Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 16, 2022

Contact:

Tanya Sanerib, (206) 379-7363, tsanerib@biologicaldiversity.org

Biden Administration Announces Tighter Rules for African Elephant Imports

Proposed Measures Stop Short of Ban on Trophies, Live Trade

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed new restrictions today on U.S. imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies and live trade. The proposal halts trophy imports from countries who cannot certify annually that their elephant populations are “stable or increasing,” have up-to-date population data, or have adequate conservation legislation. But today’s proposal stops short of a total ban on trophy and live elephant imports.

“This is a good step forward for elephants, as it restricts imports of elephant trophies,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But it’s not the transformative change needed to truly protect these amazing animals from extinction. Even President Trump called elephant trophy hunting a ‘horror show,’ and we’d hope the Biden administration would ban trade in imperiled species for trophies, not just regulate it more.”

Today’s proposal would revise the 4(d) rule for African elephants under the Endangered Species Act, which determines the protections the species receives. The United States is a major importer of hunting trophies globally, along with the European Union.

If adopted, the proposed rule would foreclose elephant imports from nations whose domestic wildlife laws fail to meet the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Of the countries that export trophies, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia currently have national legislation that may not meet the requirements of CITES. These nations would likely not be allowed to export elephant trophies to the United States.

Additionally, today’s proposal would require an annual certification to ensure that elephant populations are stable or increasing, adequate management and capacity exist, and habitat is secure, among other requirements.

In 2016 the Obama administration implemented a “near ban” on the domestic trade in ivory. Although that regulation provided some exceptions, it closed the U.S. market and was part of an agreement with China, which closed its own domestic ivory market at the end of 2019. The revisions announced today do not address the ivory trade.

“Elephants are globally cherished animals, and we need to stop treating them like commodities,” said Sanerib. “Elephants aren’t wall hangings or menagerie animals, but intelligent, empathetic creatures with a vital role in the health of forests and savannahs. If we save elephants from extinction, we’ll save entire ecosystems, but it will take global support and willingness to change business as usual.”

The proposed restrictions follow the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2020 reassessment of elephants, which found that forest elephants are critically endangered and savannah elephants are endangered.

Today’s proposal was announced as nations attend the triennial CITES meeting being held in Panama. A proposal to re-open international ivory trade is on the table at the meeting, along with proposals to address burgeoning ivory stockpiles, live trade in elephants and the continued need to close domestic ivory markets.

African elephants
African Elephants. Kenya, June 2022. Credit: Tanya Sanerib, Center for Biological Diversity Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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