WASHINGTON—Conservation and animal welfare groups urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to deny permits to hunters seeking to import elephant trophies into the United States from Zimbabwe and Namibia. Under a settlement with the Dallas Safari Club, the agency must decide on eight pending permit applications by mid-March following a multi-year permitting hiatus for elephant trophy imports into the country.

“With Africa’s elephants sliding toward extinction, the Biden administration shouldn’t give U.S. hunters the green light to import their heads, tusks and other trophies,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Obama started to curtail this practice, Trump was accused by trophy hunters of suspending it, and now Biden could finally end imports of the cruel trophies taken by killing these intelligent, imperiled animals.”

Today’s letter from the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund noted an overall 30% decline in African savanna elephant populations and recent assessment of the species as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The letter urges the Service to deny all elephant trophy import permits because of elephant population declines; management, corruption and other concerns in Zimbabwe and Namibia; and legal concerns with the trophy trade under the Endangered Species Act.

“The compound threats of poaching, ivory trafficking and habitat destruction make this a simple ‘just say no’ moment for the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Sarah Veatch, director of wildlife policy for Humane Society International. “It is impossible to imagine a policy more dangerous to elephants than one that drives demand for their parts by allowing these imports just to indulge trophy hunters seeking to hang a head on their wall. We count on our government to be a strong champion of elephants’ protection, not an enabler of pay-to-slay tourism that is driving them toward extinction.”

Trophy hunters sued the Service in December 2019, alleging that the Trump administration was “illegally no longer processing elephant import permits applications for any country.” The Biden administration settled the lawsuit in September 2021 and agreed to deadlines for either granting or denying pending permit applications.

The first deadline—March 16, 2022—requires the Service to act on eight applications for elephant trophy imports from either Namibia or Zimbabwe. Under the Obama administration, the Service had previously found it lacked sufficient information to permit elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Tanzania.  

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