Records Sought on Trump Administration Decision to Lift Ban on Zimbabwe Elephant Trophy Imports

For Immediate Release

Records Sought on Trump Administration Decision to Lift Ban on Zimbabwe Elephant Trophy Imports

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a Freedom of Information Act request today seeking public records about an African trip taken by President Trump’s director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just days before the administration reversed an Obama-era ban on important elephant trophies from Zimbabwe.

Greg Sheehan, acting director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, traveled to Tanzania from Nov. 13 to Nov. 17 to attend the “African Wildlife Consultative Forum,” an event run by Safari Club International, a group that advocates for trophy hunting in Africa and contributed $10,000 to Trump’s campaign. During that meeting, on Nov. 16, Sheehan’s agency announced it would lift the ban on elephant trophies.

“The timing and coordination with the Safari Club on the decision to lift the elephant trophy ban is deeply troubling,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “Secretary Zinke has already turned the Department of the Interior into a special-interest playpen, and now it looks like that rot has spread to the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

After massive public outcry, including from Republican politicians and pundits, Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a “hold” on issuing elephant trophy import permits while they review the decision lifting the Zimbabwe elephant trophy ban.

On Oct. 11 the Fish and Wildlife Service decided that killing African lions in Zimbabwe enhances their survival, thus opening the door for the import of lion trophies from Zimbabwe. This decision was made without any public notice or opportunity for comment, neither of which are legally required.

The decisions to allow trophy imports ignore the grim reality that Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt nations in the world — scoring an abysmal 22 out of 100 on Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index. A military coup occurred on the same day as the reversal of the elephant trophy decision, and since that time, Zimbabwe has installed a new leader in place of Robert Mugabe.

“Nothing got better for elephants in southern Africa over the past year, so the public has a right to know what really motivated the abhorrent decision to allow the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe,” said Hartl.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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