Trump backs down on ele­phant hunt tro­phies

Sunday Times - - NEWS WEEK IN REVIEW -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted this week that he was putting a de­ci­sion to al­low im­ports of ele­phant tro­phies on hold af­ter a tor­rent of crit­i­cism from con­ser­va­tion ad­vo­cates and across so­cial me­dia.

Trump’s re­ver­sal came hours af­ter his ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased a rule on Fri­day to al­low hunters who kill ele­phants in Zimbabwe to bring their tro­phies back to the US, which had been banned by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Early word of the planned change had drawn protests from con­ser­va­tion­ists, who said it could de­plete al­ready at-risk ele­phant pop­u­la­tions. Op­po­nents posted photos of Trump’s sons Don­ald jnr and Eric, avid hunters, pos­ing with dead wild an­i­mals.

Africa’s ele­phant pop­u­la­tion plunged by about a fifth be­tween 2006 and 2015 be­cause of in­creased poach­ing for ivory, the International Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture said last year.

Wildlife ac­tivists ar­gue that cor­rup­tion is en­demic in Zimbabwe, and that money gen­er­ated by big-game hunt­ing and meant for con­ser­va­tion has been di­verted to the pock­ets of crooks and poach­ers.

Sup­port­ers say money from well­reg­u­lated hunts has been used for wildlife con­ser­va­tion in African coun­tries bat­tling to di­min­ish chronic poverty.

The Repub­li­can chair­man of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tee, Ed Royce, slammed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to al­low the im­ports, say­ing eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil in Zimbabwe gave him “zero con­fi­dence” in the au­thor­i­ties there.

“Ele­phants and other big game in Africa are blood cur­rency for ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions, and they are be­ing killed at an alarm­ing rate,” said Royce. “Stop­ping poach­ing isn’t just about sav­ing the world’s most ma­jes­tic an­i­mals for the fu­ture — it’s about our na­tional se­cu­rity.”

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