In a memo dated March 1, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stated that it would allow the import of elephant remains as “trophies” on a “case-by-case basis.” The memo contradicts statements regarding elephant trophy-hunting made by Donald Trump in November, when the administration first considered lifting the Obama-era ban but decided to keep it in place after public outrage. “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. The FWS said that lifting the ban would help fund conservation efforts in regions such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, where elephants, a threatened species, are hunted for trophies. Animal-rights organization Humane Society International (HSI)—and Trump himself—have debunked the myth that funds would be allocated for such efforts, as governments in those regions are prone to corruption. “There is strong research and data to suggest that elephant and lion trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia is a threat to these species,” HSI International Trade Policy Specialist Masha Kalinina told VegNews. “Yet, it appears that political motivations are behind the FWS’s decision, rather than best available science.” The FWS—which is overseen by Interior Secretary (and avid trophy hunter) Ryan Zinke—cited a lawsuit brought by Safari Club International and National Rifle Association in favor of lifting the ban as the reason for its decision to allow the heinous practice to continue, despite public disapproval.
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