OPINION: Wildlife wants D.C. swamp drained, too
If the many threatened and endangered animals around the world could speak English, right about now they’d be shouting, “Drain the swamp!”
D.C. shenanigans targeting those who cannot speak for themselves are scandalous, with the latest outrage the reversal of the reinstatement of the ban on the importation of animal “trophies” – body parts – from African elephants and other wildlife in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In November 2017, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced lifting the ban on the import of elephant parts from trophy hunting in Zambia and Zimbabwe, generating widespread outrage. Then in a January interview, President Donald Trump stated that he directed his administration to retain the ban. That was extremely short-lived. The Hill broke the news earlier this month that FWS would continue to allow the importation and review on a “case-by-case basis.”
Let’s be clear what is happening. The U.S. government is giving legal cover to Safari Club International (SCI), which posted the news of the rule change before FWS, and American men, women and children who murder rare animals abroad. These are people who choose to ignore the true status of elephants — at high risk for extinction in the wild as their numbers continue to drop – taking the mendacious position that trophy hunting equals conservation.
These “trophy hunters,” while relatively small in number, imported more than 1.26 million wildlife “trophies” into the U.S. between 2005 and 2014, involving more than 1,200 different kinds of animals, according to the Humane Society.
Oh, and a tremendous amount of money is involved.
These ugly Americans travel abroad and pay tens of millions of dollars to kill rare animals – animals whose total numbers in the wild may be as low as a few thousand in some cases. Canada and South Africa were the source of origin for most “trophies,” but trophy hunters’ bloodlust reaches Argentina, Botswana, Namibia, New Zealand and Mexico, as well as the aforementioned Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Humane Society also learned that in the decade they studied, about one-quarter of the animals killed were the Africa Big Five — lions, elephants, leopards and southern white rhinos. All these animals have various designations indicating they are in trouble.
Average people — non-death dealers — wonder what sport there is in killing an animal. Not much. There is no contest. The human, with today’s high-powered weaponry, will win. If not, it’s most likely because an animal can’t be found (maybe because there are so few) in the allotted time the trophy hunter has for his travels abroad. Unlike days of yore where safaris were drawn-out affairs requiring fitness and stamina, today’s trophy hunter need not be particularly athletic. A widely circulated photo on the internet showed a grossly overweight man posing with his trophy lion; another shows an overweight American businessman who draped a dead giraffe over his shoulders.
This is sport?
Describing itself as “Protecting hunters’ rights and promoting wildlife conservation,” SCI, which claims 50,000 members, last year gathered in Las Vegas to place bids in what was described as a “pay to slay” auction for African leopards, a Canadian polar bear and Namibian elephants. What’s the value of a dead polar bear to an SCI member? $72,000.
These people are not beyond redemption. But until they stop murdering rare animals and we as a society understand what wildlife needs to survive and thrive in a world that will soon be inhabited by 12 billion humans, we need a moratorium on this slaughter for trophy.
SCI on its website states their “right and freedom to hunt is under attack.” Damn right it is. Hundreds of millions of people believe there is no “right” to slaughter wild animals facing extinction for a trophy – hanging a head on a wall. In the 21st century, knowing what we know about the Sixth Extinction and the precarious position of so many species, regardless of what the laws may be, trophy hunting is an immoral, backward-thinking and unconscionable choice.
The success of a presidency ultimately is measured by what positive achievements are made that will endure. Trump campaigned, and won, on fixing immigration and trade, and getting people back to work — all good and important. But if Trump wants an enduring legacy that will make a positive difference, he must put addressing animal protections in his Top 5 to-do list, starting by ensuring that his January promise on the elephant ban is honored.
No more shenanigans.
Maria Fotopoulos writes about the connection between overpopulation and biodiversity loss.
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