The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversal of its ban on allowing the importing of trophy-hunted elephants from two African nations has put the plight of pachyderms front and center in the news.
The agency’s final decision – we stress final because President Trump’s tweets saying he’s reviewing the decision are meaningless at this point until the decision is actually reversed – removes the ban on allowing hunters to apply for permits to bring back elephant carcasses from hunting expeditions in Zimbabwe and Zambia. (Despite the near total ivory ban enacted in 2016, hunters are allowed to bring two elephant trophies — including their ivory tusks –per year back to the U.S.)
This is incredibly distressing because elephants— who are not only the largest living land animal but are intelligent and sentient —are in dire straits and soon may be extinct. Here are the facts by the numbers:
– Around 1.2 million elephants still lived in continental Africa in the 1970s; in 2016, the number is estimated to be just 350,000.
– Between 2002 and 2011, 62 percent of African forest elephants vanished.
– The numbers of savanna elephants dropped by nearly a third, with tens of thousands killed each year between 2007 and 2014.
Along with sport hunting of elephants, poachers continue to shoot elephants with automatic rifles, either on foot or from helicopters, poison water holes, murder park rangers and sell elephant tusks to further their goals in organized crime.
Hunting of elephants by way of poaching or for a trophy causes irreversible emotional trauma to herd members left behind, as well as alters the genetic viability of a population by targeting robust males. Killing off older male elephants comprises the ability to pass along longevity and good health genes to the next generation.
If you’d like to know more about the emotional and intelligent lives of elephants, check out our Wildlife Law Program’s new blog post here. To find out more about Friends of Animal’s advocacy on behalf of elephants, click here.