The agency's statement said: "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".
This week's rule change applies to elephants shot in Zimbabwe on or after January 21, 2016, and to those legally permitted to be hunted before the end of next year. "Additional killing of elephants in these countries, even if legal, is not sustainable and is not now supporting conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species", they said at the time. For example, insurgent groups like Al-Shabab, the Lord's Resistance Army and Boko Haram buy weapons by handing in elephant tusks.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has reversed an Obama administration policy and will allow American big game hunters to import elephant trophies into our country from Zimbabwe and also from Zambia.
President Donald Trump's grown sons, Eric and Donald Jr., have both been roundly criticized for their enjoyment of trophy hunting over the years.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Human Society, called the permit system "a venal and nefarious pay-to-slay arrangement that Zimbabwe has set up with the trophy hunting industry" in a blog post, and noted conservationists' concerns over "lack of information about how money derived from trophy hunting by USA hunters is distributed within Zimbabwe".
In 2014, U.S. big game hunters killing elephants in Zimbabwe were banned from bringing their trophies home, on the basis that the country had failed to show that it was taking elephant management seriously.
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Shaul Schwarz, the co-director of the film, says that the debate over hunting big-game is far more complicated than those in the USA would think.
A notice regarding this change will be posted in the Federal Register on Friday with more specifics on what new information justifies the changes.
In Zimbabwe, according to the Safari Operators Association, annual revenue this year could be as much as $130 million (€110 million), mainly from the U.S. market. In recent years, the African elephant population of Zimbabwe declined 6 percent, according to the Great Elephant Census project.
"The conservation and long-term health of big game crosses worldwide boundaries", Zinke said in a statement announcing the group's creation.
He added, "What kind of message does it send to say to the world that poor Africans who are struggling to survive can not kill elephants in order to use or sell their parts to make a living, but that it's just fine for rich Americans to slay the beasts for their tusks to keep as trophies?"
Since 2001, Zimbabwe's elephant population has reportedly declined, while elephant population in Zambia has also declined in some regions.
Zimbabwe was plunged into political uncertainty this week after the country's longtime President Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest by the country's army.