Old Emails Won’t Help Elephant Hunting Suit

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge blocked hunting enthusiasts from relying on emails that they claim show regulatory protocol errors behind the ban on importing elephant carcasses from Zimbabwe.
     Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association brought the lawsuit last year after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suspended the importation of elephant trophies of sport-hunted elephants from Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
     The groups echoed these claims in a new federal action filed in the same D.C. court Tuesday, but the new case omits claims regarding Tanzania, ostensibly because the U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, dismissed those counts last year.
     In a new ruling on the original case published Monday, Lamberth had harsh words for the group’s emphasis on certain documents it claims will help their case.
     “Plaintiffs seek to supplement the record in this case concerning elephant imports with what is now a thirteen-year-old email about leopard imports,” Lamberth wrote. “The email’s passing reference to elephant imports is not concrete evidence that the agency considered the email in deciding whether to suspend elephant imports in 2014.”
     Safari Club and the NRA had also made much of a second email concerning the carrying capacity of elephants in Zimbabwe, suggesting that the elephant population is approximately 88,000 instead of the previously believed population of 45,000.
     Lamberth refused to admit this either, finding it “not necessary for effective judicial review.”
     “”While a court may admit extra-record evidence when an agency fails to examine all relevant factors … no bad faith nor improper behavior is alleged here,” the opinion states.
     Judge Lamberth dismissed the claims regarding Tanzania in 2014 because Tanzania elephants are protected under the treaty known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
     Unlike the Tanzanian elephants described in that treaty’s first appendix, Zimbabwe elephants are listed under Appendix II, meaning that hunters do not need a permit to kill the animals.
     The hunters latest lawsuit notes that “U.S. hunters had been able to hunt African elephants in Zimbabwe and import their sport-hunted elephants into the United States” for decades.
     “This hunting and importation supported elephant conservation by increasing the value of African elephants for local communities, discouraging poaching for ivory and/or food, and providing financial resources for elephant protection,” the complaint states.
     The complaint also claims that “a hunter’s inability to import his or her legally sport-hunted African elephant deprives the hunter of a valuable element of the hunting experience.”

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