After targeting elephants, Interior Department puts African lions in the crosshairs

By on November 16, 2017 with 22 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Yesterday, on this blog, I reacted in real time to the Safari Club International’s announcement that the U.S. Department of the Interior plans to lift a ban on the import of sport-hunted trophies of rare and beleaguered African elephants. In short, our government is essentially turning loose American trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, at a time when declines in elephant populations have been documented because of the ruthless killing of the animals for their ivory. The United States has led the fight against the ivory trade worldwide, and now it’s undermining that morally urgent fight by allowing one class of ivory hunters to have their way with elephants. The upper class, that is.

And it’s just as shocking that the agency is also turning trophy hunters loose to kill African lions. The lion hunters are typically the elephant hunters too, because of the contest killing framework that the Safari Club has devised. You see, SCI has an awards program that promotes the trophy killing of the world’s rarest animals, as a way to drive business to the guides and outfitters who contribute to the organization. One award is the Africa Big Five, which involves killing an elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and Cape buffalo.

With yesterday’s news, which has prompted trophy hunting companies to advertise Zimbabwean elephant hunts on their websites, the Interior Department and the government of Zimbabwe (whoever is in charge) are rolling out the red carpet for the next Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who lured a famous and beloved lion, Cecil, out of a national park and shot and wounded him with an arrow.

Palmer left Cecil to bleed through the night, and then went out the next morning to finish him off. Walter Palmer never ended up facing any charges. Adding insult to injury, as an example of Zimbabwe’s inability to properly manage trophy hunting, its government dropped all charges against the hunting guide who accompanied him on this infamous and illegal hunt.

In July, I wrote about an eerily familiar slaying in Zimbabwe: a trophy hunter shot and killed Xanda the lion, whose primary range consisted of a portion of Hwange National Park. Xanda was the son of Cecil, and about four years old when Palmer killed his father.

No one knew what would become of Cecil’s progeny, since trophy hunting disrupts social relationships among family members. Lions live in communities where males sometimes work together to protect their mates and cubs; when a dominant male is lost, new male coalitions may seize the moment and try to take over their prides. When they succeed, they are known to kill the cubs to ensure the females continue only their lineage. Xanda survived the loss of his father and grew into a mature male who mated and had cubs of his own.

In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, acting on a petition from The HSUS and Humane Society International, classified all African lions as endangered or threatened. In response to that plea, the agency, based on the best available science, forbid the imports of sport-hunted trophies effective January 22, 2016. Each year prior to that, trophy hunters had been killing as many as 600 lions in Africa and bringing their parts home, with the continent-wide population at only 20,000 and rapidly declining. Their numbers have been cut in half in just the last two decades. Trophy hunting is, without question, one of the greatest threats to lions.

Yesterday’s announcement from the Interior Department will not only allow sport-hunting trophies for 2017 to come into the United States, but it will also permit entry of those from 2016. The administration is doing a reachback and accommodating all of those American hunters who killed lions in 2016 but couldn’t legally bring them back. Call it an amnesty program for the lion hunters.

The outrage factor is almost beyond compare for us at The HSUS.

Remember, this same administration took aim at two Obama-era rules to protect grizzly bears, wolves, and other native carnivores on 100 million acres of national wildlife refuges and national preserves. In April, President Trump signed a repeal of the refuge rule protecting predators. And just last week, the agency announced that it was revisiting the rule – which means starting the process to nix it – for National Park Service lands in Alaska.

So first there was an assault on Alaskan wildlife. And now an assault on African wildlife. The American public should not stand for these human attacks on these remarkable animals – all drivers of rural economies at home and abroad because of the wildlife-watching they attract.

The laughable part of this latest regulatory maneuvering dance is that the Interior Department is essentially saying that Zimbabwe has strict controls and has a sound wildlife management program. Remember, this is a nation run by a ruthless dictator who has targeted political opponents and average citizens. It is a country where poaching by shooting and poisoning of wildlife has been rampant. And it is a country that has a notorious pay-to-play approach – offering up animals to the highest bidder. In the middle of a political crisis of the worst order there, the U.S. government is working not to improve governance and promote the democratic process in Zimbabwe, but to open the door for Americans to join in the pillaging of that nation’s extraordinary wildlife.

What also defies understanding is, why would the U.S. government allow American trophy hunters to import lion trophies when they are unlikely to find an airline that will carry them into the country. After the killing of Cecil, 43 airlines, including all major U.S. carriers, said they would no longer ship lion trophies in the cargo holds of their planes.

African elephants and African lions drive billions of dollars of economic activity in Africa. But they drive that activity only when they are alive. Killing them deducts from their populations, diminishes wildlife-watching experiences for others, and robs the countries of Africa of its greatest resources.

The folly that the killing helps lions and elephants is just that – pure folly. We’ll see the agency in court.

Tell the Interior Department not to lift the ban on trophy hunting »

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Janet Raymond says:

    Trump has no humanity in him for these magnificent animals and he alone will make them all extinct. His ideas and policy’s are all about him. He is one of the most selfish persons on earth. He thinks his money can buy everything and his actions are that of a senile old man.

  2. Michelle Dudek says:

    We need strict laws on animal protections. We cant allow the Trump administration to reverse the trophy ban.

  3. Trisha Crosby says:

    This is sickening. These BEAUTIFUL animals are NOT trophies!!! They are endangered animals and are in need of protection!! Please please please DO NOT LIFT THIS BAN!! think about what is RIGHT!!! I BEG OF YOU 😭

  4. Sam Crossley Osborne says:

    Please leave the elephants and lions alone please! These animals are listed as endangered species, we don’t want anymore hunting to happen ever again thank you! otherwise these African wildlife species will become extinct!! and Donald Trump is a stupid man!

  5. Donna Jo Zeigfinger says:

    It is now the time to keep the pressure on the airlines that banned trophy shipping to keep their bans in place.

  6. smilyanova says:

    aniimal life matters , law for animal protection around the world !!!

  7. Shelly says:

    WTF can one person do against these monsters and their friends in the administration? HSUS can talk to them until they’re blue in the face, but those **** will still continue their barbaric hunting.

    Which species is next? The white rhino with only FOUR left in the wild?

    • Sheryl Schroeder says:

      A LOT, Shelly. A lot, actually. Sign all the petitions you can find about this. It may feel futile, but I have seen petitions work. CALL your representatives! Tell them this isn’t ok and that most of America does NOT support trophy killings. Pleasse. Join me. I do this every day. We can do a lot if we raise our collective voice together, LOUDLY.

  8. Judy L Gorman says:

    Please do not lift the ban and permit the killing of these beautiful animals.

  9. Linda Waite says:

    I feel this is wrong he sold out the animals for his sons and three shoplifters in China.China is a big reason the animals are going to become extinct

  10. Rita Wooten says:

    This is pure evil on America’s part!

  11. Christine says:

    Thanks everyone for posting. Call your senators, congressmen and representatives in your State . They want to keep your Vote!

    All if you remind me of the compassionate, humans in our world. Thank you for that!

  12. Lynn Duffy, DVM says:

    I do hope this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I hope ALL folks will get up off their couch and get into their representative’s offices… Trump has alienated women (oh yeah, he sexually assaulted women then bragged about it), blacks, native americans, scientists, students, and of course immigrants…now, he’s after the animals…there is no end to his greed, and the greed and entitlement mentality of his neo-nazi pals.
    Thank you HSUS for being a voice for the animals.

  13. DB says:

    We are living in dangerous times. Trump and his cronies
    Only want to undo anything and everything Obama did. They have sold their souls to the devil. Whatever humanity there was is GONE. Extinction of elephants is not enough. The extinction of magnificent lions is next on the agenda. The murder must end!

  14. Sheryl Schroeder says:

    This sickening administration knows NO SHAME! I have fought so hard to protect these iconic animals, and the battles were hard won. Now with one swipe of a pen the hard work is all undone and we just slide backwards. Make NO mistake, Safari Club International is behind this all the way. They could barely contain their giddy happiness at this announcement. We need to stand up and FIGHT harder than ever now. Join us. Stand up and protect these animals. Shout it from the rooftops! Sign ALL the petitions. TALK about this on social media and at the dinner table. It’s now or never, folks, don’t let it be too late. KILLING IS NOT CONSERVATION!

  15. James H. Mundy IV says:

    I understand the economics. Trophy hunting and all support is big business, but I am beginning to understand this kind capitalism is over-riding a ethical morality under the guise of bias/manipulated information, false management/government support, and a kindred support for the apex human predators who do not understand the unsustainable human overpopulation old school en-grained ideas which are destroying our environment and natures balance. And the bond/harmonization we should have with wild animals who are essential to natures balance and are sentient beings with feelings and emotions just like us, real science. These animals are not commodities, and should not be anymore. Stop it and use a much more humane replacement economy. Join the new world or we’re heading for disaster, and soon.

  16. James H. Mundy IV says:

    That includes the trophy hunting of Cougars, our back yard cat. Might as well throw in the Bobcats, Jaguars, Lynx and all along the North and South American mountain chains. It’s not a frontier anymore!

  17. Pat Kilroy says:

    The killing of any animal for sport is immoral. The killing of elephants for sport is especially egregious given their longevity, intellegence, family bonds and declining numbers. Americans have learned the special intrinsic value of elephants & agreed to ban their use in the circus. We’ve come so far in our collective thinking toward the animals that share our world only to be wickedly belittled by this self aggrandizing President Trump.

  18. Connie Miller says:

    Sec. Zinke and Trump’s sons are behind this. Zinke is not to be trusted. He is all for horse slaughter.

  19. Ralph Massetti says:

    Perhaps the only way to make headway here is to get personal.

    Publicly outing the leadership of the Interior Department pandering to these special interests may be the only way to effect change. These days, it seems that only public shaming motivates the cowards and the corrupt to do the “right thing”. Sadly, it appears they have forgotten the obvious; that doing the “right things” on behalf of the creatures they wield power over is intended to be their sole purpose.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.