Elephants, as you certainly know, are extremely majestic creatures. They’re the largest land animal known to man: With their floppy ears, long trunks, and thick legs, they’ve walked the earth long before any human. But according to many reports, they may not be around for much longer. The Wildlife Conservation Society says that around 35,000 elephants across Africa are being killed each year due to poaching, and it looks like the Trump administration is going to do nothing but make that problem worse.
“Poaching” has traditionally been defined as the illegal hunting or capturing of wild animals, and because of it, many animals are moving closer and closer to extinction. In the case of elephants, poachers have been hunting these animals for their ivory tusks, which is often carved and used to make chopsticks, hair pins, pendants, among other items.
In 2014, the Obama administration implemented a ban that helped to protect African elephants, but it looks like President Trump will be taking steps to reverse this. The Trump administration will now allow the remains of elephants that were legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be taken back to the United States as “trophies” under the condition that hunters apply for and receive the correct permits from the necessary officials (meaning, they pay enough).
African elephants are currently listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the large sums paid for permits to hunt the elephants could actually help them “by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” according to an agency statement late Wednesday.
The once banned permits will be issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service beginning Friday, November 17th.
Under the Obama administration’s policy, trophies collected from elephant hunting were allowed in some parts of Africa but not in Zimbabwe, which the Fish and Wildlife Service had determined the nation failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced their population. It also allowed for the sale of ivory across state lines if it met the antiques exemption in the Endangered Species Act, meaning it was required to be at least 100 years old.
By lifting this ban, some are arguing that the Trump administration is actually encouraging Americans to kill elephants.
The decision was met with an understandable outcry from animal-rights advocates, including many celebrities like Chelsea Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, and Gisele Bündchen. Ellen dedicated a portion of her show to speaking out against the move by the administration, and even started a #BeKindtoElephants hashtag.
The once presidential daughter has been a long time supporter of elephant conservation. Back in 2013, Clinton and her mother unveiled a $80 million partnership through the Clinton Global Initiative to help end the ivory poaching crisis.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration seems convinced that hunting “to conserve the species” is indeed a legitimate method of reducing elephant poaching. This, though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to offer any hard evidence to support the decision to reverse the ban.
Donald Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric are themselves big game hunters. (Quelle suprise!) In 2012, TMZ posted photos of Donald Jr. holding the tail of an elephant he’d killed. According to the Gothamist, the photos were from a 2011 hunt in Zimbabwe. When Donald Jr. addressed the photos at the time, he did not deny their authenticity or where they were taken.
“I can assure you it was not wasteful,” he posted on Twitter, adding, “The villagers were so happy for the meat which they don’t often get to eat.”
But despite the reversal of the 2014 ban, we can all agree that the practice of killing elephants for sport kind of repulsive. And if this is the administration’s way of protecting threatened species, it’s going to have a difficult time convincing conservationists of its benefits.