SCI Launches Lawsuit Against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Over Elephant Rule

On Thursday, April 4, Safari Club International sent a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to challenge the agency’s rule restricting elephant imports, which was published in the Federal Register on April 1. This new rule will make importing legally harvested elephant parts substantially and unnecessarily more difficult, and African wildlife conservation will suffer directly. 

SCI recently warned the USFWS that it intended to sue because the Service is willfully obstructing elephant conservation in southern Africa, contrary to Congress’ mandate that it faithfully enforce the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Notably, the ESA only allows the USFWS to adopt regulations that are “necessary and advisable to provide for the conservation” of threatened species, like elephants. The new rule is neither necessary nor advisable for the conservation of elephant populations in African range states as it restricts hunting imports, reduces the benefits of conservation-centric hunting, and leaves elephants and communities living alongside them in a more precarious state. 

The new rule on elephant imports is fundamentally harmful to successful range state conservation efforts. For this reason, the seven range states that protect 81% of the world’s African elephants all objected to the rule, as did many African community associations, hunting operator associations, and conservation organizations. It is evident that the USFWS failed to meaningfully consult with African range states in violation of international norms and existing U.S. law. 

“The USFWS’ recent rule on elephant imports is contrary to the letter and spirit of the ESA and CITES. SCI is proud to be one of the few pro-hunting conservation organizations with in-house counsel, allowing us to mobilize lawsuits swiftly,” said SCI CEO W. Laird Hamberlin. “We will continue to engage however necessary to hold the Biden Administration accountable while safeguarding hunting, conservation, and communities that rely on hunting tourism in the range states.”

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