Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 22, 2017

Contact: Tanya Sanerib, (206) 379-7363,

Court Affirms That Sport Killing Won't Help Zimbabwe's Elephants

Sends Agency Ban Back for Process Failures

WASHINGTON— The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected most of the challenges brought by the Safari Club International and National Rifle Association seeking to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2014 and 2015 bans on ivory from Zimbabwe.

Importantly, the court affirmed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that trophy hunting does not enhance populations of African elephants when the conservation status of elephants continues to deteriorate due to poaching and corruption, as is the case in Zimbabwe. The court determined that in this larger context, it was reasonable for the Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that trophy hunting imports can be banned in Zimbabwe or elsewhere if the facts on the ground warrant it.

“This ruling is an important victory for elephants and rejects the backward notion that killing imperiled species for sport somehow helps save them,” said Tanya Sanerib, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

In November 2017 the Trump administration lifted the Zimbabwe ivory import ban. In doing so it made the same procedural errors the D.C. Circuit found were made when the agency implemented the ban in 2014 and 2015. Both the Obama administration’s ban and the Trump administration’s lifting of the ban suffer from the same procedural deficiencies.

On Nov. 20 the Center and NRDC challenged the November 2017 decision lifting the Zimbabwe ivory ban and a similar decision for Zimbabwean lions. While President Trump called trophy hunting a “horror show,” the administration has yet to announce any changes to its 2017 Zimbabwean elephant or lion findings.

“Hopefully this court ruling will spur the Trump administration to finally revisit its decisions sanctioning the deaths of imperiled elephants and lions,” said Sanerib. “If these species are going to survive, the first step is to stop killing them.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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