President Trump’s Ban on Trophy Elephant Imports–Bad for Animals, Hunters, Conservation

Dead African Elephant
Getty Images

On Friday President Trump stopped an effort to re-open imports of trophy elephants from two African countries and elaborated on the stoppage two days later by using using the phrase “horror show” when the describing the process of hunting and harvesting the animals.

On November 17 the New York Times reported that the Trump administration had lifted the ban on trophy elephant imports, only to have Trump personally intervene and reverse the decision to lift it. He tweeted:

On November 19 Trump made clear that his final decision will not be announced for a week, but he indicated that he cannot imagine changing his mind and allowing trophy elephant imports:

Trump’s position is bad for animals insomuch as hunting in Africa is highly regulated, therefore the animals that trophy hunters shoot are those that local individuals overseeing the herd have decided to remove in order to make the herd stronger. Moreover, the number of licenses/permits to hunt is directly tied to the size of the herd, with the goal of preventing it from reaching a size at which it outgrows its habitation and has to struggle to find food.

In this way, hunting is a key part of conservation. Without hunting, unchecked herds could overpopulate and force local governments in Africa to kill animals simply to be sure their population remains at a size that is sustainable.

For example, the anti-hunting backlash that resulted from a hunter killing Cecil the Lion in July 2015 led to an overpopulation of lions in Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley Conservatory. Breitbart News reported that there was a population of 500 lions in an area which could only support 300 in the long term. The New Zealand Herald reported that the government faced the option of shooting 200 lions in order to make room that would save other animals dependent on the same ecosystem.

Again, hunting is part of conservation. Because of this, it is actually good for the long term health of various animal groups.

Opposition to hunting big game–even when the purposes are trophy hunting–rests on a misunderstanding of the fact that the animals shot are carefully selected by people who monitor the herds to prevent what Zimbabwe experienced with its lion population. By ignoring this, the Trump administration ignores the good service done by hunters not only in Africa, in but in other nations and states where hunters help control populations year in and year out.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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