DARIEN, Conn., March 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Friends of Animals filed suit Thursday against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its policy change that allows trophy hunting of elephants from Zimbabwe. The policy flip issued March 1, which allows for permits on a case-by-case basis, overturns a previous ban in place since 2014 on sport-killing of the threatened pachyderms.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, a wildlife watchdog group, joined FoA in the lawsuit for which Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Safari Club International and the NRA are also named.
Zimbabwe's overall elephant population has declined 18 percent between 2007-2013. Elephants, which once numbered between 3-5 million, are in danger of extinction within a few decades.
"This latest decision essentially allows Americans to bring back the remains of threatened African elephants who they killed for 'sport' behind closed doors,'' said Michael Harris, director of FoA's Wildlife Law Program. "The decision ignores the glaring fact that killing threatened African elephants does nothing to promote the conservation of the species. It also cuts interested organizations, such as Friends of Animals, and other legitimate conservationists out of the process. We believe this decision violates laws designed to promote reasoned decisions and transparency in our government, as well as laws aimed at protecting threatened and endangered species from extinction."
In reversing the ban and allowing permits on a case-by-case basis, FWS did not solicit comments from the public or interested parties before issuing its decision, concerns about Zimbabwe's ability to enforce its management plan remain, and poaching and corruption in the country and its declining elephant population have not been addressed, according to FoA.
"FWS reversed its policy on the importation of sport-hunted elephant parts with no rational explanation,'' the lawsuit states.
Before publicly announcing the switch in policy, FWS in 2017 quietly issued 16 permits to U.S. residents authorizing the importation of elephant parts from Zimbabwe. FoA has sued FWS over its failure to release information regarding the permits, alleging it has violated Freedom of Information laws. FoA has also called into question DOI's new International Wildlife Conservation Council that is tasked with removing barriers to trophy-hunting.
Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization founded in New York in 1957 and headquartered in Darien, CT, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world.
SOURCE Friends of Animals