President Donald Trump has put his plan to allow big game trophy imports from Africa “on hold” after previously reversing an Obama-era ban on elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Thank you!”
The administration faced significant backlash after a press release from the trophy hunting advocacy group Safari Club International revealed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had reversed the 2014 ban.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson issued a statement citing conservation efforts as the reason for the reversal.
“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” the statement read. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the hunting and management programs for African elephants in [Zimbabwe and Zambia] will enhance the survival of the species in the wild.”
Although elephants are protected in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act, there is a loophole that says the government can give permits to hunters for trophies if there is evidence that hunting the endangered animal could help the species’ conservation.
Gisele Bundchen, Ricky Gervais and Ellen DeGeneres were among the stars who spoke out against the Trump administration’s decision to lift the ban earlier this week. DeGeneres launched the #BeKindToElephants campaign on her talk show on Thursday, which received support from Susan Sarandon and “Blindspot” star Jaimie Alexander, among others.