Today Safari Club International President Paul Babaz sent a letter to President Trump, asking him to direct Secretary Ryan Zinke to lift the hold that he placed on the authorization of import permits for elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
In the letter, SCI addressed multiple reasons why the hold should be lifted and corrected many of the common misconceptions about hunting, conservation and the elephant populations in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The text of that letter to President Trump stated:
November 20, 2017
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the 50,000 members of Safari Club International, I respectfully ask you to direct Secretary Ryan Zinke to lift the hold that he placed on the authorization of import permits for elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia. By supporting Secretary’s Zinke’s authorization of import permits, you can reverse the senseless acts perpetrated by the Obama administration against hunting and the sustainable use conservation of African wildlife. The Obama Administration’s refusal to authorize the importation of African elephants from countries, including Zimbabwe and Zambia, deprived those countries of resources they rely on to manage their wildlife, fight poaching and encourage community participation in conservation. It is now time to put an end to the previous administration’s prejudicial and unsupported bias against hunting as a tool in wildlife management and conservation.
Secretary Zinke and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have made crucial, scientifically supported determinations about hunting and the U.S. importation of African elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Not only did the Department of the Interior’s wildlife and legal experts determine that the hunting and importation from these two countries will not hurt the African elephant species, they determined that the importation of legally hunted elephants from these two countries would “enhance the survival” of African elephants. In short, they recognized, based on data they received from the wildlife management authorities of the two countries, the results of a species wide African elephant census, and the conclusions of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, that hunting and U.S. importation would help conserve African elephants.
Unfortunately, many people who oppose the importation of legally hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia incorrectly believe that a ban on importation will actually stop the killing of African elephants. Let me assure you that a U.S. ban on importation will not stop the killing of elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Without the removal of elephants by U.S. hunters, others will find the need or the opportunity to kill those elephants, both for illegal and legal purposes. Whether it is by poachers seeking to gain from the commercial value of the ivory, local residents attempting to remove a problem animal or hunters from other countries around the world taking advantage of bargain hunts not booked by U.S. hunters, elephants will continue to be removed from Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Most people who oppose hunting and importation of elephants are unaware of the role that hunting plays in fighting the greatest threat to elephant conservation—poaching. Hunting concessions use money received from their clients to hire, feed and outfit anti-poaching patrols. For example, few people know that it was a hunting business in Zimbabwe that discovered and helped apprehend the perpetrators of one of the most egregious poaching crimes in recent history --- the poisoning of over 100 elephants in Hwange National Park. It was a hunting business that discovered the poisoned elephants and helped finance the effort, including the use of helicopter surveillance, that resulted in the apprehension of the poachers. In another example, a hunting business in northern Zimbabwe established the Dande Anti-Poaching Unit (DAPU) in 2014. DAPU’s anti-poaching efforts have significantly reduced the number of illegal wildlife killings in the vicinity of the Dande Safari area. These are just two examples of the hunting businesses who have been struggling to wage the battle against poaching, without the help of money from U.S. elephant hunters. Without the influx of U.S. dollars to help support anti-poaching efforts, poachers will have an easier time of illegally killing elephants solely to sell the ivory for commercial gain.
Not all poaching is carried out by criminals who seek to make a profit from their ivory. Sometimes poaching – the illegal killing of an animal – is an act of necessity or frustration. Local villages often find the need to kill elephants as to protect their livelihoods from the damages caused by elephants who roam into agricultural areas and trample crops and structures. When elephants are not harvested by international hunters, those elephants often become the victims of retaliatory killings. However, when elephants have significant value due to the jobs and revenue they generate for the community, local residents are far more likely to tolerate and help conserve the elephants in the vicinity – rather than kill them as nuisance animals.
Many of those opposed to U.S. importation of African elephants are unaware of the differences between hunting and poaching. They assume that U.S. hunters care only about bringing home their “trophy.” This misconception fails to recognize an important distinction between poachers and those who spend thousands of dollars to engage in legal hunts authorized by the country management authority. A poacher generally kills the elephant, removes the ivory to sell it and leaves the carcass to rot. A hunter, with aid from his professional guide or outfitter, will generally donate all the meat from the elephant to help feed local villages and communities. Hunters and the business they bring to countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia help provide jobs for local residents as guides, cooks, drivers, etc. Hunters often also make personal contributions to anti-poaching units and help provide financial support for community projects like the building of wells, schools etc.
Another misconception held by those who oppose the importation of legally hunted African elephants is that “more is better.” They mistakenly assume that larger elephant populations in these countries would benefit species survival. The truth is that, in wildlife conservation, more is not always better. While it is true that, in some African countries, elephant populations are not as strong as they could be, that cannot be said for Zimbabwe and Zambia. According to the recent “Great Elephant Census,” Zimbabwe’s country-wide elephant population was estimated to be 82,304. Zambia’s elephant population was 21,758. While the census documented a 6% decline in Zimbabwe’s elephant population since 2007, that decline did not necessarily reveal a problem for the country’s elephants. In fact, Zimbabwe’s habitat cannot properly support a population of that number of elephants. The country’s carrying capacity is only 50,000 elephants, according to a recent statement from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s Director-General, Mr Filton Mangwanya. Carrying capacity is the number of animals from a particular species that a region can support without environmental degradation. Currently, Zimbabwe has an elephant population that is about 30,000 more than can be sustained by the country’s food and habitat resources. More elephants are simply not better for elephant survival if Zimbabwe lacks the necessary resources to maintain healthy populations at that level.
Anti-hunters also believe that the U.S. alone allows individuals to import legally hunted elephants. That simply is not the case. Not only does the European Union and its member countries authorize importation -- as do countries in Asia and South America -- but so does the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty between more than 180 nations. CITES affirms the importation of elephants and acknowledges export quotas of elephants from both Zimbabwe and Zambia. Economically speaking, other world countries are now benefitting from the U.S.’s failure to authorize elephant imports. With the absence of U.S. hunters, who are often willing to pay top dollar for African elephant hunts, hunters from other countries are negotiating “bargain” excursions from African guides and outfitters who must replace lost U.S. business. While the U.S. bans importation based on irrational and erroneous conservation principles, the rest of the world is getting a great deal at U.S. hunters’ expense.
The hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia enhances the survival of the African elephant species. The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have carefully researched the facts, the science and the law and have concluded that the U.S. has had the necessary evidentiary support to authorize the importation of elephants from these two countries since early in 2016. Hunters and conservationists have waited for many years for an importation decision that reflects the correct and verifiable facts about elephant importation and species conservation. Safari Club International respectfully asks you to end the wait and to direct Secretary Zinke to begin issuing permits for the importation of these elephants, so that U.S. citizens can once again import the elephants that they legally hunt and actively participate in elephant conservation in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
President, Safari Club International
For more information about this subject matter, please visit the following links:
Zimbabwe Elephant Enhancement Finding:
Zambia Elephant Enhancement Finding:
Southwick Associates Report
Actually, African Elephants Are Not on The Verge of Extinction
CITES Issue: African Elephant
The Science Behind Sustainable Use
Issue of the Week: African Elephant Populations Still Strong in Southern Africa
Issue of the Week: Tanzania Stands By Hunting