Despite recent rumors to the contrary, the existing bans on African lion and elephant importation from Zimbabwe remain in effect. SCI received confirmation of this information yesterday from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Unfortunately, press releases and news reports coming from Zimbabwe during the last several days incorrectly reported that the U.S. position on importation of lions and elephants from Zimbabwe had changed.
In April 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed a ban on the importation of legally hunted elephants from Zimbabwe. SCI and the National Rifle Association sued to challenge the ban and the case continues in federal court. SCI and NRA have already seen some success from the case. The district court held that the Service illegally imposed the ban before announcing it in the Federal Register. As a result the Court held that the ban could not commence until May 12, 2014, when the agency published its formal notice. Several SCI members and others who successfully hunted elephants between April 4 and May 11, 2014, are now in the process of importing their elephants.
In January 2016, the Service adopted regulations requiring individual permits for the importation of each African lion into the U.S. Since that date, the FWS has not granted a single permit for the importation of a legally hunted lion from Zimbabwe.
Although the Department of the Interior has not lifted either the elephant or lion importation ban, SCI is optimistic that we will see changes to the status of importation from Zimbabwe in the near future. We will continue to monitor the importation situation, and will immediately alert our members to any changes.