Kendall Jones/People

SCI Says Lifting the Zimbabwe Trophy Importation Ban is Premature

Despite news stories to the contrary, apparently the existing ban on the importation of elephant and lion trophies coming out of Zimbabwe is still in effect.

News stories coming primarily out of Zimbabwe this past week have declared that Zimbabwe will be once again allowing the export of big game trophies into the United States, following a ban on the importation of said trophies.

However, Safari Club International (SCI) has released a statement declaring that any such reports are premature and that the ban on trophy importation is still in effect.

The Source originally reported the story and it was picked up and spread by the Zimbabwean, InsideZim, New Zimbabwe and others, who reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ban had been lifted and that the exportation of elephant and lion trophies currently warehoused in the country would resume this year.

The Source quoted Zimbabwe Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who allegedly stated that the U.S. had granted Zimbabwe a waiver to begin exporting outstanding trophies in the second quarter of 2017.

"All the trophies which were being held in the country will be exported this year but under strict conditions," Muchinguri-Kashiri is reported to have said. "We have been given an opportunity to export again into the US," she said."

But just today - July 12 - SCI released a statement saying that the ban on exportation of big game trophies is still in effect and that the reports coming out of Zimbabwe are erroneous.

In full, SCI's statement reads as follows:

Despite recent rumors to the contrary, the existing bans on African lion and elephant importation from Zimbabwe remain in effect.  SCI received confirmation of this information yesterday from the U.S. Department of the Interior.  Unfortunately, press releases and news reports coming from Zimbabwe during the last several days incorrectly reported that the U.S. position on importation of lions and elephants from Zimbabwe had changed.

In April 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed a ban on the importation of legally hunted elephants from Zimbabwe.  SCI and the National Rifle Association sued to challenge the ban and the case continues in federal court.  SCI and NRA have already seen some success from the case.  The district court held that the Service illegally imposed the ban before announcing it in the Federal Register.  As a result the Court held that the ban could not commence until May 12, 2014, when the agency published its formal notice.  Several SCI members and others who successfully hunted elephants between April 4 and May 11, 2014, are now in the process of importing their elephants.

In January 2016, the Service adopted regulations requiring individual permits for the importation of each African lion into the U.S.  Since that date, the FWS has not granted a single permit for the importation of a legally hunted lion from Zimbabwe.

Although the Department of the Interior has not lifted either the elephant or lion importation ban, SCI is optimistic that we will see changes to the status of importation from Zimbabwe in the near future.  We will continue to monitor the importation situation, and will immediately alert our members to any changes.

Whether these erroneous news reports are the result of confusion or are deliberate is unknown.

Some of the Zimbabwe stories admitted that the 2016 Zimbabwe hunting season suffered for lack of hunting packages due primarily to stricter hunting and trophy exportation policies put in place by Western countries.

They also rightly admitted that the revenues from hunting provide more than 75% of the funding for Zimbabwean wildlife conservation as well as the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Trophy hunting and the funds it generates are vital to preserving and conserving African wildlife. Zimbabwe is no doubt feeling the pinch of the loss of that revenue, and their wildlife management program is suffering because of it.

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