(CN) – The Trump administration’s rollback – and nearly immediate flip-flop – of a ban on importing big-game trophies from Zimbabwe has sparked outrage, confusion and a lawsuit filed Monday by the Center for Biological Diversity.
In its lawsuit, the center says the federal government “have unjustifiably reversed course and eliminated critical protections established just two years ago that prohibited the import of hunting trophies from African elephants killed in Zimbabwe.”
The lawsuit names the U.S. Interior Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who was named in a tweet by President Donald Trump on Friday.
“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, a day after lifting a ban on big-game hunters – like sons Don Jr. and Eric – sending their trophies home to the United States.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted again that he is “hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”
On Monday, Zinke released a statement saying it had paused plans to issue permits to hunters.
“President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical,” Zinke said. “As a result, in a manner compliant with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed.”
Despite the backtrack, on Monday morning outside Los Angeles City Hall, California state Sen. Kevin De Leon, LA councilmember Paul Koretz and a modest rally chanted, “Keep the ban.”
De Leon said, “It’s the very definition of excess and greed to travel across the world and pay exorbitant prices, amounts of money to kill, to hunt an endangered animal just for pure entertainment. California won’t have any part in this.”
According to the center’s lawsuit, lifting the ban on big-game trophies of elephants and lions hunted in Zimbabwe is a violation of Administrative Procedure Act and Endangered Species Act.
The federal government’s decision to remove the ban “will result in an increase of elephants and lions killed for recreational purposes, put unsustainable pressure on these imperiled populations, and diminish plaintiffs’ and their members’ ability to enjoy these majestic animals in the wild,” the center says.
Zinke, the highest-ranking official named in the suit, “has ultimate responsibility for the administration and implementation of the Endangered Species Act with regard to terrestrial endangered and threatened species, and for compliance with all other federal laws applicable to the Department of the Interior,” the center says.
A written notice issued by Fish and Wildlife said allowing imported parts of elephants as trophies from Africa would help conservation, with money from the licenses going toward conservation efforts.
The Obama administration instituted the ban on trophies from Zimbabwe in 2014.