Trump must not permit elephant trophy imports


President Donald J. Trump reportedly spends several hours a day watching television, which isn’t surprising given his claim to global fame as former host of “The Apprentice,” the once popular reality show.

But while Trump seems preoccupied with cable news, especially on Fox and CNN, there’s a show on Animal Planet we would urge him to begin watching.

“The Zoo” is a reality series about the world famous Bronx Zoo, located a mere 10 miles away from the president’s private residence in Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Why should the leader of the most powerful nation on earth take time out of his busy schedule to watch animals? Because “The Zoo” will give him much-needed clarity on the issue of conservation and care.

The president could use the guidance from experts in the field as he deals with the highly controversial issue of elephant trophies.

Last November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it had lifted the ban on importing body parts of elephants hunted for sport in several African countries.

A day after the announcement by the Interior Department agency, President Trump tweeted he was putting the decision on hold until he reviewed all the conservation facts.

The next day, he tweeted he “will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”

The two words that resonated with all animal lovers were “horror show” because that’s exactly what big-game hunting is about: the horror of the killing of unsuspecting animals in their natural habitats by showoffs with more money than brains.

The president’s position, which was hailed by animal-rights groups and true conservationists, was in stark contrast to the one embraced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, an avid hunter.

Zinke is a believer in the unsubstantiated theory that the best way to protect critically endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them.

And these Americans want to bring home the spoils of their bloodlust.

However, the president had a different view of what the hunting of elephants, lions and other endangered animals represents.

“I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back to this [country],” Trump told British broadcaster Piers Morgan.

FEE FALLACY

As for the argument that exorbitant fees paid by big-game hunters could help fund conservation programs, the president said, “In that case, the money was going to a government that was probably taking the money, OK?”

In other words, the money isn’t being used for habitat conservation and anti-poaching efforts in some of the poorest nations and does not help employ local guides and porters, as advocates claim.

A licensed two-week African hunting safari can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare.

Trump was on point when he questioned the premise of the big-game hunt, but his highly publicized opposition to the importation of elephant trophies didn’t last very long.

Earlier this month, the administration lifted the ban on the importation of trophies of elephants killed for sport. There was little public comment from the Interior Department and no explanation from the White House.

Indeed, Trump was silent about the lifting of the ban. It isn’t known if he signed off on the move.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it was replacing the ban, which was imposed during the administration of former President Barack Obama, with a case-by-case review of importation permits.

There should be no doubt Interior Secretary Zinke and his big-game hunting pals see the lifting as a victory for the rich and famous – including the president’s son, Donald Jr. They will be able to travel to Africa, kill innocent animals under the guise of preserving them and bring home the body parts.

An investigation by the Associated Press revealed a new U.S. advisory board created to help rewrite rules for importing heads and hides of African elephants, lions and rhinos are stacked with trophy hunters, including some members with direct ties to Trump and his family. The president’s credibility on this issue is on the line. He would do well to contact the experts at the Bronx Zoo and seek their advice.

There are too many special interests involved in making government policy.

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