Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the Trump administration on Friday for allowing hunters to import the body parts of elephants from Zimbabwe, saying that while regulated, conservation hunts can benefit wildlife, the African country’s ongoing economic and political crisis makes it even more likely that it can’t properly manage and regulate conservation programs in order to save elephants from criminal hunters.
“When carefully regulated, conservation hunts can benefit habitats and wildlife populations. That said, this is the wrong move at the wrong time,” Royce said in a Friday statement.
“Today Zimbabwe is in economic and political crisis. American citizens in the country are advised to go outdoors only when necessary. In this moment of turmoil, I have zero confidence that the regime — which for years has promoted corruption at the highest levels — is properly managing and regulating conservation programs,” he continued.
“The administration should withdraw this decision until Zimbabwe stabilizes,” Royce said. “Elephants and other big game in Africa are blood currency for terrorist organizations, and they are being killed at an alarming rate.”
A Federal Register notice made final Fthe highly controversial policy that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) announced Wednesday regarding African elephant trophies.
“The Service is able to make a determination that the killing of trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant,” the agency wrote.
“With the information currently available, applications to import trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to have met this requirement unless we issue a new finding based on available information.”
This comes just one day after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied the policy had been finalized.
“There hasn’t been an announcement that’s been finalized on this front,” she told reporters. “Until that’s done, I wouldn’t consider anything final.”
The Hill added:
The agency made a similar decision on trophies from Zambia, but was not required to post that in the Federal Register.
By contrast, the Obama administration ruled in 2014 that allowing trophy imports from both countries would encourage hunting in a way that harmed populations.
The FWS and international authorities consider the African elephant to be a threatened species.
ABC News reports that that the FWS also began issuing permits for the importing of lion trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe about a month ago.