Animal rights and conservation groups are suing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke over his recent decision to allow, on a case-by-case basis, Americans who have gone abroad to hunt lions and elephants to bring their kills back home. The lawsuit alleges that the Department of the Interior's (DOI) decision violates the Endangered Species Act.
"The Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ('FWS' or 'the Service') have unjustifiably reversed course and eliminated critical protections established just two years ago that prohibited the import of hunting trophies from African elephants killed in Zimbabwe," the lawsuit reads.
The rule change reverses a 2014 ban on importing elephant trophies into the United States from Zimbabwe and Tanzania. At the time, officials said those countries couldn't guarantee that they managed their hunting programs sustainably. In response, the National Rifle Association and the Safari Club International filed suit that year against the DOI. Then, late last year, a D.C. court of appeals ruled that the Obama administration hadn't followed proper procedure in creating the ban because it didn't ask for public comment. So the Department of the Interior lifted it.
Advocates of trophy hunting say proceeds from authorized trips, which may cost tens of thousands of dollars, help fund conservation. But it's contested whether hunting helps or hinders endangered species, and, in countries with corrupt governments, it is impossible to know where the fees go, as National Geographic reported last year.