Trump set to allow big game hunters to bring back elephant trophies to the US

Trump set to allow big game hunters to bring back elephant trophies to the US

In 2014, the Obama administration placed a ban on the importation of elephant 'trophies' from several African countries. That means tusks, heads and other pieces taken from killed elephants can't be brought back to the country, incentivizing less big game hunting of the endangered African elephant population. Now, an official from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that the Trump administration plans to reverse this ban on elephant trophies.

The nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia will be re-opened to the transit of elephant trophies back to the U.S. That means that rich dentists, like the dude who killed Cecil the Lion, or Donald Trump Jr. himself, can hunt elephants and bring back the parts once more from these developing nations.

Any gain in GDP from travel and the sale of these trophies seems minuscule in comparison to the actual consequences of loosening regulations on the sale of elephant parts. It seems needlessly cruel, and just another facet of the human desire to drive thousands of animal species into extinction. The oceans are becoming acidified and hostile to life, many extremely popular and iconic animal species are endangered (such as the elephant) and this will only add far more fuel to the fire of rich American men traveling abroad just to slaughter some endangered animals and bring back trophies.

There's no meat there, no suspense for the family. It isn't like hunting deer. It's exclusively for very rich people to kill very endangered animals for fun, and hang up the body parts in their home as examples of their colonial conquests. The famous photograph of Donald Trump Jr. standing over a dead elephant, holding its severed tail, is a microcosm of this decision. If that picture appalled you, well, events just like it are about to multiply in full-force.

The Fish and Wildlife spokesman defended the decision:

"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation."

Conserve the species to be hunted and killed, that is. That sounds like a rather temporary conservation. Of course, a black market elephant trade will exist no matter what, but surely it's difficult to illegally smuggle elephant tusks back to Oklahoma from Zimbabwe. The nation of Zimbabwe, by the way, has recently undergone a major coup, with longtime repressive ruler Robert Mugabe being overthrown by the military. Zimbabwe's elephant population, like it's political stability, is increasingly rare.

From 2007 to 2014, the elephant population in Africa fell by 30 percent across 18 countries. In Zimbabwe, it dropped only 6 percent, but varied by region. In certain areas in the country, up to 74 percent decline was seen, with "substantial declines along the Zambezi River".

Last year, 30 elephants were legally killed as part of trophy hunting in the country. To play devil's advocate, however, the funds paid by big game hunters do go to paying for conservation efforts. If a limited number of elephants are killed legally to fund conservation for the rest of the herd, is that justifiable?