LA Councilmember Paul Koretz (podium) is joined by (front l-r) Judie Mancuso of Social Compassion in Legislation, Candice Kim of the Center for Biological Diversity, and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De LeÓn to oppose President Trump’s consideration of lifting a 2014 ban on importing remains of elephants shot for sport. Also lending support were actors Joaquin Phoenix (behind Kim) and Michelle Rodriguez (behind Koretz). 

When the Trump Administration recently approved lifting a 2014 ban on hunters returning from Africa with elephant and lion trophies, the outraged reaction from conservation and wildlife advocates was swift and loud.

The scenario was further inflamed by an announcement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service on its website that it would issue permits to allow the import of elephants hunted from 2016 to 2018, with two trophies allowed per import and that African countries Zimbabwe and Zambia had developed guidelines that would allow sustainable hunting of the endangered species there.

Elephants are considered endangered by the Endangered Species Act.

President Trump reacted to the criticism by tweeting he would “delay” any decision on allowing elephant trophies until a “further review of all conservation facts,” and would “update” with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. In a second tweet, Trump said he would be “very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”

That has done little to quell the fury of those like Judie Mancuso, founder and president of the nonprofit organization Social Compassion in Legislation.

“His administration has been issuing permits since Oct. 20 for [allowing imported trophies] of African lions (killed in Zimbabwe between 2016 and 2018),” Mancuso said. “It was done completely quiet. We need to not only look at the potential of elephants as trophies, we also need in this day and age to correct those attitudes with the lions.”

Social Compassion In Legislation (SCIL), founded in 2007 and based in Laguna Beach in Orange County, seeks to help develop legislation that protects animals. Mancuso said SCIL is presently researching and crafting a bill, along with state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, to “ensure that, regardless of Trump’s decision or the whims of any future presidents, California will never allow such perversely obtained trophies into the state.”

“President Trump’s delay in overturning the ban enacted in 2014 by the Obama administration does little to calm the growing outrage of animal advocates. It appears to be a ploy to defuse the impassioned and negative attention that last week’s announcement garnered and allow the administration to quietly overturn the ban at a later date,” she said.

But that’s not the only steps being taken.

A federal lawsuit was filed on Monday, Nov. 20, to uphold the ban. A joint statement from The Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council said the suit would resolve “contradictory announcements” by the Trump Administration about trophy imports of the at-risk species.

At a press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 20, Mancuso and others continued to blast away at any efforts to allow the import of animal trophies.

“Hunting does not benefit the species being hunted,” Mancuso said. “One example of this was in South Africa, home to the second largest black rhino population in the world. They received permission … to sell permits for trophy-hunted black rhinos in 2004. Since that time poaching of black rhinos has increased 5,000 percent,” according to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

Furthermore, Mancuso said, “Legal markets give illegal markets cover. Animal parts do not have serial numbers. It is impossible for law enforcement to tell the difference between an illegally hunted animal versus a legal one.”

LA Councilmember Paul Koretz (5th District), himself an advocate for animal rights and protections, said “We are all here to stand together in the protection of wild animals near and abroad — whether it’s the already lifted ban on lion imports or the current proposal on elephants.

“There needs to be a cultural shift in our country about the way we talk and think about animals. The Department of Fish and Wildlife Services use words like “harvest” for killing animals that are not for eating. Another term, “trophy hunting”  — killing creatures for personal amusement and adds dollar value to the pelt, bones and body parts — is a practice that should be a thing of the past.”

Koretz further punctuated his remarks by saying, “There has been too much flip flopping on this issue to trust a tweet.” 

De Leon was also present, and noted in his remarks that Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. have hunted animals for sport, posing with dead carcasses.

“It puts the selfish interests of a few — like his trophy-hunting sons — over the rights of all people to experience God’s green earth,” the senator said. “It’s the very definition of excess and greed to travel across the world, and pay exorbitant amounts of money to kill an endangered animal for entertainment.” 

Mancuso added that pending action in the courts and legislature would not be fading away even if the president ultimately decides not to overturn the ban.

“This is a Christmas gift to the Safari Club and [to Trump’s] trophy-hunting sons,” she said.

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