SCI welcomes the news that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has reached an agreement to begin processing elephant import permit applications again. Since 2017, the FWS has not made any decisions regarding scores of applications seeking permits to import elephant hunting trophies from southern Africa. The FWS signed a settlement agreement in lawsuit challenging that failure to process, and agreed to begin processing the named plaintiffs’ applications and applications for imports from the Republic of Namibia. In addition, although the settlement only requires the FWS to process specific individuals and those with pending permit applications from elephant hunts in Namibia, this is a breakthrough decision, because the FWS stated its intent to process applications from other countries within the next 24 months. SCI will continue to push the FWS to process all applications from individuals who hunted elephants or other species in southern African countries.
The permit logjam is due to regulations governing the import of African elephants adopted by the FWS under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and required by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Under the ESA and CITES regulations, imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies into the United States may only occur if the FWS issues a permit. These permits are issued based on rigorous criteria with a focus on the hunt benefitting conservation in range states.
The permit applications for the plaintiffs in the case have been on hold since November 2017, with the case filed in 2019. The FWS has agreed to process these eleven permits within one year and will process other permit applications dating after the case was filed in a timely manner.
Ben Cassidy, SCI’s Executive Vice President of International, Government and Public Affairs stated: “The settlement agreement … is a step in the right direction by committing to process permits for legally and regulated hunts. SCI will continue to work with the FWS to ensure that permit processing really means permits granted.” Read the full coverage in E&E news here.
This settlement is a win for the individual hunters, Namibian leadership, and conservation efforts as a whole. The benefits from international elephant hunting are well-documented, scientifically proven, and crucial for improving the livelihoods of rural communities. SCI celebrates the FWS fulfilling its legal obligation to international conservation efforts and will continue to fight for all hunters around the world.