Safari Club International Opposes Final USFWS African Elephant Import Rule

Hunting Hitman

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When will the US stop interfering in how Africa regulates Elephants...


HH

Because they don't care.....only care about the votes , and all the urban specimens are for it or don't care....same as in Europe ...Australia and possibly NZ....there are plenty of threads on the subject.....
 
Most of the new rules take effect 30 days from today. If you already hunted earlier or will take an elephant within the next 29 days, your import application will be treated under the previous rules.

Also, the Category One, Two and Three designations for elephant range states (countries) and their CITES implementation laws will not take effect until January 1, 2026 or after the CITES CoP20 meetings in 2025. This is good news if you’re booked in Botswana for the season that starts in a few days. Botswana is currently in Category Two. Category One consists of range states that have already passed laws for full implementation of CITES. Category Two are countries that are still missing a few laws. Category Three countries are part of CITES but have not passed any laws to implement CITES. After the CITES CoP20 meetings, hunters will only be able to import elephants from Category One countries if the hunts meet all other requirements.
 
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Most of the new rules take effect 30 days from today. If you already hunted earlier or will take an elephant within the next 29 days, your import application will be treated under the previous rules.

Also, the Category One, Two and Three designations for elephant range states (countries) and their CITES implementation laws will not take effect until January 1, 2026 or after the CITES CoP20 meetings in 2025. This is good news if you’re booked in Botswana for the season that starts in a few days. Botswana is currently in Category Two. Category One consists of range states that have already passed laws for full implementation of CITES. Category Two are countries that are still missing a few laws. Category Three countries are part of CITES but have not passed any laws to implement CITES. After the CITES CoP20 meetings, hunters will only be able to import elephants from Category One countries!
Wow! my hunt will be completed for my elephant 25 days from now talk about getting under the wire! I have already contracted with Conservation Force
 
Tanzania was just moved to Category One. Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique still need more CITES laws to get to Category One. I will post more info once I’m in front of my computer. On phone now.
 
In summary, if you want to import an elephant that was hunted after April 30, 2024, make sure you only hunt in countries that are considered for approval and with operators doing significant conservation work in their areas that they can document and provide that documentation to you for your import application. Just because an operator has elephant quota available to hunt does not mean that you will be allowed to import your elephant. In addition, the country must provide an annual certification report to USFWS, or to you to submit with your application, that lists the efforts the country is taking for elephant management. It is going to be tougher to get an import permit but not impossible if you pick areas/operators carefully. See below.

1. The first major hurdle to getting your future sport-hunted elephant imported will be hunting in a country with updated CITES legislation. Future elephant hunters take heed:
Effective January 1, 2026

  • The new USFWS rule will incorporate the CITES National Legislation Project category designations into the acceptance of imports under current 50 CFR 17.40(e)(2) and (e)(6) and paragraph (e)(10) under a new paragraph (e)(11).
CITES National Legislation Project and African elephants
On or after January 1, 2026, live elephants, sport-hunted trophies, and parts or products other than ivory and sport-hunted trophies may not be imported into the United States except when:
(i) All trade in the specimen has been and is accompanied by a valid CITES document issued by the Management Authority of a Party with CITES
Category One designation under the CITES National Legislation Project.

Category One: Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. (However, it is my guess, based on past import permit approvals and evaluations of applications on an application by application basis, it is likely that only applications from Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe may be approved IF your operator/area is doing a lot of anti-poaching and conservation work. If Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia move up to Category One AND the operators/areas do the anti-poaching and conservation work, applications from areas in those countries may also be approved. Botswana is close to approval for Category One and Botswana elephants have been approved for import under the previous rules before this change requiring Category One designation. As hunters, it is VERY important to book hunts only in areas with operators that are doing anti-poaching and other conservation work if you want to get an import permit.)

Category Two: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, Togo, and Zambia

Category Three: The Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Eswatini, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Uganda.

2. Other hurdles to overcome for import to US
Effective May 1, 2024
(6) Sport-hunted trophies.

(i) African elephant sport-hunted trophies may be imported into the United States provided:
(A) The trophy was legally taken in an African elephant range country that declared an ivory export quota to the CITES Secretariat for the year in which the trophy animal was killed;
(B) A determination is made (by USFWS on application by application basis) that the killing of the trophy animal will enhance the survival of the species and the trophy is accompanied by a threatened species permit issued under § 17.32;
(C) The trophy is legibly marked in accordance with 50 CFR part 23;
(D) The requirements in 50 CFR parts 13, 14, and 23 have been met; and
(E) No more than two African elephant sport-hunted trophies are imported by any hunter in a calendar year.

2 (a). Range countries must provide an annual certification regarding elephant management, status of elephants and the hunting programs in the country:

This annual certification from the range country will be kept on file and made available to the public. Without this properly documented and verifiable annual certification, the Service would be unable to issue the requested import permit. This annual certification is specifically for requests to import live, wild-sourced African elephants or African elephant sport-hunted trophies.

From USFWS:
The new USFWS rule will improve and clarify our evaluation of the existing enhancement requirement during our evaluation of an application for the import of sport-hunted trophies by adding a new provision to 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6) that establishes an annual certification requirement for range countries that export sport-hunted trophies to the United States to provide the Service with information about the management and status of African elephants and the hunting programs in these countries.

From USFWS:
We also evaluated our current process for making ESA enhancement findings related to permit applications requesting the import of sport-hunted trophies of African elephants. We considered how our permitting process and resulting decisions could be more transparent so that applicants, the public, and stakeholders understand the requirements under the ESA. To clarify and improve this process, we are adding new provisions to 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6) and 50 CFR 17.40(e)(10) that establish an annual certification requirement for African elephant range countries that export sport-hunted African elephant trophies or live, wild-sourced African elephants to the United States to provide the Service with information about the management and status of African elephants and the hunting programs in their country. This requirement and the information from the range countries will be a part of our decision-making on applications to permit the import of African elephant sport-hunted trophies or live, wild-sourced African elephants. We note that the certification from the range country to the Service will be able to reflect if there are no or minimal changes from one year to the next. If our evaluation determines that the requirements are no longer being met, we will work with the range country to communicate and address any concerns. The annual certification requirement will increase the efficiency of our permitting process and enable us to ensure that authorized imports contribute to enhancing the conservation of the species and that the imports do not contribute to the decline of the species.

Clarifying the enhancement standards and improving this process for the import of African elephant sport-hunted trophies or live, wild-sourced African elephants also increases transparency with stakeholders and will lead to more efficient evaluations of applications. This change to the section 4(d) rule does not have any effect on the ability of U.S. citizens to travel to countries that allow hunting of African elephants and engage in sport hunting. The decisions about whether to hunt African elephants will continue to be made by hunters and the countries that allow hunting, and imports will be allowed only in circumstances where the activities are well-managed. The import of any associated sport-hunted trophy into the United States will continue to be regulated and to require an enhancement finding and threatened species import permit. The adopted measures are anticipated to support development and implementation of effective management measures in foreign countries that enhance African elephant conservation.

From USFWS:

Import of Personally Sport-Hunted Trophies​


Trophy hunting can generate funds to be used for conservation, including for habitat protection, population monitoring, wildlife management programs, mitigation efforts for human-wildlife conflict, and law enforcement efforts. The IUCN SSC Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives (Ver.1.0, August 2012; IUCN Species Survival Commission) note that well-managed trophy hunting can “assist in furthering conservation objectives by creating the revenue and economic incentives for the management and conservation of the target species and its habitat, as well as supporting local livelihoods” and, further, that well-managed trophy hunting is “often a higher value, lower impact land use than alternatives such as agriculture or tourism.” When a trophy-hunting program incorporates the following guiding principles, the IUCN recognizes that trophy hunting can serve as a conservation tool: Biological sustainability; net conservation benefit; socio-economic-cultural benefit; adaptive management—planning, monitoring, and reporting; and accountable and effective governance.

The ESA enhancement standards outlined in this final rule are consistent with this IUCN guidance and are necessary and advisable to ensure that trophies authorized for import into the United States are only from well-managed hunting. Not all trophy hunting is part of a well-managed or well-run program, and we evaluate import of sport-hunted trophies carefully to ensure that all CITES and ESA requirements are met. Where the applicant has not met their burden to provide sufficient information for the Service to make its findings, including sufficient information to demonstrate that the trophy to be imported is from well-managed hunting, the import will not meet the criteria for an enhancement finding, and, consistent with both the previous regulations and these final regulations, cannot and will not be authorized for import into the United States. Under this final rule, we will continue to carefully evaluate African elephant trophy import applications in accordance with legal standards and the conservation needs of the species.

Under the section 4(d) rule for the African elephant, issuance of an ESA threatened species permit to import a sport-hunted trophy of an African elephant requires that the Service determine that the killing of the trophy animal would enhance the survival of the species (known as an “enhancement finding”).

We evaluated the process for making ESA enhancement findings related to permit applications requesting the import of sport-hunted trophies of African elephants. We reviewed information within our permit-application files related to the investment of hunting fees that go into the conservation of these species and how they improve local communities and contribute to survival and recovery of elephant populations. We also evaluated how the Service's technical assistance to elephant range countries supports local communities and contributes to sustainable elephant populations. Additionally, we considered how we could improve our permitting process and resulting decisions to ensure that they are consistent with the purpose and intent of the ESA and, as a result, that permits we issue enhance the survival of the species in the wild.

In making ESA enhancement findings, we review all relevant information available to us, including information submitted with the individual permit applications, information received in response to inquiries we make of the range country, and all other reliable information we receive from interested parties, such as species experts, hunting organizations, community groups, and nongovernmental organizations. Historically, the Service periodically issued enhancement findings for the import of African elephant sport-hunted trophies on a country-by-country (or “countrywide”) basis, based on the scientific and management information available to the Service, as was the practice for a number of other threatened sport-hunted species. In response to a D.C. Circuit Court opinion, Safari Club Int'l v. Zinke, 878 F.3d 316 (D.C. Cir. 2017), on March 1, 2018, the Service revised its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species, including African elephants. We withdrew our countrywide enhancement findings for elephants across several countries including Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. No countrywide ESA enhancement findings are currently in effect. We now make findings for trophy imports on an application-by-application basis. On June 16, 2020, the D.C. Circuit upheld the Service's withdrawal of the countrywide findings and use of the application-by-application approach in Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, 961 F.3d 1197 (D.C. Cir. 2020). Therefore, since March 1, 2018, the Service has been making ESA enhancement findings to support permitting decisions on the import of sport-hunted trophies of African elephants on an application-by-application basis, ensuring consistent application of the regulatory criteria across all permit application adjudications. As a matter of policy, the Service continues to have the option of issuing countrywide enhancement findings through a rulemaking process; however, to date, the Service has not chosen this option due to the challenges of keeping the findings current in light of a lengthy rulemaking process.

The application-by-application process involves additional information requirements, time, and staff resources to complete the review of each application. We used to rely mainly on information concerning the national-level management of a species to produce a single enhancement finding for all permit applications specific to a species, country, and time period. We now make enhancement findings for every individual permit application, considering not only national-level species management but also species management on a smaller scale (e.g., on a regional or concession/conservancy-area basis), as well as information about each hunter's individual circumstances, such as the specific hunting dates and locations.

Factors Considered by the Service​

In our individual application reviews and enhancement assessments for range countries, we consider factors that can contribute to African elephant conservation by improving the management and status of African elephants in the wild, including:
  • Establishing and using science-based sustainable quotas, including use of a sex- and age-based harvest system;
• Investing hunting fees into conservation (e.g., anti-poaching, managing human-wildlife conflict, population monitoring, community benefits that provide incentives for conservation of the species in the wild, etc.);
  • Implementing and enforcing, and compliance with, wildlife laws and regulations;
  • Implementing management plans and use of adaptive management;
  • Implementing an effective anti-poaching program;
  • Implementing measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict;
  • Monitoring populations of the hunted species and their food source; and
  • Protecting and improving the habitat of the hunted species (e.g., creating water holes, habitat management, etc.).

Additional Considerations​

In our analysis, we consider the available information on:

(1) Whether the range country of the hunt has regulations, infrastructure, and standard processes in place to ensure an effective transfer of hunting revenues back into conservation of the species;

(2) whether the range country has effective governance and strong compliance and enforcement measures, particularly with regard to their ability to implement the wildlife management regulations developed for the hunted species;

(3) whether the hunting operator is in compliance with the range country's regulatory requirements;

(4) whether the hunting property owner, concessionaire, and/or community are effectively investing the revenue to elicit community incentives for protection of the species; and

(5) whether the hunter is in compliance with the hunting laws, regulations, and operator requirements.

An evaluation of these factors allows the Service to assess how the range-country government manages the hunted species and how hunting serves to enhance the survival of the species in the context of the management system; how hunting serves to enhance the survival of the species in the context of the management unit at the hunting-operator, concessionaire, conservancy, or private-reserve level; and how the individual hunter has contributed (where the hunt has already taken place) or will contribute (where the hunt has not yet taken place) to enhancement of survival of that species through their hunting activities and any associated contributions to the survival of the species. Our process for making enhancement findings encourages conservation investments and sustainability of elephant populations. We evaluate not only national conservation efforts, but also how the hunting operator for the applicant's hunt works to address threats to the hunted species (e.g., making habitat improvements, conducting anti-poaching and other activities, etc.).

The Service's ESA enhancement evaluation includes an analysis of whether the revenue generated through hunting fees is used to support conservation of the species. It is the responsibility of the entity that collects the hunting fees to reinvest those funds back into conservation of the species, including addressing threats to the species that are specific to that area or elephant population. For example, if an agency of the range country's government collects hunting fees, then we expect the government to have standard processes and infrastructure in place to ensure an effective transfer of hunting revenues back into the country's management of the species. If a smaller management unit such as an operator, private property owner, or conservancy is responsible for collecting hunting fees, then we expect a portion of those fees to be reinvested into conservation of the hunted species.

When practicable, the Service conducts site visits or other outreach during which we engage with the national, provincial, and regional governments, as well as communities, to establish whether activities are achieving enhancement of the species. The Service also assists range countries by explaining U.S. requirements for import of personal sport-hunted African elephant trophies and supports capacity-building in range countries. The Service's complementary approach to leveraging conservation of elephants through its ESA regulatory permitting requirement of enhancement of the species, combined with our technical assistance to support capacity-building in range countries, effectively contributes to creating incentives for local communities to protect elephant populations and sustain elephant populations within the range country.

By considering whether the revenues from elephant hunts are effectively reinvested in conservation programs for the species and community benefits, we can determine whether these targeted investments improve the survival of elephants and improve local communities that are working to conserve the species. It can be challenging to obtain the information for a robust analysis, which involves consultation with the range country and often with those involved in various aspects of the hunt, a process that requires a great deal of staff time and other resources. In sum, enhancement findings can be an effective tool for conservation, as trophy hunters are able, by complying with our enhancement requirements, to help conserve elephant populations and their habitats and provide protection incentives to communities that live alongside these species.

Additionally, this rule finalizes the proposed list of factors regarding the reporting of funds to be spent towards conservation of the species. Through this rule, § 17.40(e)(6)(ii)(G) includes a non-exhaustive list of concrete examples of how funds derived from activities with African elephants should be used to significantly and positively contribute to African elephant conservation. Considering comments received on the need for additional flexibility for range countries and local communities, in the final rule we have modified the enhancement criterion that outlines how funds derived from sport-hunted trophy imports should be applied toward African elephant conservation. While achieving meaningful enhancement will often require that the top use of funds derived from activities with elephants be directed to elephant conservation, we are providing more flexibility for applicants and range countries to demonstrate the significance of the amount of funds put toward African elephant conservation when determining whether the activities enhance the survival of the species in the wild. We have replaced the word “primarily” with “significantly” as that term better represents the requirement that funding be provided in an amount that will lead to meaningfully enhancing the survival of African elephants in the wild. This allows us greater flexibility in determining if enhancement has been satisfied based on the information available. We have removed the enhancement criterion that requires 100 percent of African elephant meat from a hunt to be donated to local communities. We recognize there are situations where there are no inhabitants, or other circumstances where it would be inappropriate to include this requirement. We also recognize that this form of support to local communities, if applicable, may also be addressed as a method used to prevent or mitigate human-elephant conflict under proposed paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G) (7). Accordingly, in this final rule we have removed proposed paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G) (8).

Aside from these changes, the final rule text at § 17.40(e)(6)(ii)(A)-(G) contains the same list of factors in the annual certification as proposed. The Service will consider these factors as part of the determination whether the import of an African elephant sport-hunted trophy meets the enhancement standard.

Under this final section 4(d) rule, we will continue to require an ESA enhancement finding and issuance of a threatened species permit for import of each African elephant sport-hunted trophy. This requirement will continue to allow us to carefully evaluate each trophy import in accordance with legal standards and the conservation needs of the species. Through this rule, we are clarifying what is considered during enhancement evaluation, by requesting information as part of the annual certification process. While we already consider the information requested in the annual certification process, we will not hold hunters to standards that did not exist at the time of their hunts and their import applications. The regulations pertaining to sport-hunted trophies will apply to applications for import where the hunt date is on, or after, the effective date of this rule.

Wins for Hunters that were changed in the Final Rule:
(36) Comment: Several commenters believed that language requiring African elephant populations needing to be “stable or increasing,” as well as sufficiently large to sustain sport hunting at the level authorized by the country, is vague and unreasonable in certain circumstances, as some areas may require increased elephant quotas, more protection, or elephants regularly traveling between multiple countries. The commenters provided examples such as overpopulation of African elephants, which are degrading habitat, in some areas and that in some of these areas increasing or maintaining the size of the population would not necessarily provide enhancement for the conservation of the species.

Response: We have amended the final rule accordingly. We have revised the enhancement criteria that requires African elephant populations in a range country to be stable or increasing for import of live African elephants and sport-hunted trophies. We have replaced the term “stable or increasing” with “biologically sustainable.” The term “biologically sustainable” gives us flexibility when making our enhancement determinations and allows us to consider circumstances where specific offtake is biologically sustainable, even if the overall population in the range country is not currently assessed as stable or increasing, such as possible scenarios where African elephants are overpopulated and have a negative impact on habitat and biodiversity. The clarification of the enhancement criteria supports the evaluation on whether the proposed activity will contribute toward the recovery of the species in the wild. The import of each specimen must meet this standard.

(44) Comment: A commenter questioned the requirement that 100 percent of African elephant meat be used by local communities, believing that this requirement is too stringent and would require the range countries to create an expensive information-collection system at local levels.

Response: We recognize there are situations where hunting occurs and there are no nearby inhabitants or other circumstances where it would be inappropriate to include this requirement. We also recognize that this form of support to local communities, if applicable, may also be addressed as a method used to prevent or mitigate human-elephant conflict under paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G)(7). Accordingly, we have removed proposed paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G)(8) that required elephant meat be distributed to local communities from the final regulations.
  • We have revised the language in new paragraph (e)(6)(ii) to clarify that any new requirements for imports of sport-hunted trophies will be applied prospectively and not impact sport-hunted trophy applications where the hunt occurred before the effective date of this rule. We have amended the final rule accordingly, so the new regulations at 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6)(ii) pertaining to import of sport-hunted trophies will apply where the hunt date is on, or after, the effective date of this rule. (If your hunt/kill already occurred or will occur before the new rules go into effect, your import application will be considered under the old rules.)

  • We have revised the enhancement criterion that requires African elephant populations in a range country to be stable or increasing for import of live African elephants and sport-hunted trophies. We have replaced the term “stable or increasing” with “biologically sustainable.” The term “biologically sustainable” gives us flexibility when making our enhancement determinations and allows us to consider circumstances where specific offtake is biologically sustainable, even if the overall population in the range country is not currently assessed as stable or increasing. This change has been reflected in paragraphs (e)(6)(ii)(A) and (e)(10)(ii)(A) of this final rule. (This is a win for operators/areas doing a good job in their area even if the overall population is decreasing in the country. It is also a win for hunts in Botswana, and perhaps Zimbabwe, where populations might be too high and need to be reduced.)
  • We have adjusted the enhancement criterion that outlines how funds derived from live elephant and sport-hunted trophy imports should be applied toward African elephant conservation. While achieving meaningful enhancement will often require that the top use of funds derived from activities with elephants be directed to elephant conservation, we are providing more flexibility for applicants and range countries to demonstrate the significance of the amount of funds put toward African elephant conservation when determining whether the activities enhance the survival of the species in the wild. We have replaced the word “primarily” with “significantly” as that term better represents the requirement that funding be provided in an amount that will lead to meaningfully enhancing the survival of African elephants in the wild. We have amended proposed paragraphs (e)(6)(ii)(G) and (e)(10)(ii)(H) to reflect this change. (This is a more realistic expectation that requires a significant portion of hunting fees to go to elephant conservation, rather than the funds going "primarily" to elephant conservation.)
• We have removed the enhancement criterion that requires 100 percent of African elephant
meat from a hunt to be donated to local communities. We recognize there are situations
where there are no inhabitants near a hunt site, or other circumstances that would make the
requirement infeasible. We also recognize that this form of support to local communities, if
applicable, may also be addressed as a method used to prevent or mitigate human-elephant
conflict under paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G)(7). Accordingly, we have removed proposed paragraph (e) (6)(ii)(G)(8) from this final rule. (The removal of this unrealistic requirement is good for some
hunts that occur in wilderness areas or game reserves with no inhabitants nearby.)


We have revised the language in new paragraphs (e)(6)(ii) and (e)(10)(ii) to clarify that a range country must provide the Service with a properly documented and verifiable certification dated no earlier than 1 year prior to the date the elephant is taken or removed from the wild, as opposed to when the permit is processed. We have made this clarification to better ensure the information provided by a range country is relevant to the time-period that the activity takes place. This will help ensure that we are using relevant data to determine if enhancement has been met for the species in the wild. (This is a more fair requirement given the backlog of applications.)
Losses for the hunting community:

Under the final rule, entities that provide guide services for hunting African elephants will potentially be impacted if they provide these services in a non-Category One designated country and do not choose to or cannot provide those services in a Category One designated country.

Permit applications for successful elephant hunts in countries and areas with good elephant populations will not be granted import permit approval if the countries do not follow through with the yearly certification reports and if the operators do not contribute significant amounts of money/resources to conservation that benefits elephants.
 
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In summary, if you want to import an elephant that was hunted after April 30, 2024, make sure you only hunt in countries that are considered for approval and with operators doing significant conservation work in their areas that they can document and provide that documentation to you for your import application. Just because an operator has elephant quota available to hunt does not mean that you will be allowed to import your elephant. In addition, the country must provide an annual certification report to USFWS, or to you to submit with your application, that lists the efforts the country is taking for elephant management. It is going to be tougher to get an import permit but not impossible if you pick areas/operators carefully. See below.

1. The first major hurdle to getting your future sport-hunted elephant imported will be hunting in a country with updated CITES legislation. Future elephant hunters take heed:
Effective January 1, 2026

  • The new USFWS rule will incorporate the CITES National Legislation Project category designations into the acceptance of imports under current 50 CFR 17.40(e)(2) and (e)(6) and paragraph (e)(10) under a new paragraph (e)(11).
CITES National Legislation Project and African elephants
On or after January 1, 2026, live elephants, sport-hunted trophies, and parts or products other than ivory and sport-hunted trophies may not be imported into the United States except when:
(i) All trade in the specimen has been and is accompanied by a valid CITES document issued by the Management Authority of a Party with CITES
Category One designation under the CITES National Legislation Project.

Category One: Angola, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. (However, it is my guess, based on past import permit approvals and evaluations of applications on an application by application basis, it is likely that only applications from Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe may be approved IF your operator/area is doing a lot of anti-poaching and conservation work. If Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia move up to Category One AND the operators/areas do the anti-poaching and conservation work, applications from areas in those countries may also be approved. Botswana is close to approval for Category One and Botswana elephants have been approved for import under the previous rules before this change requiring Category One designation. As hunters, it is VERY important to book hunts only in areas with operators that are doing anti-poaching and other conservation work if you want to get an import permit.)

Category Two: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, Togo, and Zambia

Category Three: The Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Eswatini, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Uganda.

2. Other hurdles to overcome for import to US
Effective May 1, 2024
(6) Sport-hunted trophies.

(i) African elephant sport-hunted trophies may be imported into the United States provided:
(A) The trophy was legally taken in an African elephant range country that declared an ivory export quota to the CITES Secretariat for the year in which the trophy animal was killed;
(B) A determination is made (by USFWS on application by application basis) that the killing of the trophy animal will enhance the survival of the species and the trophy is accompanied by a threatened species permit issued under § 17.32;
(C) The trophy is legibly marked in accordance with 50 CFR part 23;
(D) The requirements in 50 CFR parts 13, 14, and 23 have been met; and
(E) No more than two African elephant sport-hunted trophies are imported by any hunter in a calendar year.

2 (a). Range countries must provide an annual certification regarding elephant management, status of elephants and the hunting programs in the country:

This annual certification from the range country will be kept on file and made available to the public. Without this properly documented and verifiable annual certification, the Service would be unable to issue the requested import permit. This annual certification is specifically for requests to import live, wild-sourced African elephants or African elephant sport-hunted trophies.

From USFWS:
The new USFWS rule will improve and clarify our evaluation of the existing enhancement requirement during our evaluation of an application for the import of sport-hunted trophies by adding a new provision to 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6) that establishes an annual certification requirement for range countries that export sport-hunted trophies to the United States to provide the Service with information about the management and status of African elephants and the hunting programs in these countries.

From USFWS:
We also evaluated our current process for making ESA enhancement findings related to permit applications requesting the import of sport-hunted trophies of African elephants. We considered how our permitting process and resulting decisions could be more transparent so that applicants, the public, and stakeholders understand the requirements under the ESA. To clarify and improve this process, we are adding new provisions to 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6) and 50 CFR 17.40(e)(10) that establish an annual certification requirement for African elephant range countries that export sport-hunted African elephant trophies or live, wild-sourced African elephants to the United States to provide the Service with information about the management and status of African elephants and the hunting programs in their country. This requirement and the information from the range countries will be a part of our decision-making on applications to permit the import of African elephant sport-hunted trophies or live, wild-sourced African elephants. We note that the certification from the range country to the Service will be able to reflect if there are no or minimal changes from one year to the next. If our evaluation determines that the requirements are no longer being met, we will work with the range country to communicate and address any concerns. The annual certification requirement will increase the efficiency of our permitting process and enable us to ensure that authorized imports contribute to enhancing the conservation of the species and that the imports do not contribute to the decline of the species.

Clarifying the enhancement standards and improving this process for the import of African elephant sport-hunted trophies or live, wild-sourced African elephants also increases transparency with stakeholders and will lead to more efficient evaluations of applications. This change to the section 4(d) rule does not have any effect on the ability of U.S. citizens to travel to countries that allow hunting of African elephants and engage in sport hunting. The decisions about whether to hunt African elephants will continue to be made by hunters and the countries that allow hunting, and imports will be allowed only in circumstances where the activities are well-managed. The import of any associated sport-hunted trophy into the United States will continue to be regulated and to require an enhancement finding and threatened species import permit. The adopted measures are anticipated to support development and implementation of effective management measures in foreign countries that enhance African elephant conservation.

From USFWS:

Import of Personally Sport-Hunted Trophies​


Trophy hunting can generate funds to be used for conservation, including for habitat protection, population monitoring, wildlife management programs, mitigation efforts for human-wildlife conflict, and law enforcement efforts. The IUCN SSC Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives (Ver.1.0, August 2012; IUCN Species Survival Commission) note that well-managed trophy hunting can “assist in furthering conservation objectives by creating the revenue and economic incentives for the management and conservation of the target species and its habitat, as well as supporting local livelihoods” and, further, that well-managed trophy hunting is “often a higher value, lower impact land use than alternatives such as agriculture or tourism.” When a trophy-hunting program incorporates the following guiding principles, the IUCN recognizes that trophy hunting can serve as a conservation tool: Biological sustainability; net conservation benefit; socio-economic-cultural benefit; adaptive management—planning, monitoring, and reporting; and accountable and effective governance.

The ESA enhancement standards outlined in this final rule are consistent with this IUCN guidance and are necessary and advisable to ensure that trophies authorized for import into the United States are only from well-managed hunting. Not all trophy hunting is part of a well-managed or well-run program, and we evaluate import of sport-hunted trophies carefully to ensure that all CITES and ESA requirements are met. Where the applicant has not met their burden to provide sufficient information for the Service to make its findings, including sufficient information to demonstrate that the trophy to be imported is from well-managed hunting, the import will not meet the criteria for an enhancement finding, and, consistent with both the previous regulations and these final regulations, cannot and will not be authorized for import into the United States. Under this final rule, we will continue to carefully evaluate African elephant trophy import applications in accordance with legal standards and the conservation needs of the species.

Under the section 4(d) rule for the African elephant, issuance of an ESA threatened species permit to import a sport-hunted trophy of an African elephant requires that the Service determine that the killing of the trophy animal would enhance the survival of the species (known as an “enhancement finding”).

We evaluated the process for making ESA enhancement findings related to permit applications requesting the import of sport-hunted trophies of African elephants. We reviewed information within our permit-application files related to the investment of hunting fees that go into the conservation of these species and how they improve local communities and contribute to survival and recovery of elephant populations. We also evaluated how the Service's technical assistance to elephant range countries supports local communities and contributes to sustainable elephant populations. Additionally, we considered how we could improve our permitting process and resulting decisions to ensure that they are consistent with the purpose and intent of the ESA and, as a result, that permits we issue enhance the survival of the species in the wild.

In making ESA enhancement findings, we review all relevant information available to us, including information submitted with the individual permit applications, information received in response to inquiries we make of the range country, and all other reliable information we receive from interested parties, such as species experts, hunting organizations, community groups, and nongovernmental organizations. Historically, the Service periodically issued enhancement findings for the import of African elephant sport-hunted trophies on a country-by-country (or “countrywide”) basis, based on the scientific and management information available to the Service, as was the practice for a number of other threatened sport-hunted species. In response to a D.C. Circuit Court opinion, Safari Club Int'l v. Zinke, 878 F.3d 316 (D.C. Cir. 2017), on March 1, 2018, the Service revised its procedure for assessing applications to import certain hunted species, including African elephants. We withdrew our countrywide enhancement findings for elephants across several countries including Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. No countrywide ESA enhancement findings are currently in effect. We now make findings for trophy imports on an application-by-application basis. On June 16, 2020, the D.C. Circuit upheld the Service's withdrawal of the countrywide findings and use of the application-by-application approach in Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, 961 F.3d 1197 (D.C. Cir. 2020). Therefore, since March 1, 2018, the Service has been making ESA enhancement findings to support permitting decisions on the import of sport-hunted trophies of African elephants on an application-by-application basis, ensuring consistent application of the regulatory criteria across all permit application adjudications. As a matter of policy, the Service continues to have the option of issuing countrywide enhancement findings through a rulemaking process; however, to date, the Service has not chosen this option due to the challenges of keeping the findings current in light of a lengthy rulemaking process.

The application-by-application process involves additional information requirements, time, and staff resources to complete the review of each application. We used to rely mainly on information concerning the national-level management of a species to produce a single enhancement finding for all permit applications specific to a species, country, and time period. We now make enhancement findings for every individual permit application, considering not only national-level species management but also species management on a smaller scale (e.g., on a regional or concession/conservancy-area basis), as well as information about each hunter's individual circumstances, such as the specific hunting dates and locations.

Factors Considered by the Service​

In our individual application reviews and enhancement assessments for range countries, we consider factors that can contribute to African elephant conservation by improving the management and status of African elephants in the wild, including:
  • Establishing and using science-based sustainable quotas, including use of a sex- and age-based harvest system;
• Investing hunting fees into conservation (e.g., anti-poaching, managing human-wildlife conflict, population monitoring, community benefits that provide incentives for conservation of the species in the wild, etc.);
  • Implementing and enforcing, and compliance with, wildlife laws and regulations;
  • Implementing management plans and use of adaptive management;
  • Implementing an effective anti-poaching program;
  • Implementing measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict;
  • Monitoring populations of the hunted species and their food source; and
  • Protecting and improving the habitat of the hunted species (e.g., creating water holes, habitat management, etc.).

Additional Considerations​

In our analysis, we consider the available information on:

(1) Whether the range country of the hunt has regulations, infrastructure, and standard processes in place to ensure an effective transfer of hunting revenues back into conservation of the species;

(2) whether the range country has effective governance and strong compliance and enforcement measures, particularly with regard to their ability to implement the wildlife management regulations developed for the hunted species;

(3) whether the hunting operator is in compliance with the range country's regulatory requirements;

(4) whether the hunting property owner, concessionaire, and/or community are effectively investing the revenue to elicit community incentives for protection of the species; and

(5) whether the hunter is in compliance with the hunting laws, regulations, and operator requirements.

An evaluation of these factors allows the Service to assess how the range-country government manages the hunted species and how hunting serves to enhance the survival of the species in the context of the management system; how hunting serves to enhance the survival of the species in the context of the management unit at the hunting-operator, concessionaire, conservancy, or private-reserve level; and how the individual hunter has contributed (where the hunt has already taken place) or will contribute (where the hunt has not yet taken place) to enhancement of survival of that species through their hunting activities and any associated contributions to the survival of the species. Our process for making enhancement findings encourages conservation investments and sustainability of elephant populations. We evaluate not only national conservation efforts, but also how the hunting operator for the applicant's hunt works to address threats to the hunted species (e.g., making habitat improvements, conducting anti-poaching and other activities, etc.).

The Service's ESA enhancement evaluation includes an analysis of whether the revenue generated through hunting fees is used to support conservation of the species. It is the responsibility of the entity that collects the hunting fees to reinvest those funds back into conservation of the species, including addressing threats to the species that are specific to that area or elephant population. For example, if an agency of the range country's government collects hunting fees, then we expect the government to have standard processes and infrastructure in place to ensure an effective transfer of hunting revenues back into the country's management of the species. If a smaller management unit such as an operator, private property owner, or conservancy is responsible for collecting hunting fees, then we expect a portion of those fees to be reinvested into conservation of the hunted species.

When practicable, the Service conducts site visits or other outreach during which we engage with the national, provincial, and regional governments, as well as communities, to establish whether activities are achieving enhancement of the species. The Service also assists range countries by explaining U.S. requirements for import of personal sport-hunted African elephant trophies and supports capacity-building in range countries. The Service's complementary approach to leveraging conservation of elephants through its ESA regulatory permitting requirement of enhancement of the species, combined with our technical assistance to support capacity-building in range countries, effectively contributes to creating incentives for local communities to protect elephant populations and sustain elephant populations within the range country.

By considering whether the revenues from elephant hunts are effectively reinvested in conservation programs for the species and community benefits, we can determine whether these targeted investments improve the survival of elephants and improve local communities that are working to conserve the species. It can be challenging to obtain the information for a robust analysis, which involves consultation with the range country and often with those involved in various aspects of the hunt, a process that requires a great deal of staff time and other resources. In sum, enhancement findings can be an effective tool for conservation, as trophy hunters are able, by complying with our enhancement requirements, to help conserve elephant populations and their habitats and provide protection incentives to communities that live alongside these species.

Additionally, this rule finalizes the proposed list of factors regarding the reporting of funds to be spent towards conservation of the species. Through this rule, § 17.40(e)(6)(ii)(G) includes a non-exhaustive list of concrete examples of how funds derived from activities with African elephants should be used to significantly and positively contribute to African elephant conservation. Considering comments received on the need for additional flexibility for range countries and local communities, in the final rule we have modified the enhancement criterion that outlines how funds derived from sport-hunted trophy imports should be applied toward African elephant conservation. While achieving meaningful enhancement will often require that the top use of funds derived from activities with elephants be directed to elephant conservation, we are providing more flexibility for applicants and range countries to demonstrate the significance of the amount of funds put toward African elephant conservation when determining whether the activities enhance the survival of the species in the wild. We have replaced the word “primarily” with “significantly” as that term better represents the requirement that funding be provided in an amount that will lead to meaningfully enhancing the survival of African elephants in the wild. This allows us greater flexibility in determining if enhancement has been satisfied based on the information available. We have removed the enhancement criterion that requires 100 percent of African elephant meat from a hunt to be donated to local communities. We recognize there are situations where there are no inhabitants, or other circumstances where it would be inappropriate to include this requirement. We also recognize that this form of support to local communities, if applicable, may also be addressed as a method used to prevent or mitigate human-elephant conflict under proposed paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G) (7). Accordingly, in this final rule we have removed proposed paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G) (8).

Aside from these changes, the final rule text at § 17.40(e)(6)(ii)(A)-(G) contains the same list of factors in the annual certification as proposed. The Service will consider these factors as part of the determination whether the import of an African elephant sport-hunted trophy meets the enhancement standard.

Under this final section 4(d) rule, we will continue to require an ESA enhancement finding and issuance of a threatened species permit for import of each African elephant sport-hunted trophy. This requirement will continue to allow us to carefully evaluate each trophy import in accordance with legal standards and the conservation needs of the species. Through this rule, we are clarifying what is considered during enhancement evaluation, by requesting information as part of the annual certification process. While we already consider the information requested in the annual certification process, we will not hold hunters to standards that did not exist at the time of their hunts and their import applications. The regulations pertaining to sport-hunted trophies will apply to applications for import where the hunt date is on, or after, the effective date of this rule.

Wins for Hunters that were changed in the Final Rule:
(36) Comment: Several commenters believed that language requiring African elephant populations needing to be “stable or increasing,” as well as sufficiently large to sustain sport hunting at the level authorized by the country, is vague and unreasonable in certain circumstances, as some areas may require increased elephant quotas, more protection, or elephants regularly traveling between multiple countries. The commenters provided examples such as overpopulation of African elephants, which are degrading habitat, in some areas and that in some of these areas increasing or maintaining the size of the population would not necessarily provide enhancement for the conservation of the species.

Response: We have amended the final rule accordingly. We have revised the enhancement criteria that requires African elephant populations in a range country to be stable or increasing for import of live African elephants and sport-hunted trophies. We have replaced the term “stable or increasing” with “biologically sustainable.” The term “biologically sustainable” gives us flexibility when making our enhancement determinations and allows us to consider circumstances where specific offtake is biologically sustainable, even if the overall population in the range country is not currently assessed as stable or increasing, such as possible scenarios where African elephants are overpopulated and have a negative impact on habitat and biodiversity. The clarification of the enhancement criteria supports the evaluation on whether the proposed activity will contribute toward the recovery of the species in the wild. The import of each specimen must meet this standard.

(44) Comment: A commenter questioned the requirement that 100 percent of African elephant meat be used by local communities, believing that this requirement is too stringent and would require the range countries to create an expensive information-collection system at local levels.

Response: We recognize there are situations where hunting occurs and there are no nearby inhabitants or other circumstances where it would be inappropriate to include this requirement. We also recognize that this form of support to local communities, if applicable, may also be addressed as a method used to prevent or mitigate human-elephant conflict under paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G)(7). Accordingly, we have removed proposed paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G)(8) that required elephant meat be distributed to local communities from the final regulations.
  • We have revised the language in new paragraph (e)(6)(ii) to clarify that any new requirements for imports of sport-hunted trophies will be applied prospectively and not impact sport-hunted trophy applications where the hunt occurred before the effective date of this rule. We have amended the final rule accordingly, so the new regulations at 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6)(ii) pertaining to import of sport-hunted trophies will apply where the hunt date is on, or after, the effective date of this rule. (If your hunt/kill already occurred or will occur before the new rules go into effect, your import application will be considered under the old rules.)

  • We have revised the enhancement criterion that requires African elephant populations in a range country to be stable or increasing for import of live African elephants and sport-hunted trophies. We have replaced the term “stable or increasing” with “biologically sustainable.” The term “biologically sustainable” gives us flexibility when making our enhancement determinations and allows us to consider circumstances where specific offtake is biologically sustainable, even if the overall population in the range country is not currently assessed as stable or increasing. This change has been reflected in paragraphs (e)(6)(ii)(A) and (e)(10)(ii)(A) of this final rule. (This is a win for operators/areas doing a good job in their area even if the overall population is decreasing in the country. It is also a win for hunts in Botswana, and perhaps Zimbabwe, where populations might be too high and need to be reduced.)
  • We have adjusted the enhancement criterion that outlines how funds derived from live elephant and sport-hunted trophy imports should be applied toward African elephant conservation. While achieving meaningful enhancement will often require that the top use of funds derived from activities with elephants be directed to elephant conservation, we are providing more flexibility for applicants and range countries to demonstrate the significance of the amount of funds put toward African elephant conservation when determining whether the activities enhance the survival of the species in the wild. We have replaced the word “primarily” with “significantly” as that term better represents the requirement that funding be provided in an amount that will lead to meaningfully enhancing the survival of African elephants in the wild. We have amended proposed paragraphs (e)(6)(ii)(G) and (e)(10)(ii)(H) to reflect this change. (This is a more realistic expectation that requires a significant portion of hunting fees to go to elephant conservation, rather than the funds going "primarily" to elephant conservation.)
• We have removed the enhancement criterion that requires 100 percent of African elephant
meat from a hunt to be donated to local communities. We recognize there are situations
where there are no inhabitants near a hunt site, or other circumstances that would make the
requirement infeasible. We also recognize that this form of support to local communities, if
applicable, may also be addressed as a method used to prevent or mitigate human-elephant
conflict under paragraph (e)(6)(ii)(G)(7). Accordingly, we have removed proposed paragraph (e) (6)(ii)(G)(8) from this final rule. (The removal of this unrealistic requirement is good for some
hunts that occur in wilderness areas or game reserves with no inhabitants nearby.)


We have revised the language in new paragraphs (e)(6)(ii) and (e)(10)(ii) to clarify that a range country must provide the Service with a properly documented and verifiable certification dated no earlier than 1 year prior to the date the elephant is taken or removed from the wild, as opposed to when the permit is processed. We have made this clarification to better ensure the information provided by a range country is relevant to the time-period that the activity takes place. This will help ensure that we are using relevant data to determine if enhancement has been met for the species in the wild. (This is a more fair requirement given the backlog of applications.)
Losses for the hunting community:

Under the final rule, entities that provide guide services for hunting African elephants will potentially be impacted if they provide these services in a non-Category One designated country and do not choose to or cannot provide those services in a Category One designated country.

Permit applications for successful elephant hunts in countries and areas with good elephant populations will not be granted import permit approval if the countries do not follow through with the yearly certification reports and if the operators do not contribute significant amounts of money/resources to conservation that benefits elephants.

Thanks for providing all this information. Althought at first I had no real intentions or interest in hunting; elephant, ostrich, zebra, the tiny 10, and a few other species. Lately I have considered hunting an elephant, zebra, and giraffe.

It seems elephant will once again be off my list pending further discussions and information from forum members based on their experiences with these new and changes to requirements.
 
Thanks for providing all this information. Althought at first I had no real intentions or interest in hunting; elephant, ostrich, zebra, the tiny 10, and a few other species. Lately I have considered hunting an elephant, zebra, and giraffe.

It seems elephant will once again be off my list pending further discussions and information from forum members based on their experiences with these new and changes to requirements.
I understand your concerns. I think there will be some areas in the Category One countries of Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe that will have permits approved due to lots of conservation efforts/expenditures by good operators if the operators take this seriously. Hunt prices could go up if more fees have to be used for conservation efforts. I also think Botswana permit applications will be approved once Botswana gets their additional legislation finalized/implemented. Mozambique and Zambia are also close to getting upgraded to Category One.

Here is a pdf of all the countries:
 

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