Thanks to efforts by the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, hunters can now sue the United States Fish And Wildlife Service over their ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
This is the latest development in a legal battle started when the United States Fish & Wildlife Service abruptly refused issue import permits for elephants hunted in Zimbabwe and Tanzania back in 2014 (elephant trophies from South Africa and Namibia may still be imported). Since then, hunting and conservation groups led by the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International have filed a series of lawsuits against the government agency.
However, conservation groups just won a key victory in the fight. Basically, judges have previously ruled that hunters could not sue the government agency unless they actually applied for an elephant import permit and were denied one. Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association argued that it was pointless for hunters to apply for an import permit if the application was guaranteed to be denied.
A three-judge panel from the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit agreed with this reasoning. According to Judge David Tatel:
For its part, Safari Club insists that seeking a permit would have been futile given that the Service had determined and publicly announced that no permits would issue for Tanzanian elephants killed in 2014. According to the Service, however, futility can never excuse a nonapplicant’s failure to seek a permit, adding that even were there a futility exception, Safari Club has failed to show futility here. We disagree with the Service on both counts.
This is not the end of the controversy though. Stay tuned for more updates on developments in the fight between the Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation groups fighting for practices that support legal, well-regulated sport hunting all over the world and the conservation benefits that come along with it.