Trump criticized for elephant trophy decision — but Canada never had ban in first place

Click to play video: 'Trump backpedals on elephant and lion trophy imports' Trump backpedals on elephant and lion trophy imports
ABOVE: U.S. President Donald Trump is putting a hold on a controversial decision to lift a ban on animal trophy imports until he reviews conservation-related factors. – Nov 18, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump has come under fire for considering lifting a ban on importing elephant heads and tusks from Zimbabwe and Zambia. But Canada never had this ban in the first place.

READ MORE: Trump backpedals on elephant and lion trophy imports, says he’ll review ‘conservation facts’

His administration announced last week it was reversing the Obama-era ban, which made it illegal to import elephant trophies into the U.S. from the two countries. But after mounting criticism from animal rights groups, Trump tweeted he was putting the decision on hold.

As the United States continues to debate the issue of importing elephant parts, Canada allows it — but under tight regulation.

WATCH: Animal activists blast Trump’s reversal of elephant trophy killing ban

Click to play video: 'Animal activists blast Trump’s reversal of elephant trophy killing ban' Animal activists blast Trump’s reversal of elephant trophy killing ban
Animal activists blast Trump’s reversal of elephant trophy killing ban – Nov 17, 2017

Canadian hunters in Africa can import back trophies of hunted elephants back home as long as it complies with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly known as CITES.

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The U.S. is the only country participating in CITES, to ban the trophy elephant import from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Jason St. Michael, with Safari Club Canada, disagrees with the U.S. ban and believes Canada is taking the correct approach — citing the economic benefits hunting brings to African countries.

“Why is a country telling another country what should and should not be banned?” he said. “These animals can be quite plentiful in some areas in Africa, so they need to be managed.”

Why Canada allows it

For CITES-listed species such as lions or elephants, hunting the trophies is either banned or controlled by a strict permitting system. This means it is up to the exporting country, such as Zimbabwe, to ensure the hunt was legal and not detrimental to the survival of elephants.

In other words, a hunter from Canada can import elephant parts back to home, provided it meets the guidelines.

READ MORE: Not just elephants — Donald Trump also reversed lion hunting trophy rules

“Trophy hunting can fund conservation work and benefit livelihoods of local people, thus providing an important incentive for individuals, communities and governments to protect and manage the species and its habitat,” a spokesperson from Environment and Climate Change Canada said.

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“With regards to the import of hunting trophies of species from Africa, Canada applies the relevant CITES controls in determining whether to allow the import,” she said.

Canada does have laws and regulation in place for the domestic trade of elephants parts. But Fran Duthie, president of the Canadian advocacy organization Elephantics, said she believes they should be stricter and go “over and above” the laws already in place.

Why did the U.S. ban it in the first place?

In 2014, former president Barack Obama put through a rule that banned hunters from bringing the trophy heads of elephants they’d killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The Obama administration said the two countries’ management of legal hunting did not “enhance the survival of the African elephant in the wild.”

READ MORE: A German hunter paid $60K to kill a massive elephant (and it’s not going over well)

Zimbabwe’s elephant population has declined six per cent since 2001, with increased incidents of poaching in areas where trophy hunting is permitted.

On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it may be lifting the ban and told Global News it “determined that the hunting and management programs for African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia will enhance the survival of the species in the wild.”

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READ MORE: U.S. hunter sparks outrage after posting photo with dead giraffe in South Africa

It did not specify what had changed since the ban was imposed.

Are elephants protected under CITES?

There has been an international commercial trade ban on ivory since 1989.

In most African countries, elephants are listed under Appendix I, which labels the species as highly endangered or threatened with extinction. This means you cannot trade elephants or their byproducts for commercial purposes.

WATCH: African elephant population declines 30 per cent in 7 years

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African elephant population declines 30% in 7 years – Sep 1, 2016

But in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, elephants fall under Appendix II. This allows tightly-controlled domestic trade such as the buying and selling of live animals and ivory, and legal trophy hunting.

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This issue has been highly contested among African nations.

READ MORE: Air Canada bans shipments of hunting trophies after killing of Cecil the lion

There is a coalition of 29 African countries that proposes CITES completely bans the ivory trade across the African continent and classify all elephants under the most highly protected category.

However, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe want to lift a global ban on the ivory trade so they can sell stockpiles. This is because the countries have a stable or increased population of African elephants, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the article said there are no regulations in the country specifically prohibiting the sale or possession of elephant parts. But Canada does have laws and regulations in place for the domestic trade of elephant parts.

— With files from Reuters

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