The Trump administration recently rolled back protections for African lions, releasing new guidelines that allow hunters to bring trophies from animals killed in parts of Africa into the U.S., according to updated rules released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife officials began issuing permits for lion trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia sometime last month, ABC News reported on Thursday, pointing to a new page on the FWS website that details the regulations and calls hunting a “conservation tool.” Trophies from wild and wild-managed lions from South Africa are also acceptable under the import rules, and hunts from Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania are under review.
The news comes the same week the White House came under fire over its plans to lift a ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, a decision that was announced not by a federal agency but via a news release from a trophy hunting advocacy group, Safari Club International.
Allowing hunters to import elephant and lion trophies is a direct rollback of two Obama-era regulations meant to protect the species. In 2014, the White House banned elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe, citing a lack of data on conservation efforts. And in 2016 lions were officially listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and tighter restrictions were placed on the imports of hunting trophies.
Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the United States, published a blog post slamming the move and saying the change cast the federal government as “a promoter of trophy hunting” in an interview with The Guardian.
“The Interior Department and the government of Zimbabwe (whoever is in charge) are rolling out the red carpet for the next Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who lured a famous and beloved lion, Cecil, out of a national park and shot and wounded him with an arrow,” Pacelle wrote on Thursday. “The outrage factor is almost beyond compare for us at The HSUS.”
President Donald Trump sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are big game hunters. Trump Jr. has traveled to Africa to hunt, and a photo that surfaced in 2012 shows him holding the severed tail of an elephant he shot and killed. Another photo shows the two brothers posing with a slain leopard.
Following the killing of Cecil in 2015, Pacelle noted, more than 40 airlines banned the transport of wildlife trophies on their planes. He also hinted that the Humane Society would sue the federal government.
“African elephants and African lions drive billions of dollars of economic activity in Africa. But they drive that activity only when they are alive. Killing them deducts from their populations, diminishes wildlife-watching experiences for others, and robs the countries of Africa of its greatest resources,” he said.
“The folly that the killing helps lions and elephants is just that ― pure folly. We’ll see the agency in court.”