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Jenna Gyimesi | Oberlin College                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Trump cannot seem to make up his mind regarding Zimbabwean elephant trophy importation regulations. His voice, although confused, has been loud and easy to access. The opinion missing from the media may be the most important; the local opinion.

Trump reversed his previous decision to allow elephant hunting trophies to be imported from Zimbabwe. The Trump administration announced that he would lift the ban on trophy imports in late November. Two days later, Trump tweeted that hunting is a “horror show” and announced that the ban, originally imposed by the Obama administration, would remain enforced via Twitter.  Although the choice to reverse the decision may help elephants, the speedy change in Trumps opinion may demonstrates how impulsive he may be.

Trump faced backlash from several American hunting groups. Campfire, an elephant hunting management group, reported that “seventy percent of hunters who pay up to $20,000 for permits to legally harvest elephants are American.” The President of Safari Club International, an American hunting club, stated “The fight for the freedom to hunt is far from over. We will be more proactive and not back down.” Even though Trump reversed the decision, it is clear that this issue is not resolved. If Trump was so quickly swayed to uphold the ban, it is possible that he can be quickly swayed to lift it. 

Tanya Sanerib senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity articulated, “the trump administration must clearly and permanently halt imports of lion and elephant trophies to protect these amazing animals from extinction. Trump’s abrupt backpedaling after public outcry, while appreciated, shows how arbitrary this deplorable decision was. These incredibly imperiled creatures need a lot more than vague promises” 

Only time will tell if the ban will endure. Elephant hunting trophie imports are currently allowed from several African countries other than Zimbabwe. Pro-hunting organizations and anti-hunting organizations have both made their opinions known. However, who we haven’t heard from may be the most valuable opinion. Zimbabwean people will be much better equipped to speak about the pros and cons of elephant trophy imports since these people live along side elephants.

Zimbabwe has the second largest population of elephants in Africa. The countries human population is also increasing at one of the highest rates in the world. However, two-thirds of this growing population lives below the poverty line.

According to the WashingtonPost, “between 2005 and 2010, hunting trophy fees generated approximately $11 million for communities in Zimbabwe, and of this, about $7.5 million came from elephants. A little more than half came from Americans.” Additionally, elephants have destroyed some local crops and have caused multiple Zimbabwean casualties.

Elephants have significant cognitive abilities and are intertwined with Zimbabwean culture. The beauty, and cleverness of the giant animals may cause the Zimbabwean people to favor laws that protect elephant populations, despite harms caused by their populations and the potential rewards of hunting them. The point is I do not know what Zimbabweans think about the ban, and neither do you.  

Politicians like Trump have incredible access to the public. The people most affected by policy are denied of a voice. Maybe policy makers should do less tweeting, and do more listening to local populations. 

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