Save the Elephants

Darby Vojtko, Print

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On November 15th, 2017, the Trump Administration reversed one of Barack Obama’s 2014 policies which prohibited hunters from bringing elephant trophies into the United States. By lifting this ban, Donald Trump is encouraging Americans to big-game hunt and kill elephants. Elephants are protected under the Endangered Species Act, but trophies of the dead animals can be brought to the U.S. if the federal government determines that hunting them will help the species, which was determined in this case. Long story short, it is now legal to slaughter elephants.

After the announcement of the reversal, conservation groups and outraged individuals flooded social media with angry messages. Several photos of Donald Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have been circulating Twitter of them posing next to dead elephants as well as other wild animals. A clear bias toward big game hunting seems to exist in the Trump family. Even just overnight, opposers have made their opinions heard. “I’m shocked and outraged,” Elly Pepper, a deputy director of the National Resources Defense Counsel, said in a phone interview. “I expect nothing less from our president, and if he thinks this is going to go down without a fight, he’s wrong.”

This is not the first time the public has been outraged by big-game hunting. It was the death of a well-known and protected Zimbabwean lion, Cecil, at the hands of a Minnesota dentist in 2015 that brought huge attention to the industry, in which hunters pay as much as $50,000 to track and kill animals. In the incident, the dentist, Walter James Palmer, killed Cecil after he moved outside a national park, sparking a torrent of outrage. It was unacceptable then, and it is unacceptable now.

Those who support the decision to lift the ban on bringing elephant remains back to the United States as trophies say that it will benefit conservation efforts. A spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that, “Legal, well regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve those species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.” However, elephant population is at an incredible decline. According to National Geographic, The Great Elephant Census found that approximately 144,000 elephants were killed due to poaching and habitat destruction. The current yearly loss of elephant population is at 8%, which is roughly 27,000 elephants. I cannot fathom how killed more elephants would help this statistic.

Elephants are one of the most intelligent species on the planet. They have a highly developed brain and the largest of all the land mammals. The brain is 3 or 4 times larger than that of humans. Why must we slaughter them for trophy? Ellen DeGeneres’ tweet sums up my feelings perfectly; “Compassion, social intelligence, decisiveness, patience, wisdom. These are all qualities found in elephants and not found in the people allowing them to be killed for trophies.”

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