The HSUS, Humane Society International, and our partners today filed a lawsuit to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from lifting existing bans on elephant and lion trophy imports from certain African nations.
FWS announced earlier this month that it would lift the ban on elephant trophy imports from Tanzania and Zimbabwe and captive lion trophy imports from South Africa, and signaled it will approve trophy imports on a case by case basis. In a document filed in federal court, the U.S. Department of Justice said the FWS had withdrawn, effective March 1, Obama-era protections. The FWS signaled it will continue to rely on outdated and unsupported findings authorizing the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia, and lion trophies from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Other African countries that allow hunting of these species may also be open to U.S. trophy hunters seeking to import tusks and hides.
The FWS also withdrew its findings for lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa, but signaled that it will review individual trophy import permits from those countries.
Our lawsuit, filed in federal court along with the Center for Biological Diversity, photojournalist and safari guide Ian Michler, and Born Free USA, asserts that ending these trophy import bans and issuing trophy import permits without comprehensive review thwarts a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling from December that requires the FWS to seek public comment and input from all stakeholders, before making decisions about whether trophy hunting in a particular country promotes the conservation of a species threatened with extinction.
Elephants and lions in Africa are in the crosshairs of American trophy hunters, led by Safari Club International. This special interest group also has a stranglehold on the FWS, with the agency committing to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to seek the “advice” of a council made up of mostly trophy hunters who have little to no wildlife management expertise. In an act of submission and deference to a minority of trophy hunting citizens, and to try to avoid judicial review of its actions, the FWS decided to lift the ban on imports of elephant and lion trophies.
Trophy hunting is opposed by most Americans, and President Trump expressed his disdain for it by calling it a “horror show.” Notwithstanding, FWS admits that it has allowed dozens of lion trophies to be imported in recent months. Through our lawsuit, we are demanding that no elephant or lion trophy import permits be issued while FWS conducts a thorough scientific and public review of elephant and lion hunting in Africa.
It is high time that this administration heeds the advice of wildlife biologists and complies, with full transparency, with federal law to protect species threatened with extinction. Catering to the whims of a handful of wealthy Americans who want to display elephant and lion trophies to display their hunting prowess, FWS is going against the wishes of the majority of Americans who believe that the animals, and the nations where they thrive, are better off without trophy hunters.