It is with great dismay that I read of the Trump administration’s decision to allow importation of lion and elephant trophies. Lions and elephants are classified as ‘threatened’ which means they are likely to become endangered (become extinct in all or part of their normal habitat) soon. The ban was put in place in 2014 because the populations of endangered and threatened species in Zimbabwe and Zambia are dropping due to poaching, game hunts and loss of habitat. Zimbabwe is where the beloved Cecil the lion was killed. He was lured out of a national park for a so-called “game hunter”, Walter Palmer, to kill. These countries also allow ‘lion hunting’ which means shooting confined lions who are acclimated to humans. This is not hunting as the animals do not have any chance of escape.
The argument made by the hunting industry is that big game hunting brings money to the local communities. According to Richard Leakey of Kenya Wildlife Service, the amount of money generated by killing wildlife is minuscule compared to the millions generated by tourists coming for ecotourism. I was fortunate to go on safari in Tanzania this year. Seeing the animals living in their native habitats was amazing. Based on the number of tourists I saw on safari, I sincerely believe what Mr. Leakey is reporting. The animals are worth far more alive than dead.
On Friday, President Trump said he would halt the import of elephant “trophies” pending his personal review. Unfortunately, he did not halt the importation of lion “trophies”. The Trump family appears to be divided on this issue. Although President Trump has expressed disgust over game hunting, two of his sons have gone on big game hunts in Africa. Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, has been campaigning for several important animal issues including providing therapy dogs for veterans, saving wild horses and burros from slaughter and tighter regulation of puppy mills. Hopefully, she will take up this issue as well.
If you care about the ethical treatment of animals and helping Zimbabwe and Zambia care for their greatest natural resource, please express your opinion to the White House, US Fish & Wildlife Service and our Interior Department. Please join me in asking President Trump to please keep the ban in place on importation of elephant and lion “trophies”. Keeping these magnificent animals alive is the right thing to do.
– Eilperin, J & Gearan, A. ‘Trump face public and private pressure to halt elephant hunting trophy imports.’ WASHINGTON POST, 11/18/17, 6:12PM