Monday, June 9, 2014

US court upholds trophy hunting ban in Zim, Tanzania.

A United States federal judge on Friday threw out a motion by Safari Club International seeking the lifting of a moratorium on the importation of sport-hunted African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania in 2014. Safari Club International had sued, claiming the moratorium harmed the recreational, conservationist, and economic interests of its members. In a 12 page decision, US district judge for Columbia district Amy Berman Jackson rejected pleas by the Club for a preliminary injunction that would lift the moratorium imposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). FWS is a federal government agency with the US Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife and natural habitats. On April 4, 2014, FWS announced the suspension on imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies taken in Tanzania and Zimbabwe lasting through 2014. In taking the decision, FWS cited what it called a “significant decline” in the elephant population, and “questionable management practices, a lack of effective law enforcement and weak governance” that has led to “uncontrolled poaching” in the two countries. Jackson said that the plaintiff overstated the impact of the suspensions, adding that the agency did not prohibit anyone from hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe or Tanzania or anywhere else. “It did not bar plaintiff or its members from organising elephant hunts or earning income by providing services to hunting enthusiasts; and it did not restrict anyone’s ability to support the conservation of elephants. These facts and, indeed, the declarations supplied by plaintiff’s own members, defeat plaintiff’s claim of irreparable harm. “The record includes declarations from two hunters who began elephant hunts before April 4, 2014, shot and killed elephants after that date, but were prevented from importing their trophies, such as the hides and tusks, because of the suspensions,” Jackson recounted. Safari Club further trumpeted claims, according to Jackson, that “other members with hunts planned for later in the year have not yet decided whether to cancel their trips or not.” Jackson said this wasn’t sufficient to support a preliminary injunction. “Notwithstanding the ‘great emotional significance’ of an elephant trophy, hunters may still engage in the core recreational activity of hunting. So while the ‘full enjoyment of the hunt’ may be diminished, it has not been eliminated,” Jackson reasoned, adding that “it is worth noting that a hunter must successfully shoot an elephant in order to garner a trophy worth importing.” She said the court appreciated that there may well be some loss of revenue if US hunters with a particular interest in elephants change their plans. “But because the import suspensions do not completely prohibit US hunters from hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe or Tanzania, the Court finds that the economic harm arising from cancellations are not the direct result of the FWS import suspensions but rather of the hunters’ independent decisions to cancel their hunts. “ . . . the Court finds that the economic harm alleged by plaintiff does not rise to the level of the irreparable harm needed to support extraordinary injunctive relief. For the reasons stated above, plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction is denied,” Jackson ruled. Safari Club International is an international organisation composed of hunters with more than 500 000 members dedicated to the freedom to hunt and promotion wildlife conversation. SOURCE: The Zimbabwe Mail

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