International wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation has strongly criticised the decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to reverse a ban, introduced by the Obama administration in 2015, on the import of trophies from elephants killed by American trophy hunters in Zambia and Zimbabwe, claiming it could prove disastrous for elephants.
The Trump administration’s decision will enable scores of American hunters to follow in the footsteps of the President’s eldest son, Don Jnr, and travel to Zimbabwe to shoot elephants for ‘fun’.
Born Free’s Associate Director Mark Jones said: “Elephants are dying in their tens of thousands each year at the hands of ivory poachers, and are in serious decline across much of the African continent. Many populations can’t withstand the additional threat posed by trophy hunting. The lifting of the ban will put the elephant populations of Zimbabwe and Zambia under even more pressure, cause immeasurable suffering and devastate targeted individuals and their family groups. It’s nothing short of a disgrace.”
In its African Elephant Status Report from 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted that poaching has severely affected elephant populations in both Zimbabwe and to a lesser extent Zambia, among many other African countries. Elephants are also wide-ranging animals, so the killing of elephants in one country can affect their status in neighbouring countries.
In the decade to 2014, more than 12,500 elephant trophy items were imported into the United States, almost 5,000 of which originated from Zimbabwe alone.
The current administration’s controversial self-belief in its ability to strike successful business deals is putting the lives of hundreds of elephants on the line – it’s a step too far. It will also lend support to the regime in Zimbabwe, a nation currently in meltdown, where the elite have profited off the backs of an increasingly impoverished society.
The US import ban has given elephant populations in Zambia and Zimbabwe a much needed respite from trophy hunting, but resumption of US imports will doubtless rapidly reverse any gains made. There are also fears that trophy hunting will be used as a front for the illegal ivory trade, at a time when the international community has finally been coming together to bring an end to the poaching of elephants for their tusks.
Jones continued: “Trophy hunters claim their heinous activities somehow help wildlife conservation. The terrible truth is that they achieve almost nothing. Most of the money paid by hunters finds its way into the pockets of international hunting outfitters and corrupt officials. Unlike Americans and Europeans, Africans don’t traditionally kill animals for fun. Trophy hunting is a throwback to a colonial era when rich Westerners viewed Africa’s wildlife as little more than glorified target practice. It is a shameful practice and should be consigned to history, where it belongs.”
Coincidentally, today sees the launch of the much-criticised ‘shockumentary’ Trophy which claims to explore all sides of this highly-controversial business and also promotes plans to legalise international sales of rhino horn. For Born Free’s reaction to this proposition go to: www.bornfree.org.uk/blog/2017/trophy-a-new-wildlife-shockumentary/