The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will again permit sport hunters (like, ahem, Eric Trump and Donald Jr.) to bring elephant trophies back to the United States from Zimbabwe and Zambia, a practice that has been banned since 2014. African elephants are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which means importing them as trophies is only legal if the FWS finds that doing so benefits the species. The ban went into effect after the Obama administration determined that Zimbabwe was failing to protect its elephant population, and currently, there’s no reason to think that trophy hunting will help elephant conservation in either of these two countries. Furthermore, the fact that Zimbabwe is currently undergoing an apparent military coup creates additional uncertainty about safeguarding elephant populations.
Conservation groups say reversing the trophy ban would be an elephantine step back against the illegal ivory trade. “Up to now, American actions on elephants and ivory have been admirable,” Frank Pope, CEO of Save the Elephants, tells the Guardian. “The fire of the ivory trade seems to be dying. The last thing we need is a sudden blast of oxygen from a misguided policy change.”