This week, Connecticut Senate Bill 925, a bill restricting the importation and possession of legally hunted species from Africa unfortunately passed the Connecticut Senate in a 30-3 vote. This anti-hunting and anti-sustainable use legislation would ban the import, possession, sale, offer for sale, or transport of African elephant, lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, and giraffe. This bill passed despite decades of research concluding that hunting generates incentives that protect habitat, reduce poaching, and encourage local stakeholders to participate in the conservation of these species in the southern African countries where these species are thriving.
Through SCI’s efforts, however, before final passage of the bill the Senate also agreed to amendments which exempt possession of these species when expressly authorized by federal law or permit, and for licensed taxidermists working on the species within the state.
These amendments in essence permit the import, transport, and subsequent possession of lawfully harvested hunting trophies. Accordingly, they remove the most adverse effects of the bill–making it more a show than legislation with significant ramifications for Connecticut hunters. Legal issues could potentially arise down the road but, for now, the state law is consistent with federal law.
Since the bill’s introduction, Safari Club International (SCI) has argued strongly that this legislation would be preempted by the federal Endangered Species Act and would therefore be unenforceable. SCI has conveyed a similar argument to state legislatures in the past, including to California lawmakers regarding the Iconic African Species Protection Act in California in 2020, a bill that was successfully defeated.
While SCI is relieved that law-abiding hunters in Connecticut will not be affected, the bill still seeks to undermine the ability of African countries to effectively manage their wildlife and the effectiveness of their community-based conservation policies.
In testimony opposing Senate Bill 925 given earlier this year, SCI emphasized the detrimental impact that this legislation will have on conservation programs in southern Africa. Contrary to representations by the bill’s supporters, it is documented fact that the world’s largest populations of African elephant, leopard, lion, black and white rhino, and giraffe inhabit Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—the countries with regulated hunting programs which generate income and other incentives for conservation and habitat preservation, and which result in more secure habitat and lower rates of poaching. In addition, these countries have developed successful conservation programs to encourage the rural communities who live side-by-side with wildlife to invest in and protect these species.
The benefits of hunting are well documented, and it is important that legislatures across the country are aware of these success stories. Should more legislation like Senate Bill 925 pass without exemptions, wildlife populations would significantly decline. SCI is advocating against this legislation and will continue to stand for hunters in Connecticut and across the country.