to local communities to conserve the species and puts revenue back into conservation efforts.
A blog post by Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society, criticized the decision, calling it "a venal and nefarious, pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry".
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According to the Great Elephant Census, undertaken by a team of ecologists and biologists who spent years surveying the expansive African savannah in airplanes, the population of African elephants decreased by 30 percent in the 18 countries studied between 2009 and 2016, which include both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The reversal applies to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe on or after January 21 2016, and on or before December 31 2018, and elephants hunted in Zambia during 2016 2017 and 2018.
A century ago, 10 million elephants were roaming across Africa - today, there are an estimated 450,000 to 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 and 40,000 wild Asian elephants.
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Animal rights activists were not happy. And that number continues to decline each year. "This will lead to more poaching".
Zimbabwe is now in a leadership crisis, after the military seized power this week and placed President Robert Mugabe under house arrest. The US is the second biggest market for ivory after China which has also pledged to clamp down on ivory trade on its domestic markets. The fact is, trophy hunting does not help conservation efforts, although those who defend the cowardly sport often make claims to the contrary. The policy could affect President Trump's two adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., who are longtime trophy hunters who have repeatedly posed for photos with dead animals they killed in Africa.
Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former US President Bill Clinton, said the move was "infuriating" and that it "will increase poaching".
African elephants - the planet's largest land mammal - is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, which is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
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