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USFWS Extends Comment Deadline for Elephant Proposal

Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a proposal that would increase restrictions on the import of sport-hunted elephants and likely result in a ban on elephant imports from several range states. Originally, a public comment period was scheduled to close on January 17.  Thankfully, after receiving numerous requests for an extension, the USFWS has extended the comment period to March 20, 2023.  We need your voice to say NO to this proposal and stand on the side of hunting, conservation, and local management – contact the USFWS today!

If adopted, the new rule would, among other things, limit all elephant imports to only those from countries designated in Category 1 of the CITES National Legislation Project (NLP). Through the NLP, the CITES Secretariat determines if the country has fully implemented CITES for all species, including animals, fish, and plants. The rule would result in a prohibition on elephant imports from countries in Categories 2 or 3, which include Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. This proposal would indiscriminately prohibit elephant imports, despite these countries having some of the most effective elephant conservation programs in the world. (Botswana and Tanzania alone conserve over 40% of the world’s elephants.)

In proposing this rule, the USFWS did not consult with African range states or communities – the people and governments who will be most affected by this rule. The original public comment period did not allow ample time for range states to provide comments. In response, SCI joined 11 other hunting and conservation organizations in a letter calling for the USFWS to fulfill its obligations under the Endangered Species Act to consult with these countries, extend the comment period, and use the extension to listen to African voices.

As the letter reads, “Southern Africa is a leader in biodiversity conservation and habitat protection. Countries that rely on regulated hunting as part of their conservation success are home to the world’s largest populations of elephants, leopards, lions, black and white rhino, and many other listed species. Put simply, wildlife populations are healthiest in the countries where they are hunted—and this is no coincidence. Rather, it is the result of national management plans and conservation systems that give wildlife great value, especially for the local people who most directly compete with wildlife as a land use in these countries.” Disincentivizing elephant hunting by prohibiting importation will have drastic effects on elephant conservation, local communities, and African governments. Read the full letter here.

SCI will continue to oppose this proposal and defend the rights of Africans to manage African wildlife. Stand with SCI in opposition to this ill-conceived proposal – contact the USFWS today!