The debate about hunting lions and elephants has just come roaring back. Earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted a ban on importing lion and elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Just days later, after a public outcry, President Trump reinstated it. “Put big game trophy decision on hold, Mr. Trump tweeted, “until such time as I review all conservation facts.”
Although African lions and elephants are listed under the Endangered Species Act, Americans can import trophies from certain countries as long as the Fish and Wildlife Service determines that hunting will enhance the survival of the species in the wild. After several years of study, the agency determined that hunting these species in Zimbabwe and Zambia would benefit wildlife conservation.
Environmental activists aren’t reassured, and some pledged to sue. “The Trump administration must clearly and permanently halt imports of lion and elephant trophies to protect these amazing animals from extinction,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. Mr. Trump expressed similar concerns. “Will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal,” he tweeted.
The fear is that allowing trophy imports will lead to more killing of animals. To some extent, that’s true. But encouraging more legal hunting could actually be a good thing for endangered wildlife.