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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Elephant Trophy Enthusiasts Advance Suit

WASHINGTON (CN) - A hunting group may show that the ban on importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe violates the Endangered Species Act, a federal judge ruled.

Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association filed the lawsuit earlier this year after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suspended the importation of elephant trophies of sport-hunted elephants from Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

In refusing to enjoin the ban this summer, U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson found that hunters could not show that the inability to take their trophies home caused injury.

The agency subsequently moved to dismiss the claims against it under the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act, but U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth refused Friday to dismiss claims pertaining to trophies taken in Zimbabwe.

"Unlike importing sport-hunted elephants from Tanzania, hunters do not need a permit to import sport-hunted elephants from Zimbabwe because elephants from Zimbabwe are on Appendix II of the CITES treaty," Lamberth wrote, abbreviating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The CITES treaty establishes requirements for importing and exporting certain species, creating a level of protection for each species the treaty covers.

Fish and Wildlife had tried to have the claim under the six-year statute of limitations on APA claims, since African elephants from Zimbabwe were moved from CITES Appendix II in 1998, but Judge Lamberth concluded that any harm the groups have suffered did not start until 2014 when the government banned the importation of elephant trophies from the two countries.

Judge Lamberth did, however, dismiss the claims as they apply to Tanzania.

"Defendants assert that the Tanzania advice and finding are not final agency action because they are not the consummation of the agency's decision making process: to import sport-hunted elephants from Tanzania, a hunter must apply for and obtain an import permit, and no plaintiff has been denied an import permit and exhausted the administrative remedies for the denial of a permit," the judge wrote.

Because Tanzania elephants are protected under Appendix I of the CITES treaty, the judge upheld the ban and dismissed the groups' claim.

The judge also granted the groups leave to file an amended complaint.

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