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FOUR PAWS files FOIA request seeking hard-to-find data on imported elephant and lion parts

New action comes as Trump Admin. considers ban status


FOUR PAWS, an international animal welfare organization with a U.S. headquarters in Boston, today filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, demanding all records and documentation related to all African elephant and all African lion parts and derivatives that have been imported into the United States from 2007 to the present.


The FOUR PAWS request comes a week after the Trump Administration initially lifted a ban on such “trophy” parts and then reversed that action. The President has now said he is considering a new policy statement on the issue in the coming days.


The FOUR PAWS FOIA action includes lion parts, not just elephant parts, because a similar ban on lion trophy parts is in jeopardy but has received less recent attention.


The FOIA request states:


“… include all available information such as species involved, type of product or derivative, reason for import (including confiscations and seizures), date of import, location where import was received, and exporting country it came from. Please also include information on any permits received since 2010 requesting permission to import African elephant parts and African lion parts. Please include permits under review as well as permits that were granted…”


“We believe this kind of elephant and lion part import data should be more easily available to the public as the debate on banning these trophy animal parts has rightly captured the public’s attention,” said Robert Ware, Director of FOUR PAWS U.S. headquarters.


Every year, hunters from Europe and the U.S. travel to Africa to participate in “trophy hunting,” from which hunters bring home dead animals as trophies to display on their walls as souvenirs. Most of “the Big 5” – elephants, lions, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard - can be hunted somewhere in Africa, for the right price.


In the case of elephants, African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and in Zimbabwe have declined six percent over recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project. In Zambia, elephant numbers have declined from 200,000 in 1972 to a little more than 21,000 last year.

“Instead of positively enhancing the survival of the species, the continued hunting and poaching of elephants in these countries has been devastating to those populations and the U.S. should not be a contributing factor to the loss of this amazing species,” Ware said. “When the public sees the data from this FOIA request, people will see the reality of this issue,” Ware added.


For years, FOUR PAWS has been fighting a particularly gruesome form of trophy hunting called canned hunting, where an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 lions are born and raised on over 200 breeding farms across South Africa. They are eventually set loose in a small pen to be shot by a paying hunter. Ironically, supporters of the canned hunting industry, along with most trophy hunters, proclaim that their activities support conservation. However, there is no legitimate evidence that any trophy hunting dollars trickle down to viable conservation efforts on the ground.