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Kathryn Cross | Wellesley College

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Nov. 15 that it would end a 2014 government ban on big-game trophy hunting.  Trophy hunting is the selective hunting of certain animals, and trophies are often skin, antlers, horn, or a head of a hunted animal.

If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service goes through with their decision, the U.S. government would lift African elephant trophy import restrictions from Zimbabwe and Zambia.  A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman said that the import lifts will allow Zimbabwe and Zambia to gain back revenue in conservation efforts.  Trophy hunters have stated that hunting and safari trophies’ revenue often goes into protecting wildlife.  

The ban was first announced in 2014 under the Obama administration because African elephants in particular were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  Furthermore, they found that the hunts did not help the species survive--as profitable as they may be.  Because of African elephants’ threatened status, the Trump administration faced immediate animal-rights advocate backlash when the initially announced the 2014 ban’s termination.

“Infuriating,” former president Bill Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, tweeted.  “Will increase poaching, make communities more vulnerable & hurt conservation efforts.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce also stated on Friday that it made no sense to ease trophy import restrictions, especially given Zimbabwe’s current president, Robert Mugabe, currently being on house arrest due to a recent military coup.  Royce said that he has no confidence in the regime to properly manage conservation programs anyhow.  Thus, any revenue that was created from trophies would not do much good in terms of wildlife preservation.  

“Furthermore, I am not convinced that elephant population in the area warrant overconcentration measures,” Royce said.

Although this backlash is not necessarily what motivated Trump’s Friday tweet, he took to Twitter to take back his administration’s decision.

“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts,” he said.  “Under study for years.  Will update soon with Secretary Zinke.  Thank you!”

Regardless of what motivated Trump’s decision to delay lifting the ban, it is unequivocally excellent that Trump is at least perceptive to public opinion and fact-based logic.  It is only logical that Trump hold off on lifting the bans because of the instability of Zimbabwe’s government, and animal rights are most definitely at risk if he were to lift the ban.

CNN reported on Nov. 14 that Trump says something that is factually false 5.5 per day every day on average.  But, in this case, he seems to be leaning towards actually examining facts.  Taking back his own administration’s decision shows some organization in his and/or his administration’s communication skills with both the public and one another.  Nonetheless, he is at least moving towards a rational direction with this tweet.  Its brings attention to animal rights and the various abuses that animals face today--all of which Congress needs to address more seriously.

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