Trump Big-Game Hunting Decision Postponed after Savage Social Media Response

African elephants Hwange
African elephants in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe on November 18, 2012. A German tourist was injured after being attacked by an elephant at Victoria Falls, but local residents saved him. MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty

On Friday evening, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would halt his decision to lift a ban on big-game hunting trophies, almost a day after his administration said hunters were allowed to kill elephants in Zambia and Zimbabwe and bring home tusks or any body parts as prizes.

He tweeted, "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!"

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Trump's decision to roll back an Obama-era ban on such practices caused an uproar among conservation groups and social media users who posted pictures of the president's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, that show them holding a cut-off tail of a killed elephant and other slain animals.

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"I am shocked and outraged," Elly Pepper, deputy director of the National Resources Defense Counsel, told Reuters. "I expect nothing less from our president, and if he thinks this is going to go down without a fight, he's wrong."

Those who have supported trophy hunting argue that permit fees, which amount to tens of thousands of dollars in the case of elephants and other large animals, can be funneled to conservation efforts that would increase populations of endangered animals, the Washington Post reported.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made a finding that the killing of African elephant trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant," the Federal Register posted today.

Cecil the lion protest
Protesters hold signs during a rally outside the River Bluff Dental clinic against the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, in Bloomington, Minnesota, on July 29, 2015. Eric Miller/Reuters

But such findings are questionable. The African elephant population reached at least 374,000 according to the Post citing statistics from the Great Elephant Census. The numbers show a drastic reduction: ten million elephants lived at the turn of the 20th Century and 600,000 were registered in 1989. The population experienced a rebound between 1995 and 2007, but since then, the elephant population has been declining at a rate of 8 percent every year, or 30,000 elephants annually.

Zambia and Zimbabwe have experienced mixed results in maintaining and growing their elephant populations, The New York Times reported. While parks in countries with scant preservation initiatives did not see a positive outcome, the population in other areas were stable or growing, the Times reported. With the current political crisis in Zimbabwe, conservation experts predict that the African nation is not capable of managing the elephant population, the publication noted.

In recent years, trophy hunting has not been well received by the international community. In 2015, the killing of Zimbabwe's Cecil the Lion at the hands of Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer sparked public indignation—even PETA called for Palmer "to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged."

Trump Big-Game Hunting Decision Postponed after Savage Social Media Response | U.S.