U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Friday he is putting a decision to allow imports of elephant trophies on hold after a torrent of criticism from conservation advocates and across social media.
Trump’s reversal came hours after his administration released a rule on Friday to allow hunters who kill elephants in Zimbabwe to bring their trophies back to the United States, which had been banned by the Obama administration.
“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!” Trump wrote.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement that he had spoken with Trump and “both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical.” He said the “issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed.”
Early word of the planned change had drawn protests from conservationists, who said it could deplete already at-risk elephant populations. It also caused a social media firestorm, with opponents posting photos of President Donald Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, avid hunters, posing with dead wild animals.
Tanya Sanerib, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said on Friday in a statement: “It’s great that public outrage has forced Trump to reconsider this despicable decision, but it takes more than a tweet to stop trophy hunters from slaughtering elephants and lions. We need immediate federal action to reverse these policies.”
Amid the backlash to reports that the move would apply to two southern African countries — Zimbabwe and neighboring Zambia — White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said it was due to a review by career officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which began back in 2014 under the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama.
“This review established that both Zambia and Zimbabwe had met new standards, strict, international conservation standards, that allowed Americans to resume hunting in those countries,” Sanders told reporters.
In an official notice published on Friday in the Federal Register, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it had concluded that the killing of African elephants in Zimbabwe as trophies, between the dates of Jan. 21, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2018, “will enhance the survival of the African elephant.”
The agency had said earlier on Friday before Trump’s tweet that “legal managed hunting” can help provide incentives to conserve wildlife and habitat and provide revenue to help conservation. – Source: Reuters
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