Tuesday, April 2, 2024

SCI Opposes Final USFWS African Elephant Import Rule

Safari Club International vigorously opposes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) final rule restricting elephant imports released on Friday, March 29. The final rule will make importing legally harvested elephant parts substantially and unnecessarily more difficult, and African wildlife conservation will suffer as a direct result.

SCI opposes the rule for one simple reason: these regulations will neither stop poaching or human-wildlife conflict nor protect biodiversity. This amendment will only hamper elephant conservation conducted by local stakeholders, indigenous communities, and the African range state governments that are stewards of the world’s largest elephant populations.

Elephant hunting is an important management and conservation tool for the southern African countries with the world’s largest elephant populations. In these countries, elephants can create real burdens for the local and rural communities who share the same land, often leading to human-elephant conflict such as crop raiding. Elephant hunting generates funds and incentives to reduce such conflict, combat poaching, and secure habitat in these countries.

While hunting remains an effective tool on the ground, the process of importing legally harvested elephants will now be filled with cumbersome and duplicative red tape requirements. The rule also infringes upon the rights of Africans to manage African wildlife. In fact, range nations and rural community organizations throughout the region have spoken out against these restrictions in “listening sessions” and other meetings with USFWS. The administration, however, has persisted in adopting unnecessary restrictions. The USFWS also failed to fully respond to comments from SCI and others in the final rule, reflecting the politically driven nature of the decision.

With respect to importing hunted elephants, the final rule requires range states to provide an annual certification regarding their elephant management and conservation programs while prohibiting the import of species from any country whose laws have been deemed to not fully implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), with which range countries already comply.

Put simply, it is audacious for American bureaucrats to mandate such arbitrary and capricious burdens on African nations that are already balancing the lives of their citizens with the long-term health of animal species for which they are responsible.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has willfully chosen to ignore proven wildlife science and the sovereignty of African nations in its recent elephant rule,” said SCI CEO W. Laird Hamberlin. “African range states, SCI, and many others protested the need for this proposal, yet the U.S. government refuses to respond directly to our concerns and implement prudent conservation policy. Instead, the administration has chosen to pander to Western animal-rights groups and dictate senseless policies that will ultimately harm the elephants and other wildlife the agency claims it wants to protect.”