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Trump Delays New Elephant Trophy Policy11/18 11:32

   President Donald Trump said he's delaying a new policy allowing trophies of 
African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he can review "all 
conservation facts."

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump said he's delaying a new policy 
allowing trophies of African elephants shot for sport to be imported until he 
can review "all conservation facts."

   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it would allow such 
importation, arguing that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the 
threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.

   Animal rights advocates and environmental groups criticized the decision. 
California Rep. Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs 
Committee, urged the administration to reverse the policy, calling it the 
"wrong move at the wrong time."

   Trump tweeted Friday that the policy had been "under study for years." He 
said he would put the decision "on hold" and review it with Interior Secretary 
Ryan Zinke.

   Zinke issued a statement later Friday saying: "President Trump and I have 
talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical. As a 
result, in a manner compliant with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, 
the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed."

   U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican who co-chairs the 
Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, on Saturday said Trump's delay was a 
"step in the right direction," but more needs to be done to protect the species 
from extinction. In his statement, Buchanan called the sport hunting of African 
elephants "shameful" and said the U.S. should support a permanent ban.

   Royce questioned the action because of concerns not only about African 
wildlife but U.S. national security, citing the political upheaval in Zimbabwe, 
where the longtime president was placed under house arrest this week by the 
military.

   "The administration should withdraw this decision until Zimbabwe 
stabilizes," the committee chairman said in a statement. "Elephants and other 
big game in Africa are blood currency for terrorist organizations, and they are 
being killed at an alarming rate. Stopping poaching isn't just about saving the 
world's most majestic animals for the future --- it's about our national 
security."

   The Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written notice issued Thursday that 
permitting parts of elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back as 
trophies will raise money for conservation programs. The change marks a shift 
in efforts to stop the importation of elephant tusks and hides, overriding a 
2014 ban imposed by the Obama administration. The new policy applies to the 
remains of African elephants killed between January 2016 and December 2018.

   "Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program 
can benefit certain species by providing incentives to local communities to 
conserve those species and by putting much-needed revenue back into 
conservation," the agency said in a statement.

   Royce said that when carefully regulated, conservation hunts could help the 
wildlife population, but "that said, this is the wrong move at the wrong time."

   He described the perilous situation in Zimbabwe, where the U.S. Embassy has 
advised Americans to limit their travel outdoors.

   "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," Royce said. "Furthermore, I am 
not convinced that elephant populations in the area warrant overconcentration 
measures."

   The world's largest land mammal, the African elephant has been classified as 
threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1979.

   Illicit demand for elephant ivory has led to devastating losses from illegal 
poaching as the natural habitat available for the animals to roam has also 
dwindled by more than half. As a result, the number of African elephants has 
shrunk from about 5 million a century ago to about 400,000 remaining. And that 
number continues to decline each year.

   Two other lawmakers, Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Earl Blumenauer, 
D-Ore., co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, assailed the 
administration's decision.

   "We should not encourage the hunting and slaughter of these magnificent 
creatures," Buchanan said. "We don't get a second chance once a species becomes 
extinct."

   One group that advocates for endangered species called for more action after 
Trump's Friday night tweet. "It's great that public outrage has forced Trump to 
reconsider this despicable decision, but it takes more than a tweet to stop 
trophy hunters from slaughtering elephants and lions," said Tanya Sanerib, 
senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "We need immediate 
federal action to reverse these policies and protect these amazing animals."


(KA)

 
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