LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA (NOVEMBER 2013) (REUTERS) – U.S. conservation groups lashed out this week against a White House decision to allow trophy hunters who kill elephants in two African nations to bring home the endangered animals’ tusks or other body parts as souvenirs.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which first disclosed the move at a meeting in Africa organized by a pro-trophy hunting lobbying group, said it had determined that Zimbabwe and Zambia had developed robust conservation programs that would enhance the survival of African elephants, the world’s largest land animals.
The move is the latest by U.S. President Donald Trump to reverse a policy implemented by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama. Trump’s sons are avid hunters, and opponents of the move posted photos on Twitter of Donald Trump Jr. posing with the cut-off tail of a slain elephant.
“The original ban was enacted based on detailed findings on the condition of elephant populations on the ground, and it strains credulity to suggest that local science-based factors have been met to justify this change,” M. Sanjayan, chief executive of Conservation International, said in a statement.
Conservation groups criticized the move, which came the week Zimbabwe was rocked by a coup d’etat that left the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, living under house arrest.
A report released last year found that the population of African elephants had fallen by some 30 percent between 2007 and 2014, with poaching the primary reason for the decline.
A growing number of countries, including China, Singapore and the United States have banned the trade in ivory, with the goal of cutting back poaching of the endangered African and Asian elephants.