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Trump calls elephant hunting a ‘horror show’ and suggests he’ll enforce a ban on trophy imports

An African elephant is pictured in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe in this file photo taken on Nov. 17, 2012. <br/> / AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump called elephant hunting a “horror show” Sunday and strongly suggested he will permanently block imports of elephant trophies from two African nations despite his administration’s earlier approval of the practice.

Following strong bipartisan criticism of the administration’s decision to allow imports of trophy carcasses, a practice that was halted under the Obama administration, Trump moved Friday to put the imports on hold. On Sunday, Trump said on Twitter that he would announce a final decision this week. He suggested that he does not buy the argument advanced by pro-hunting advocates within his Interior Department that the imports help protect endangered African elephants.

Trump wrote that he would be “very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”

It was not immediately clear whether the reference to “any other animal” might mean he is also reconsidering his administration’s separate lifting of import bans on lion trophies last month. That decision received little attention at the time but has since come under fire as the elephant decision received wide attention.

The president’s abrupt reversal Friday means that elephants shot for sport in Zimbabwe and Zambia cannot be imported by American hunters as trophies.

“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts,” Trump wrote Friday evening on Twitter. “Under study for years. Will update soon with [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke. Thank you!”

That halted a decision by his own U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday to end a 2014 government ban on big-game trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Under U.S. law, the remains of African elephants, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, can be imported only if federal officials have determined that hunting them benefits the species more broadly.