The USF&WS confirms its promise to finally permit import of Zambia elephant trophies. Conservation Force is preparing permit applications for the first US applicants in years.
Following the adoption of a new management plan in 2004, Zambia submitted to the USF&WS the most thorough documentation for approval for import of its elephant trophies ever submitted. The USF&WS did not respond for more than a year. When it did, it replied that it could not find the hunting of up to 20 elephant in the three areas proposed non-detrimental, and it sent some questions for clarification. Zambia officials again responded in a month but to no avail. It was more than a year before the USF&WS unskillfully responded. This has gone on for six years.
We began the Zambia Initiative in 2005 by filing import permit applications, FOIA requests and all that we do – all to no avail. In 2009 the USF&WS started repeating the same questions again that had long since been asked and answered. They represented that they had never received a response to their questions. Throughout the process the applicants were kept out of the information loop. We sent notice and filed suit for the applications that had been languishing for five years. The suit is ongoing. We also helped initiate and fund a CITES downlisting petition for importation of the trophies. This included a DVD circulated to all CITES Parties produced by Osprey Filming Company, Conservation Force and Hunter Proud entitled Tembo: Use or Lose: The Case for Downlisting the African Elephant from CITES Appendix I to Appendix II in Tanzania and Zambia. The CITES downlisting proposal failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote by only a few votes. To everyone’s surprise the USF&WS made a Plenary intervention in favor of the downlisting and on the side said it was then probably willing to grant import permits.
Contradictorily, the USF&WS actually denied all outstanding import applications on the eve of that same CITES CoP last March. When Conservation Force filed for reconsideration of the 2005 and 2006 applicants the Agency again said it would not approve prior applications but probably would approve future applications. No one applied for an import permit during the 2010 season. USF&WS repeated its change of heart to the Zambia authorities during the African Forum that SCI largely underwrites in early November. Again at SCI’s Convention in late January the USF&WS delivered a letter to the Zambia authorities present that they are ready to issue elephant trophy import permits on a year-by-year basis on the condition it is specified how the revenue is being spent.
Further FOIA inquiry on our part demonstrated that the Division of Scientific Authority and the Division of Management Authority have not yet made positive findings but that is because no applications had yet been submitted to enter into those processes. We are preparing applications now and don’t expect any delay or trouble. We are also continuing with the suit to import those trophies already taken by those that have paved the way for others through their conservation hunts in the three communal areas the elephant quota of 20 are allowed to be taken.
It qualifies as “conservation hunting” in every sense of that phrase. Half of the revenue goes to the local community to reduce poaching and increase tolerance in the face of building conflict as the elephant population continues to grow. The job is not done, but all the work is paying off. In our most sincere view, import permits should have been approved in 2004. International Affairs of USF&WS does not have the resources, skill or level of care to be making the ultra vires determinations it has imposed upon itself to make. It is not a secret anymore. It is decades-long abuse of hunters, foreign authorities and foreign programs. – John J. Jackson, III.