The Trump administration is planning to lift an Obama-era ban on importing elephant trophies from at least two African nations – Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Although the government has not made an official announcement, a trophy-hunting advocacy group Safari Club International issued a press release on the matter. This development was also confirmed by an official with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to the ABC News.
African elephants are listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, but a provision in the act lets the government to allow import of such trophies, provided that they can show these hunts help in conservation efforts for the species.
"Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation," read a statement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Imports of the parts of elephants, which are killed between 2016 and 2018, are likely to be allowed, a move that is being welcomed by some hunting and gun-rights groups.
Environmentalists and activists are likely to raise concerns over pumping the money generated from game-hunting for conservation efforts in countries like Zimbabwe, where elephant poaching is a serious issue.
Additionally, the elephant numbers are also dwindling in 18 countries across the African continent, with a sharp decline of 30% from 2007 to 2014. According to latest census reports, there are currently about 22,000 elephants in Zambia while Zimbabwe is home to 82,000 elephants.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the US, wrote in a blog post that the latest development is "jarring". "What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive cannot kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it's just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies" he asked.