Trump reverses ban on trophy hunting, endangering elephants

By Rachel Pierce | Staff Columnist


In Zimbabwe, the elephant population has decreased by 74 percent.

In 2014, the Obama Administration placed a ban on importing trophy elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia into the United States. The term “trophy elephants” refers to (commonly but not limited to) the heads or tusks of a killed elephant. The ban was placed because statistically, hunting elephants did not contribute to expanding the population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) under the Trump administration released a statement that suggests the administration is reevaluating the ban, potentially allowing trophies to enter the country. In addition, this lift seemingly encourages big game hunting of an endangered species.

The ban would be lifted from Jan. 21, 2018, to the end of that year. Only two trophies would be allowed per import. How thoughtful of the administration to restrain hunters from only killing two elephants.

I’ve been trying to genuinely understand how hunting an endangered species actually helps to increase a population. This is the claim of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The theory is that when elephants are hunted, locals become concerned for elephants’ well-being, thus creating an incentive to try to protect them. Doesn’t it make more sense to just stop encouraging hunting elephants? If the FWS had the right motive and did care about protecting the species, they would not encourage big game hunting. However, they have created this false, twisted cover-up theory that, by hunting elephants, we can save them.

Activists are also fighting people’s love for hunting. According to USA Today, Ryan Zinke, head of the Department of Interior, recalled that “some of [his] best memories are hunting and fishing with my dad and grandad…that’s something [he] want[s] more families to experience.”

Here is a wild thought: Why not try a family activity that doesn’t include killing a 13-ton mammal?

Stop sending the message to your children that, as humans, we have the right to kill these animals. We may be the most intelligent species, but we both forget and underestimate the intelligence and human-like compassion that other animals are capable of expressing.

The Scientific American claims that new research concludes that elephants, as proficient “adept tool users and cooperative problem solvers,” are just as intelligent as chimpanzees, who are very well known for their smarts.

PBS reported that Elephants are also capable of human emotions, like crying, grieving and loss. Elephants even mourn the death of loved ones, sometimes up to several years after the death has occurred.

Yet you can go on Twitter and find the image of Donald Trump Jr. with a bloodied knife in one hand, a sliced elephant tail in the other, and the innocent dead elephant in the background. It’s okay, though, because Trump, Jr. felt empowered by killing an elephant. (Funny, it’s the animals who tend to grieve over such a killing rather than the humans, the so-called more intelligent species. If that is not disappointing, I don’t know what is.)

On Nov. 17, Trump tweeted that he would put the big game trophy decision “on hold.” This was led by an overwhelming praise and relief among activists. The reality is, we cannot be satisfied. This was a scare, a taste of what could happen. Last month, the FWS began to quietly issue permits to allow hunters to bring lion trophies into the United States. The reason that the consideration of lifting the elephant trophy ban is so public is because Trump tweeted it.

However, I would offer the same argument for lions as I have for elephants: It’s neither our place nor our right to kill an animal. What harm did the elephant do to us? What did the lions do to us? Find another way to stroke your ego that doesn’t include slaughtering an animal. Find something else to do with your seven-year-old.

Leaders of the world watch the United States, so what message does it send if we encourage hunting an endangered species? What message does it send, that rich Americans can hunt elephants to display in their homes in order to impress guests, but locals cannot hunt them even though it is a way to make a living? The United States has been an example, a model for the world, and we can’t stop that now.

When I look into my dog’s eyes, I see emotion. I see intelligence. Someone is home; someone is looking back. I would say the same for elephants. The ability to grieve a death opens a greater level of intelligence that is so humbling and beautiful. Yet there are people who can look into those same eyes and instead pull a trigger. There are people who pull out a knife and cut off their tails, after the animals are dead and cannot even defend themselves. This is cowardly, and those people do not understand their place on this earth — and definitely should not be in charge of running it.