The Trump Administration has decided to quietly reverse its ban of imported elephant trophies, stating the issue should be decided on a “case-by-case basis.” In November 2017, President Trump publicly opposed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to lift a ban on imported elephant trophies from certain African countries. Trump later tweeted that others in favor of lifting the ban would “be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.” Apparently, changing Trump’s mind was not as difficult as he made it out to be.
The decision on the big-game trophy import ban is only the latest instance of President Trump changing his mind — without explanation — on an important issue. His positions on immigration and gun control have also wildly oscillated, depending on to whom he had last spoken. Even as recently as late January, Trump defended his decision to maintain the ban. “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into [the United States],” said Trump in an interview. “[The decision to reverse the ban] was done by a very high-level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around.” It is not clear whether Trump once again changed his mind or if his government slipped one past him while the President was distracted.
In a rare moment of agreement, both President Trump and environmentalists have expressed skepticism as to whether the elephant trophy fees raised by countries such as Zimbabwe actually fund the conservation efforts they are intended to support. “A lot of the money has been siphoned away by corruption,” explained Rachel Bale, a wildlife reporter for National Geographic, explained on NPR’s Morning Edition, “so there are serious concerns with hunting management in Zimbabwe.” “In that case, the money was going to a government that was probably taking the money, OK?” said Trump in an interview. Ultimately, that skepticism was not enough to maintain the ban. “The Trump administration is trying to keep these crucial trophy import decisions behind closed doors, and that’s totally unacceptable,” Tanya Sanerib of the Center for Biological Diversity told the AP. “Elephants aren’t meant to be trophies; they’re meant to roam free.”