The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is lifting an Obama-era ban on importing elephant heads from trophy hunts in two African countries, The Hill reports.
The FWS is allowing hunters to ship their trophies back to the U.S. from Zambia and Zimbabwe, as long as the elephants were killed between Jan. 21, 2016 and the end of 2018. Experts at the agency say the move will encourage the local African communities to invest in conservation.
“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” an FWS spokesman said in a statement, according to The Hill.
Though elephants are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, officials can allow imports of hunting trophies if evidence shows that hunting encourages conservation of the animals by making them more profitable to protect, ABC News reports.
Officials in Zambia and Zimbabwe presented information to the FWS that supported lifting the ban.
The policy change was first announced by Safari Club International (SCI), a hunters’ rights and conservation group, at an African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzania.
“These positive findings for Zimbabwe and Zambia demonstrate that the Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that hunting is beneficial to wildlife and that these range countries know how to manage their elephant populations,” SCI President Paul Babaz said in a statement. “We appreciate the efforts of the Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior to remove barriers to sustainable use conservation for African wildlife.”
The Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle slammed the move in his blog.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, a hunting outfitter advertised elephant hunts in Zimbabwe as soon as the SCI announcement was made public,” Pacelle wrote. “It’s a venal and nefarious, pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry.”
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