Trump lifts ban on big-game tro­phies

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page - By Michael Biesecker AP writer

In early March, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion qui­etly de­cided once again to al­low Amer­i­cans to im­port the body parts of African ele­phants shot for sport, de­spite his tweets de­cry­ing the prac­tice as a “horror show.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump per­son­ally in­ter­vened in Novem­ber when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice first said it would lift an Obama-era ban on ele­phants im­ported from Zim­babwe and Zam­bia. The agency con­tends that en­cour­ag­ing wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threat­ened species would help raise money for con­ser­va­tion pro­grams, a stance that has been widely dis­cred­ited.

“Big-game tro­phy de­ci­sion will be an­nounced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps con­ser­va­tion of ele­phants or any other an­i­mal,” Trump tweeted in Novem­ber 2017, plac­ing the pol­icy on hold af­ter a public back­lash to the ear­lier de­ci­sion.

More than three months later, the fed­eral agency over­seen by In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke is­sued a let­ter dated March 1 an­nounc­ing that the im­por­ta­tion of ele­phant tro­phies will now be ap­proved on a “case-by-case ba­sis.” The let­ter cites a De­cem­ber rul­ing in a long-run­ning law­suit chal­leng­ing the ban filed by Sa­fari Club In­ter­na­tional and the lob­by­ing arm of the Na­tional Ri­fle Association.

The ad­vi­sory board cre­ated to help re­write fed­eral rules for im­port­ing the heads and hides of African ele­phants, lions and rhi­nos is stacked with tro­phy hunters, in­clud­ing some mem­bers with di­rect ties to Pres­i­dent Trump and his fam­ily.

A re­view by The As­so­ci­ated Press of the back­grounds and so­cial me­dia posts of the 16 board mem­bers ap­pointed by Zinke in­di­cates they agree with his po­si­tion that the best way to pro­tect crit­i­cally threat­ened or en­dan­gered species is by en­cour­ag­ing wealthy Amer­i­cans to shoot them.

Nei­ther the In­te­rior Depart­ment nor Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice is­sued a me­dia re­lease to an­nounce the de­ci­sion, which was quickly con­demned by en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to keep these cru­cial tro­phy im­port de­ci­sions be­hind closed doors, and that’s to­tally un­ac­cept­able,” said Tanya Sanerib, in­ter­na­tional le­gal di­rec­tor at the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity. “Ele­phants aren’t meant to be tro­phies, they’re meant to roam free.”

Trump’s two adult sons are tro­phy hunters. A photo of Don­ald Trump Jr. hold­ing a knife and the bloody sev­ered tail of an ele­phant he re­port­edly killed in Zim­babwe in 2011 has sparked out­rage among an­i­mal rights ac­tivists.

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