Elephant trophy imports from 3 more African countries no longer welcome in EU

No hunting trophies will be allowed to enter the EU under the guise of the Personal and Household Effects derogation until the EU CITES Scientific Review Group (SRG) decides certain criteria have been met.After a recent meeting by European Member State specialists, the European Commission announced that:  

The European Union Scientific Review Group (SRG) decided on 2nd July 2015 to issue a negative opinion with regards to the import into the EU of hunting trophies of African elephants from the United Republic of Tanzania and Mozambique.”

This may not sound like a ground-breaking statement; after all, a negative opinion to most would signal disapproval of an activity at best, but nothing more.

In EU parlance, however, this is one of the most powerful statements the EU can make, and is in effect a ban in all but name on the import of elephant hunting trophies from those two countries.

Indeed, the EU went onto uphold the existing “negative opinion” on trophies from Zambia, meaning that together with Botswana (which placed a voluntary ban on trophy hunting) the import of such items from a huge swath of the African  continent is now banned.

Before we get carried away, we must add a note of caution: This is not a permanent ban, and applies only to the countries named. Indeed, the EU continues to maintain that trophy hunting has a place in conservation. Although Commercial trade in elephants and their derived products such as ivory is banned, the EU states:

Hunting trophies benefit from an exemption to this ban, given that they are considered as personal effects and in recognition of the fact that hunting trophies can play a positive role in conservation efforts. Import of hunting trophies is therefore authorised in the EU, under certain conditions designed to ensure that hunting trophy programmes are not detrimental to the conservation of the species.”

IFAW believes, however, that hunting trophies have no place in modern conservation, and disagree with the contention that trophies can play a positive role in conservation efforts, as the report The $200 million question: How much does trophy hunting really contribute to African communities? commissioned by IFAW from Economists at Large clearly demonstrates.

The EU ban will however remain in place until the countries can show that they have met a series of strict criteria for the conservation of elephants—criteria which only came into force at the start of this year following the introduction of the new Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/870 of 5 June 2015; the principles of which were:

  1. A compulsory requirement for an Import permit from the EU for the import of hunting trophies from six CITES-listed species (African Lion, Polar Bear, African Elephant: Southern White Rhinoceros, Common Hippopotamus and Argali Sheep) – prior to this only an export permit from the country of origin was required;
  2. Providing the EU the power to refuse an import permit in case of serious doubts as to the legality of a shipment of CITES products;
  3. Establishment of a specific certificate to allow the movement of historical musical instruments which contain outlawed wildlife products.

In terms of hunting trophies, the conditions assessed by the EU Scientific Review Group to issue opinions with regard to the sustainability of import of Annex A hunting trophies were strengthened. The conditions as they stand are as follows:

  • Trophy hunting should be part of a careful species management plan that should, as appropriate:
  • Be based on sound biological data collected from the target population(s);
  • Clearly demonstrate that harvest levels are sustainable;
  • Be monitored by professional biologists;
  • Be promptly modified if necessary to maintain the conservation aims;
  • Demonstrate that illegal activities are under control;
  • Produce significant and tangible conservation benefits for the species;
  • Provide benefits to, and be in co-operation with, the local people who share the area with or suffer by the species concerned;

It is a direct result of these new regulations that the EU CITES Scientific Review Group (SRG) recently gave negative opinions on the import of hunting trophies from Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia.

The SRG has informed the governments in the exporting countries concerned, inviting them to provide information for review at the next SRG meeting on 15th September 2015.

However, this decision means that no hunting trophies will be allowed to enter the EU under the guise of the Personal and Household Effects derogation until the EU CITES Scientific Review Group (SRG) decides the criteria have been met.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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