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Hunting Group Sues USFWS Over Ban on Importing Elephant Hunt Trophies

Apr 24, 2014 02:02 PM EDT
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Hunting advocacy group Safari Club International says its suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over its recent ban on the importation of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

Contending that the FWS initiated the ban based on inadequate information, the hunting group filed the lawsuit in federal district court in the District of Columbia on Monday. The lawsuit follows the Safari Club International (SCI) publicly asking the FWS to rescind its ban.

The SCI contends that the temporary ban, which was put into effect earlier this month, does more harm than good. Sport hunting in the African nations is a key means of conservation overall, providing revenue to combat illegal poaching and support local economies, the SCI said in a statement detailing its lawsuit.

The FWS, however, said it elected to ban the import of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania based on a history of poor regulations in the African nations, as well as a growing need to address the impact of illegal poaching on the nations' elephants.

"Questionable management practices, a lack of effective law enforcement and weak governance have resulted in uncontrolled poaching and catastrophic population declines of African elephants in Tanzania," the FWS said in an April 4 statement along with the announcement of the suspension. "In Zimbabwe, available data, though limited, indicate a significant decline in the elephant population."

The FWS also noted that the highly publicized cyanide poisoning last year of elephants in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park also suggests the nation's elephant population is struggling to survive.

The ban would not prevent American hunters from traveling to either Tanzania or Zimbabwe to hunt elephants, but it will stop them from importing any trophies from their hunt back to the US.

The SCI contends that sport hunting elephants provides invaluable revenue to the communities connected to the safari hunting industry.

"Without the ability to import the most significant symbol of their effort and success, many US hunters will not undertake the huge expense of an elephant hunt," the SCI said in a statement announcing its lawsuit. "The absence of US hunters will undermine the outfitting industry, which often provides the first line of defense against poaching. It will also reduce conservation dollars derived from the hunting fees and community support for elephant conservation."

SCI President Craig Kauffman has criticized the FWS decision as a unilateral one that does not include the position of the African nations' governments, which use hunting revenue to fund a variety of conservation resources.

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