Page Updated: Feb 2020
This is a closer look at the current state of play regarding legal African elephant hunting and the importation of trophies into the USA, European Union and Australia.
Currently (26/11/2019) only elephant populations of Botswana, RSA, Namibia and Zimbabwe are classified as CITES Appendix II for the purpose of trade in hunting trophies for non-commercial purposes (amongst other purposes). All other elephant populations are CITES Appendix I.
However CITES Species + can be seen listing elephant populations in Botswana, DRC, Eswatini (Swaziland), Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe as all being CITES II with Reservation. What does this mean?
This Reservation applies only to the CoP18 update of the references to the Resolutions mentioned in annotation 2 relating to the populations of Loxodonta africana in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe (CITES Notif. No. 2019/077). So following the CITES trail further...
CITES Notif. No. 2019/077 reflects that Botswana, DRC, Eswatini (Swaziland), Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe have communicated their reservation with respect to "the update of the references to the Resolutions mentioned in annotation 2 relating to the populations of Loxodonta africana in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe". Meaning what exactly?
Botswana, DRC, Eswatini(Swaziland), Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa all declared not to be in a position to implement Resolution Conf. 11.20 (Rev. CoP18) for trade in live elephants and southern white rhino.
Zimbabwe also communicated that it reserved its right not to be bound by the same Resolution Conf. 11.20 (Rev. CoP18) on Definition of the term 'appropriate and acceptable destinations' with regard to trade in live elephants. (Probably after China's 2016 - 2019 self-suspension of import of tusks, they decided to import whole live elephants. (100 odd live wild elephants sent from Zimbabwe to Chinese 'zoos' (CITES Trade Database 2014 - 2017).
So hunters may ignore the Species + icon, CITES II with Reservation, as it only applies to trade in live African elephants not hunting trophies. Botswana, RSA, Namibia and Zimbabwe remain the only CITES II African elephant countries for hunting trophies.
The US Endangered Species Act classifies all African elephants as 'Threatened' across the whole continent of Africa. Notice there is not even any differential between quite independent elephant populations across Africa.
The circumstances (environmental pressures) applying to each population are distinctly different. This means their conservation requirements are different. Conservation applications that are good, relevant and desirable for one population, therefore, could be very detrimental to another. Ipso facto, each population has management needs that are unique to itself. No single management solution fixes them all – which is what the animal rightists want to impose on Africa.
In effect, this scientific fact makes the endangered species concept – so beloved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service – a fallacy. It has no place whatsoever in the scientific practice of wildlife management. Read more on The True Green Alliance
All the CITES regulations regarding international trade in African elephant hunting trophies for non-commercial purposes have become, to all intents and purposes, completely irrelevent now many CITES signatory countries like the US and others, succumb to populist 'animal rights' pressure to effectively ban the import of legally obtained African elephant hunting trophy products. How do they do this?
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has been designated to carry out the provisions of CITES through the Division of Management Authority and the Division of Scientific Authority. CITES requires each Party to regularly submit reports on how they are implementing the Convention. These reports may contain information on legislative and regulatory changes, as well as law enforcement, permitting, communications and administrative matters.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a key legislation for both domestic and international conservation. The act aims to provide a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.
If a species is listed as 'threatened', the Service can establish 'special rules' designating unique situations where otherwise prohibited activities could be allowed. Some species covered by special rules include beluga sturgeon, African elephant and leopard.This special rule for African elephants is 4(d) of the ESA [50 CFR 17.40 (e)], 2016. With regard to elephant sport-hunted trophies, non-commercial importation is still allowed. The only changes are...
"We continue to believe that well-managed trophy hunting can benefit conservation..."USF&W also endorses the IUCN principles on trophy hunting...
"Trophy hunting can generate funds to be used for conservation, including for habitat protection, population monitoring, wildlife management programs, and law enforcement efforts".
The IUCN Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives 2012 state that well-managed trophy hunting can "assist in furthering conservation objectives by creating the revenue and economic incentives for the management and conservation of the target species and its habitat, as well as supporting local livelihoods" and, further, that well-managed trophy hunting is "often a higher value, lower impact land use than alternatives such as agriculture or tourism." When a trophy hunting program incorporates the following Guiding Principles, IUCN considers that trophy hunting can serve as a conservation tool: Biological sustainability; net conservation benefit; socio-economic-cultural benefit; adaptive management—planning, monitoring, and reporting; and accountable and effective governance".
Source: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of the Section 4(d) Rule for the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
In 2018 USF&W revised its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species. They withdrew their countrywide enhancement findings for a range of species across several countries and other findings for ESA-listed species taken as sport-hunted trophies.
2014 - 2017: The following African elephant parts were imported into the USA from Tanzania as hunting trophies or personal imports...
Source: CITES Trade database
- 4 tusks
- 3 ears
- 4 feet
- 1 skin pieces
- 1 skins
- 12 'trophies' unspecified
2014 - 2018: The following African elephant parts were exported from Zimbabwe into the USA as hunting trophies or personal imports...
Source: CITES Trade database
- 177 tusks
- 4075 kg tusks
- 536 ears
- 176 feet
- 5213 skin pieces
- 11 skins
- 20 hair items
- 45 bones
- 8 teeth
- 7 trunks
- 114 'trophies' unspecified
This USF&W clean-out of ESA enhancement findings and non-detriment determinations for African elephants does not necessarily mean import permits for elephant trophies will be issued.
USF&W intends to use the information cited in these findings and contained in its files as appropriate, in addition to the information it receives and has available when it receives each application, to evaluate individual permit applications.
The Service is continuing to monitor the status and management of these species in their range countries. At this time, when the Service processes these permit applications, the Service intends to do so on an individual basis, including making ESA enhancement determinations, and CITES non-detriment determinations when required, for each application. The Service intends to grant or deny permits to import a sport-hunted trophy on a case-by-case basis pursuant to its authorities under the ESA and CITES. As part of the permitting process, the Service reviews each application received for import of such trophies and evaluates the information provided in the application as well as other information available to the Service as to the status of and management program for the species or population to ensure that the program is promoting the conservation of the species. Each application must also meet all other applicable permitting requirements before it may be authorized.
African elephant sport-hunted trophies may be imported into the United States provided:
50 CFR part 23 Ivory Marking: The trophy ivory must be legibly marked by means of punch-dies, indelible ink, or other form of permanent marking, under a marking and registration system established by the country of origin, with the following formula: The country of origin represented by the corresponding two-letter ISO country code; the last two digits of the year in which the elephant was harvested for export; the serial number for the year in question; and the weight of the ivory in kilograms. The mark must be highlighted with a flash of color and placed on the lip mark area. The lip mark area is the area of a whole African elephant tusk where the tusk emerges from the skull and which is usually denoted by a prominent ring of staining on the tusk in its natural state.
ESA Section 10(c) NOTICE AND REVIEW—The Secretary shall publish notice in the Federal Register of each application for an exemption or permit which is made under this section. Each notice shall invite the submission from interested parties, within thirty days after the date of the notice, of written data, views, or arguments with respect to the application. However, we may be assured...
While section 10(c) of the ESA requires that we publish notice in the Federal Register of each application involving an exemption or permit made under section 10, this is not the case for applications involving threatened species, which are not subject to the section 9 prohibitions and thus, the notice and comment requirements in section 10(c). Source: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of the Section 4(d) Rule for the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana in 'Comment 10 Response'.
As the hunting client, you might not know much about the local conservation measures taken in the area you are going to hunt. Rather than leaving this section blank, it is advisable to find out as much as possible from your outfitter/PH/landowner.
Also for more help with an elephant permit application, you may contact Joe Jackson of Conservation Force who offers free assistance in building a compelling case for your application.
Despite lifting their illegal ESA enhancement findings for African elephant in 2018, the USF&W Service still has the authority to behave in an arbitrary manner, to the detriment of international conservation efforts. Their insistence on American hunters providing proof that the relevant African nations' hunting programs enhance the survival of elephants completely undermines the CITES process.
Essentially, in addition to the (Bots, SA, Nam, Zim) elephant CITES II export permits, USF&W is demanding, what can only be termed as extra 'enhancement permits', bestowed at their discretion in an excessively slow process resulting in very limited issue of elephant import permits.
As, by far, the largest number of paying hunting clients in Africa are American, this USF&W policy is drastically cutting the revenue for elephant, other wildlife species and habitat conservation, anti-poaching programs and human employment & livlihoods in Africa while also denying African countries their sovereign right to manage their own wildlife.
The CITES Trade Database is somewhat unreliable with the 'trade terms' describing the various animal products being basically left to the imagination of the filing person/country. The 'purpose' though can only be classed as a 'Hunting Trophy' or 'Personal'.
Data from 2019 & 2020 is still unavailable.
Ignoring the various other bits of an elephant (ears, feet, skin,etc) that can be imported and may belong to a single animal, it looks like some US hunters have received some import permits in 2018...South Africa to USA
Like the US, the EU implements CITES trade regulations in all the member states through what is known as the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. Currently these are Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein.
The CITES regulation is stated that only elephant populations of Botswana, RSA, Namibia and Zimbabwe are classified as CITES Appendix II for the purpose of trade in hunting trophies for non-commercial purposes (amongst other purposes). All other elephant populations are CITES Appendix I.
The EU lays down the provisions for import, export and re-export as well as internal EU trade in of species listed in its four Annexes which contain some non-CITES species. It provides for procedures and documents required for such trade (import and export permits, re-export certificates, import notifications and internal trade certificates) and it regulates the movement of live specimens.