Four Anti-Hunting Groups Are Doing Their Best to Bring African Elephants to Extinction

firstforhunterselephantcloseupOn February 11, 2015, four notorious anti-hunting groups took action in an attempt to put an end to the most effective means of elephant conservation – U.S. importation of legally sport-hunted elephants. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and the Fund for Animals together petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for a rule to list the African elephant as an endangered species. The African elephant is currently listed throughout its range as a “threatened” species. Because of that threatened status, the FWS has regulatory authority to allow the importation of legally sport-hunted elephant trophies. If the African elephant is uplisted to endangered status, the FWS could no longer rely on rules that currently allow trophy importation. Although the FWS has the authority to issue permits for the importation of endangered species, the Service rarely exercises that authority.

The four anti-hunting groups seek an endangered listing despite the fact that that such a listing would do nothing to improve the conservation status of the species. If anything, endangered status will undermine the range-nations’ efforts to battle one of the most significant threats to elephant survival — poaching. Hunting businesses, using U.S. hunter funds, contribute heavily to anti-poaching efforts in range countries. The presence of U.S. hunters and their guides in the field acts as a deterrent to poaching. Fewer U.S. hunters means fewer anti-poaching forces in the field and less revenue to invest in anti-poaching. In short, even more elephants would fall prey to illegal killings.

The FWS has 90 days from receipt of the petition to make a finding on whether or not the uplisting is “warranted.” If the FWS determines the action is not warranted, it will deny the petition and elephants will stay listed as threatened. If the FWS determines the uplisting “may be warranted,” it will then conduct a status review over the next year to determine whether to propose a rule to list the species as endangered. SCI will follow this process carefully, submit comments in opposition to an uplisting and provide scientific data to demonstrate that an uplisting is unwarranted and would be detrimental to the species’ conservation.

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