SCI Leads International Hunting Community by Challenging Elephant Importation Bans
On April 21, 2014, Safari Club threw down its legal gauntlet and challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s bans against the 2014 importation of sport-hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Not only are many once-in-a-lifetime hunts at stake, but so is elephant conservation in these two countries. While most lawsuits take months to prepare, SCI’s Litigation team assembled and filed the case within two weeks of the FWS’s announcement. Just over one week later, SCI took the next step of engaging the FWS in battle – filing a motion for a preliminary injunction. In it, SCI asked the court for emergency relief. Instead of waiting for the year or two that a resolution of the lawsuit is likely to take, SCI asked the court to reverse the importation bans immediately. The argument on SCI’s emergency motion will likely take place over the next few weeks.
SCI sought help for its elephant lawsuit from SCI members who have elephant hunts planned in Zimbabwe and Tanzania for 2014. SCI attorneys also reached out to safari operators, outfitters, professional hunters, booking agents and others whose businesses have been hurt by the importation bans. The response from SCI members was overwhelming. SCI was able to submit over 40 sworn statements in support of the challenge. The statements helped SCI explain to the Court how U.S. hunters assist in the conservation of the African elephant. The payments made by U.S. hunters for the fees and costs of elephant hunting help finance anti-poaching activities, community projects, and habitat improvement. The very presence of hunters and hunting camps help protect elephants by deterring poachers. Hunting operations in Zimbabwe and Tanzania hire local workers and invest in local communities. U.S. interest in hunting elephants raises the value of the species and encourages local residents to better tolerate destructive elephant behavior.
SCI’s lawsuit challenged the arbitrariness of the FWS’s refusal to allow importation in 2014. Among other things, the lawsuit points out that the FWS relied on outdated information and failed to consider the harm that the importation bans would cause to elephant conservation. SCI hopes that the Court will understand that the importation bans will do more harm than good for Zimbabwe’s and Tanzania’s elephants.