Trump expresses doubt about overturning policy allowing elephant trophies in U.S.

On Sunday evening, President Trump expressed more doubt about overturning the previous 2014 policy enacted by President Obama concerning big game and elephant trophies shot for sport to be imported into the United States.

Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.

Trump is apparently questioning whether this “horror show” would actually be of benefit to the conservation of any animal. The United States Fish and Wildlife argue that encouraging rich big game hunters to kill the endangered species, would help raise money for preservation programs. On the government website, applications were made available, and the announcement already had been posted; much to the outrage of animal rights advocates, environmental groups and even Republican lawmakers who support animal advocacy and protection. The website included a notice that permitting parts of elephants to be brought back to the United States from Zimbabwe and Zambia would raise money for the animals’ future conservation after their research. No convincing research results have ever been made available.
On Friday, Trump tweeted he would review the policy with avid hunter and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke:

Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!

In smaller print, the policy also rolled back protections for African lions, releasing new guidelines that would allow hunters to bring back trophies from Africa.

And for those wondering how this 2014 rollback began, the Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association sued to block the ban. Last week, the deputy director of the FWS, Greg Sheehan made the announcement, during the organization sponsored African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzia, which had been hosted by the Safari Club and Tanzania.   The Safari Club’s political action committees donated $24,500 to Trump’s presidential campaign and Zinke’s 2014 and 2016 congressional campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission data.

In response to  Trump’s suspension, the Safari Club sent out a “call to arms,” encouraging hunters to contact Trump and Zinke and “tell them how much you appreciate the efforts of the Fish & Wildlife Service to remove barriers to sustainable use conservation for African wildlife” with the group calling out “hysterical anti-hunters and news media outlets.”  The FWS continues to defend its position as “part of a robust United States conservation strategy that seeks to eliminate poaching and associated wildlife trafficking.”

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also reached out to the President stating the current unrest in Zimbabwe lends no confidence in the government prudently directing any funding through appropriate channels. In addition, African elephants have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978. It remains to be seen how killing endangered species adds to their survival.

Read previous article here.

(Photo of elephant trophies

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Elephant and lion trophies brought back to U.S. legal again says Trump

In another reversal of an Obama policy, prohibiting the importation of endangered animals back to the United States, has been overturned by the Trump administration. The restrictions were put in place to discourage the hunting and poaching of animals that are on the threatened species and who have been targeted for their ivory. In 2015, the Fish and Wildlife Service suspended the import of trophy hunted elephants citing the lack of any statistics relevant to conservation efforts.

On Wednesday, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will allow trophy hunters to legally bring back their killed wildlife, which now removes restrictions on permits. In a newly created arm of the Department of the Interior, the International Wildlife Conservation Council states it wants to bring:

“…economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling to foreign nations to engage in hunting.”

The IWCC contends overturning the previous rules will benefit “human populations.” There is no supporting research to accompany this latest “conservation” platitude, yet the council states that hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia will help their conservation efforts. In support of the latest policy is the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action executive director, Chris Cox:

“This is a significant step forward in having hunting receive the recognition it deserves as a tool of sound wildlife management, which has been all but buried in the previous administration.”

ABCNews reports the government has not actually announced the policy change yet, but it was  announced at a wildlife forum in South Africa this week, according to Safari Club International, which filed a lawsuit to block the 2014 ban.

Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric Trump are big game hunters and have posted many photos of their hunting exploits, including posing with an elephant’s severed tail and a leopard drawing the ire of animal advocates and humane organizations worldwide. The brothers continue to take hunting trips although they have not been posting their photos. According to Buzz Feed, Trump Jr. ditched his Secret Service protection  in September to go hunting in the Canadian wilderness. He calls hunting “a great way to see the world,” and is pictured holding an elephant’s tail he had just severed.

And if you’re wondering where else all this is coming from, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose department includes the Fish and Wildlife Service, he speaks of remembering the days he went on family hunting trips and now wants more families to experience. After installing the arcade game called “Big Buck Hunter” in the department’s cafeteria, he had this to say:

“Some of my best memories are hunting and fishing with my dad and granddad, and then later teaching my own kids to hunt and fish. That’s something I want more families to experience.”

For most Americans, it is hard to forget the Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer who shot Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, sparking an outrage for killing one of the most beloved African lion that some say his hunting group lured away from the sanctuary with food just so the lion could be shot; that safari hunt for Cecil cost Palmer $50,000 and months of ridicule and criticism.

As for the elephants in Zimbabwe, their population continues to decline, and in the past hunters have always chosen to chase the healthiest and the largest elephants to garner a more impressive trophy.

Most Americans oppose big game hunting and say it should be illegal. In response to this latest government reversal, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States responded with the following, citing Zimbabwe politics:

“This jarring announcement comes on the same day that global news sources report that Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s aging dictator, is under house arrest following a military coup. This fact in and of itself highlights the absurdity and illegal nature of the FWS decision to find that Zimbabwe is capable of ensuring that elephant conservation and trophy hunting are properly managed. During the last two years, poachers in the country have poisoned several dozen elephants, including young calves.”

Pacelle continues:

“Government officials cash in by capturing elephant calves who are still dependent on their mothers and exporting them to China for use in zoos. Perhaps not surprisingly, a hunting outfitter advertised elephant hunts in Zimbabwe as soon as the SCI announcement was made public. It’s a venal and nefarious, pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry.”

“Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community has rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the U.S. government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them.”

Read the previous article about Cecil the Lion.

(Photo courtesy of Dan McBride)

(Additional photo of Trump holding tail via Facebook)

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Rhino fights back: Turns tables and injures suspected poacher

In what has been called a “reversal of fortune” one rhino fought back last week in the southwest African nation of Namibia. When animal poaching seems to be at its worst, local media reported one “appeared from nowhere” to turn the tables on a suspected poacher. This time it was rhino – “1” and poacher – “0.”

According to Sky News, the  incident occurred in Etosha National Park after poaching suspect Luteni Muharukua and his accomplices illegally entered the wildlife preserve intending to kill rhinos for their horns. Rhino horns are not made of bone; they are made of keratin, a protein also found in hair and fingernails; the horns will grow back if trimmed. Every year or two South African rhino farmers tranquilize their animals with darts and trim the horns, secure the valuable products in a vault and hope someday it will become legal again to sell. Poachers kill the rhinos and sever their horns off to sell on the black market for astronomical money.

Police Officer Simson Shilongo stated the rhino chased him, inflicting a serious injury to the man’s leg. Muharukua fled and hid in the nearby mountains and was arrested one day after the incident.

Within the last few weeks, 36 suspects between the ages of 22 and 40 have been arrested on rhino poaching charges.

The National Geographic reports South Africa is home to nearly 70 percent of the 29,500 rhinos left on Earth; a sizable decrease from several hundred thousand in Africa during the 1800s before human settlements grew. Of the rhinos five species remaining are: the white rhino, with some 20,400 remaining; the black, with 5,250; the greater one-horned; the Sumatran; and the Javan.  South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association owns 6,200 of the species, and they are used commercially for photographic safaris, legal hunting, horn production, and breeding.

On the black market in South Africa, the horn of the white rhino sells for up to $3,000 a pound, and in Asia it sells for many times over that price and used as status symbols and traditional medicines.

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Poachers brutally attack rhino orphanage

On Monday, Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage (FTTRO), built to rescue baby rhinos and other animals, after their mothers were killed for their horns by poachers, was attacked by a group of men who broke into the protected property. The rescue, located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, was subjected to an egregious attack on the staff including one woman who had been sexually assaulted and others savagely beaten. Then the attackers turned their cruelty to the baby rhinos – two were left dead after their horns were hacked off.thula Thula rhino

According to the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage Facebook page, authorities have been on the move apprehending those suspected of the heinous deeds.

“Yesterday SAPS successfully intercepted and arrested two suspected rhino poachers in Ermelo. One .458 rifle and ammunition recovered. Suspects brought back to KZN as they are believed to have been involved in recent Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage incident. In a separate arrest, in a joint operation, Ezemvelo and SAPS Rhino 7 successfully arrested on suspected rhino poacher and seized a .375 rifle and ammunition.”

Swift action by law enforcement !!! We will keep everyone informed as we receive updates.”Thula thula rhino 4

Eighteen-month-old Rhino babies Impi and Gugu had their horns chopped off. Gugu was killed instantly, but Impi survived, only to have to be euthanized the next morning because of his injuries. The rhinos had been due to have their horns surgically removed next week to protect them from the ivory traders. Founder of the orphanage Karen Trendler spoke about the attack on Facebook:

“…Your worst fear is that one of the rhinos … is going to be shot. That worst nightmare was realized, and then on top of that to have your team brutally assaulted is just beyond comprehension.”

Allison Thomson, founder of Outraged South African Citizens Against Rhino Poaching, stated she felt utterly heartbroken and “totally gutted.”

“It is increasingly difficult for those who care and have been trying to fight the war against rhino poaching, to carry on under these circumstances. Conservationists, private rhino owners, rangers, anti-poaching staff and vets have all revealed the heartbreak and tears behind their struggle.”thula thula rhino 2

Tragically the calves had all suffered anxiety and undue separation when they were very young after losing their mothers. In the wild, calves stay very close to their moms for anywhere between two and four years.  The orphanage, managed by Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization began in 2001 with two baby rhinos named Thabo and Ntombi. The two were eventually released into the protected reserve and continue to live in natural habitats. Even their lives have been threatened, and keeping the animals safe, has been a vigilant job. In one poaching attempt, Thabo was shot in the leg. His recovery period took more than a year before he could be released.

The team wants to let animal advocates and supporters of the orphanage to know they are not giving up nor giving in to these terrible attacks. The latest Facebook post on the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage page reflects their hope:

“Good morning to all our followers. It has been a relatively calm evening at the orphanage. The team is still understandably under a lot of stress, but are showing amazing resilience and unwavering dedication to seamlessly care for the remaining orphans. All the babies are doing well, including chubby little Charlie and our ever vigilant, Duma. We are humbled by all the messages of support as well as donations that have been streaming in from all over the world. Again, if we are slow to respond, please be patient… we will get there.

Our management team and security consultants have been working around the clock to discuss extra security measures and support authorities with the ongoing investigation. In the coming weeks we will keep all our followers informed of the situation.”

A fundraiser to help the baby rhinos can be found here.

Photos courtesy of Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage Facebook page.

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Check out the video of baby rhinos playing with their canine friend: