Great debates over trophy animal hunting and imports

Hannah Gabel, Staff Writer


A ban that was initially implemented in 2014 recently underwent a series of debates between the federal government and President Donald Trump. Originally, the ban was implemented to prevent people from trophy hunting for elephants and other wildlife in Zimbabwe and Zambia, in an effort to help conserve and protect the creatures. Last month, discussion of the ban was reopened before the government chose to lift the ban and allow imports and trophy hunting.

Trophy hunting is considered a sport where individuals hunt large game animals to preserve a part of them, showcasing it as a “trophy.”

The trophy can be any part of the animal, usually the head of animals with no antlers or tusks, and the racks or horns of animals such as deer, elk, gazelle, and similar species. For elephants, people usually want to collect their tusks. However, ivory, a material from elephant tusks, has been fully banned, and there are some conservation groups dyeing elephant tusks to dissuade poachers from illegally hunting the animal.

According to the New York Times, “The Trump administration will begin allowing hunters to bring into the United States ‘trophy’ elephants killed in Zimbabwe, though African elephants are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the law allows the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to authorize imports of trophies if the agency finds that the “hunts in which the animals were killed contribute to the survival of the species.” With the removal of the ban, trophy hunting would be allowed once more on endangered species such as African elephants and lions. The risk with lifting the ban would be further endangering and potentially driving these animals to extinction.

Trump stepped in and surprised the country by putting a halt to lifting the ban. Peter Barker and Emily Cochrane, writers for the New York Times, co-wrote an article stating, “…Mr. Trump put a sudden halt to a new federal government ruling that would have allowed hunters to bring in ‘trophy’ elephants killed in Zimbabwe into the United States, calling big game hunting a ‘horror show’ that he did not believe helped conservation.” Trump stepped in and put a halt to the administrations moves to lift the ban set in place in 2014, even after they had just begun to accept some permits to allow trophy hunting. Now, the decision will be reviewed and put on hold to be officially determined at a later date.

There is some debate on whether this was the right move. Amy Dickman from CNN stated in her personal article that trophy hunting might be more damaging to the conservation of species. She argues that with implementing and keeping the ban, it will encourage poaching and potentially cause conflicts between humans and parks in the areas, causing further harm to the endangered wildlife. Zimbabwe and Zambia are attempting to establish more firm regulations to make trophy hunting safer as well, so that the risks of further endangering these animals will be lowered, yet they have struggles to make those restrictions very successful.

Whether or not trophy hunting should be allowed, the overall and most important goal is to preserve these endangered wildlife species, helping to improve their numbers rather than allowing them to slowly decline and worsening the problem. While there are mixed arguments on whether trophy hunting is more helpful or harmful, the recent discussion on the ban seems undecided currently. The general population remains in hope that whatever the decision comes to, it is helpful for these endangered animals and that they are able to be properly preserved.

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