Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

US reconsidering lion and elephant trophy imports.

Posted: 7 December 2017. Updated: 8 December 2017


In November 2017, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced an end to its ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe, previously imposed after USFWS determined its elephant management failed to enhance populations, and that Zimbabwe was unable to demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect them. The announcement was made at a forum co-hosted by Safari Club International, a powerful pro-hunting lobbying organization, who publicly celebrated before it was even published in the Federal Register.

Days later, after massive public outcry opposing the move, the US President called for a pause in the policy change, tweeting that he “would be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.” A survey conducted during this time underscored public opposition to trophy hunting and imports, finding a large majority of US citizens – across gender, age, and political affiliations – oppose trophy hunting and trophy hunting imports into the US.

Earlier, in October 2017, USFWS announced it would once again permit the import of lion trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, as well as those from wild lions in South Africa. USFWS is also now considering whether to allow lion trophy imports from Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and (for captive lions) South Africa. (It’s unclear whether the apparent pause on elephant trophy imports will impact lion imports.) US Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) has since called on USFWS to reinstitute the ban on lion trophy imports.

ADI joined other animal groups, conservationists, and scientists to oppose disastrous proposed policy changes allowing lion trophy imports and to refute claims by the canned hunting industry. Canned hunting fuels demand for the rising trade in lion bones, which has spiked poaching of both wild and captive lions. Read the joint letter here.

These moves by USFWS reflect a marked shift in policy direction, ignoring experts worldwide, the US public (85% oppose big game hunting, including 34% of hunters), and growing evidence of trophy hunting’s negative impacts on wild populations and ties to illicit trafficking.

Trophy hunting is a cruel pastime, and the evidence is clear - it plays no role in conservation and provides little to no benefit to local communities, instead offering an avenue and stimulus for illegal trade in wild animal body parts.

Don’t remain silent. Speak out against trophy hunting!

  • Say no to lion and elephant trophy imports. Contact USFWS today using our template letter below.

  • Urge your legislators to support measures to protect wildlife and prohibit trophy hunting.

Template letter: USFWS consideration to permit lion and elephant trophy imports.

Please send the following via the USFWS website here.

Dear Secretary Zinke and Secretary Sheehan,

I write in opposition to recent determinations by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to issue permits to import lion and elephant trophies from Africa, including: lion trophies from Zimbabwe, Zambia, and (from wild-sourced lions in) South Africa, as well as elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. I understand USFWS is also now considering whether to permit lion trophies from Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and (for captive-sourced lions) South Africa, as well as elephant trophy imports from Tanzania. I oppose these proposals as well.

The evidence does not support renewed trophy hunting imports into the US. Despite industry claims, trophy hunting has failed to stem the staggering decline of species over the last century, and it has not raised local communities from the depths of poverty. We are only now beginning to understand the links between trophy hunting and illicit wildlife trafficking, though the international trophy trade has demonstrably provided avenues and cover for criminal networks dealing in illegal products. Lion bone trade, for example, is on the rise; skeletons obtained via canned hunting operations stir market demand, with resultant related spikes in poaching of both wild and captive lion populations.

Trophy hunting’s claimed financial benefits to local communities are largely exaggerated, and bear little actual connection to conservation. Eco-tourism on the other hand has been found to generate substantial economic benefit in direct earnings, more than 15 times that for game farming and trophy hunting.

A 2016 US House report identified trophy hunting’s negative impacts in sub-Saharan Africa, finding “many troubling examples of funds either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation in the first place,” and “no merit to claims that hunting deters poaching.” Shockingly, taxpayers cover “92% of all permit fees,” “subsidizing” trophy hunting. The report called for increased oversight, describing current permitting as “arbitrary, confusing, and not based on sound science,” but rather relying upon data provided by biased parties.

I urge you to take a stand to end African lion and elephant trophy imports, and to focus instead upon conservation practices that are scientifically supported and sustainable, to save these species before it’s too late.

Yours sincerely

© Animal Defenders International 2020