Will Trump Overturn a Ban on Elephant Trophy Imports?

On November 18th, suggestive.com reported on the news that US President Donald Trump had decided to reverse a law allowing hunters to import elephant hunting trophies. It was seen as a positive move for animal rights enthusiasts, however many noted that Trump did not commit to an all-time ban on the imports.

“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Trump tweeted. “Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!”

The Suggestive was quick to point out that Trump’s decision received heavy backlash from both liberals and conservatives. Animal rights activists believe the ban on elephant trophy hunting imports will help to save the lives of hundreds of these animals every year, while many conservation experts argue it will actually force an increase in illegal poaching. So which side is correct?

Animal rights argument

The ban on elephant trophy imports will surely affect the US trophy hunting industry, which according to a 2015 ABC News article can generate upwards of $350,000 for a single hunt. A legal brief from the IFAW claims at least 1,962 lions were imported into the US from 2009 to 2013, though many analysts feel this is a low estimate as many African nations keep poor records of these types of hunting expeditions.

Generally speaking, those that participate in trophy hunting in Africa are wealthy. They pay top dollar for the opportunity to participate on these hunts, which many feel is unfair to the locals in these countries. A local man in Chad looking to hunt a buffalo to feed his family may be denied, while a wealthy man from the US is given permission.

With the ban on these types of imports in effect, the US trophy hunting industry will surely lessen, which many conservationists feel will have a negative impact on the African wildlife overall.

Conservationist opinion

It’s easy to see trophy hunting as nothing more than a blood sport, with the word “sport” used lightly. It’s easy to see it from this perspective, and for many of the hunters that embark on these hunts, conservation is not likely to be their primary motivation. Nevertheless, these types of hunting do at least have some impact on the conservation efforts in Africa. Exactly how much is up for debate.

The article from the Suggestive mentions the White House arguing trophy hunting brings money to local communities. They also mention it can incentivize efforts of the community to protect elephants from illegal poachers.

Other conservationists argue that many trophy hunts help to bring balance to the wildlife in Africa. Oftentimes these hunts are made on older animals who cannot breed anymore and are actually a danger to the younger males who might help to grow their species’ population. A 2015 article by the LA Times expanded on this argument.