November 17, 2017 8:59 pm
Updated: November 18, 2017 3:18 pm

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

WATCH: 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. Reuters' Havovi Cooper reports.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he will put off a controversial decision to lift a ban on animal trophy imports until he reviews conservation-related factors.

Amid an uproar over his administration’s reversal of Obama-era laws banning the import of elephant and lion trophies, Trump tweeted Friday night that the measures would be delayed until further notice from himself and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would begin permitting the import of elephant parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia, claiming that the imports will help raise money for conservation efforts.

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

“The decision is part of a robust United States conservation strategy that seeks to eliminate poaching and associated wildlife trafficking while using legal, managed hunting programs to support wildlife and habitat conservation in range countries,” read the statement.

The same argument was made to justify the issuing of permits for African lion trophies, ABC News reported.

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

But the measures were roundly condemned by conservation and animal rights groups.

On Twitter, photos of Donald Trump Jr. holding a severed elephant tail while on a hunt in Africa were widely circulated by people angry with Trump’s decision.

The African Wildlife Foundation said the measure effectively ended the United States’ “leadership role” in battling wildlife poaching and trafficking.

“Announced just after the establishment of the new International Wildlife Conservation Council — whose membership is dominated by the U.S. gun lobby and hunting groups — this reversal shows a trend toward Washington, DC cronyism entering the international conservation effort,” the organization said in an online call to action.

WATCH: Trump lifts ban on elephant hunt trophy imports

Zinke confirmed Friday night that the issuing of permits was being put on hold.

“President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical,” Zinke said in a statement. “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.”

Tanya Sanerib, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said Trump’s back-down marked a victory for conservationists, but urged caution.

“It’s great that public outrage forced Trump to reconsider this despicable decision, but it takes more than a tweet to stop trophy hunters from slaughtering elephants and lions,” Sanerib said.

READ MORE: Don’t kill beavers for building dams, B.C. activists tell Park Canada

Africa’s elephant population has declined by 30 per cent in seven years, while the lion population has dropped by 43 per cent in 21 years, according to the group.

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