Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 16, 2017

Contact: Tanya Sanerib, (206) 379-7363,

Trump Administration Reverses Elephant Trophy Import Ban

During Zimbabwe's Coup, U.S. Claims Country Adequately Managing Elephant Population

WASHINGTON— Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today formally reversed an Obama administration ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. Making the announcement as a coup is going on in Zimbabwe, Zinke’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claimed that Zimbabwe can sufficiently manage its elephant population to enable U.S. hunters to resume importing trophies.

“This is horrific news for Africa’s rapidly vanishing elephants, and the Trump administration’s timing couldn’t be more bizarre,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Corruption was already a huge concern in Zimbabwe, and it’s shocking that Zinke is lifting the trophy ban during a military coup. With tanks in the streets, whoever is actually running the Zimbabwe government just can’t be trusted to protect elephants from slaughter by poachers.”  

Poaching of elephants for their ivory remains a significant threat in Zimbabwe. According to aerial surveys — known as the Great Elephant Census — Zimbabwe’s elephant population decreased a shocking 18 percent between 2007 and 2013, when the aerial surveys were performed.

A 2017 report to an intersessional committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) found that Zimbabwe’s elephant population is continuing to decline as a result of poaching.

“U.S. trophy hunters shouldn’t be killing elephants when their populations are in decline. There’s no conservation in that,” said Sanerib. “The Trump administration’s decision to greenlight the slaughter of this imperiled species is absolutely unacceptable, and we’ll fight it every way we can.”

Overall, the Great Elephant Census of savannah elephants conducted over the past couple of years revealed that only roughly 375,000 savannah elephants (not including the smaller forest elephants in western-central Africa) remain across the continent. The census results also documented the loss of 140,000 elephants over seven years due to poaching.  

African elephant

African elephant courtesy USFWS. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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