African elephants: Should trophy ban be lifted?
“If you were an elephant, you might be puzzling over human behavior this week,” said Virginia Morell in TheAtlantic.com. First, the Trump administration unexpectedly announced it would lift an Obama-era ban on the import of elephant heads, tails, and other “trophies” brought back from Zimbabwe and Zambia by big-game hunters. But when that decision sparked an uproar among animal-rights activists—many of whom pointed out that President Trump’s adult sons are, not coincidentally, avid big-game hunters—Trump suddenly halted the decision pending a review. Let’s hope the trophy ban stays, said Maggie Shipstead in The New York Times. The African elephant population has plummeted from up to 10 million in 1930 to less than 500,000 today— mostly because poachers slaughtered vast numbers of the majestic animals for ivory and other body parts. Officially listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, “the last thing elephants need is more people shooting them.”
Big-game hunting is an emotional subject, said Neel V. Patel in Slate.com. But as counterintuitive as it sounds, lifting this ban could actually help save elephants. Wealthy Western hunters pay more than $30,000 for hunting excursions and up to $18,500 more for a trophy permit—money that can be poured back into local conservation efforts to protect elephant habitats and fight poaching. “Animals, it is important to note, are not romanticized in Africa,” said Monica Showalter in AmericanThinker.com. Elephants, lions, and other big game are viewed as either objects of terror or a muchneeded source of local income. Without trophy hunters like Donald Jr., there would be no hunting industry, which pays many Africans’ wages, and no funding for anti-poaching efforts that protect the overall elephant population.
But “pay-to-slay” programs only work if they’re well regulated, said Tony Norman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In Zimbabwe, hunting profits probably went straight “into President Robert Mugabe’s pocket”; corruption is endemic in the region. Overturning the hunting ban would be unconscionable. Elephants are wonderful creatures, “remarkably gentle for their size,” with high intelligence and complex social structures. Scientists have shown that elephants mourn, “dream, and anticipate the future.” Does the Trump administration really want to help rich men armed with high-powered rifles slaughter these gentle giants and then return home “with the bloody proof of their manliness”? ■