Trophy-Hunting Trump Jr. Sets Sights on ‘Re-Shaping’ Wildlife Policies

"American hunters are doing great things for people and wildlife wherever we go," proclaims Donald Trump Jr., pictured here holding the severed tail of an elephant.
“American hunters are doing great things for people and wildlife wherever we go,” proclaims Donald Trump Jr., pictured here holding the severed tail of an elephant.

In the event Donald Trump is elected to the American Presidency, his son Donald Jr. is eyeing an influential position with the Interior. Junior claims the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is “anti-hunting” and says that a Trump administration would put a hunter in charge of the agency.

Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric gained internet fame in 2015 when photos from a 2012 elephant hunt surfaced, showing Donald Jr. holding the elephant’s severed tail. Additional photos of the Trump brothers’ exploits in Africa have since made the social media circuit. One depicts the younger Trump holding up a dead leopard, and another particularly disturbing image shows the great white hunters posing next to a crocodile hanging from a tree.

“There seems to be a revolving door between the anti-hunting groups and leadership of the USFWS," laments Donald Trump Jr.
“There seems to be a revolving door between the anti-hunting groups and leadership of the USFWS,” laments Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. has been quoted many times attempting to defend trophy hunting with the usual rhetoric about how the trophy hunting fees are plowed right back into wildlife conservation or how the fees are helping local communities. “Looking globally, the economic help to the people in Africa for food, water wells, schools, and hospitals is tremendous through hunters’ dollars,” he said in a January 2016 interview with Petersen’s Hunting.

“American hunters are doing great things for people and wildlife wherever we go.”

The truth is that there is very little, if any, actual proof that so-called “hunters’ dollars” ever arrive at the intended destination. In fact, a 2013 study by the Economists at Large think tank revealed that trophy hunting’s contributions to local communities are “minimal”. (Download the study The $200 million question: How much does trophy hunting really contribute to African communities?.)

“We see that across Africa local communities receive minimal benefit from trophy hunting, particularly when we consider the vast areas of land that hunting concessions occupy.”

Speaking from her experience in Zimbabwe, wildlife trade consultant and CITES expert Susie Watts confirmed that trophy hunt dollars do not reach local communities. She recalled speaking with a village headman in Zimbabwe who told her that all his family received from the trophy hunting of elephants – for the entire year – was three dollars.

“Meanwhile, there were people at the local Councilor level driving around in Mercedes.”

In his Peterson’s Hunting interview, Trump Jr. was (unsurprisingly) asked about “overreaching regulations, such as the banning of importation of polar bears, lions, and elephants”, to which he replied, “There seems to be a revolving door between the anti-hunting groups and leadership of the USFWS.”

He added that “proven conservationists will be in the leadership of the USFWS” in a Trump administration, and that he would like to see “bad laws like the Equal Access to Justice Act” changed.

(The Equal Access to Justice Act is used to vindicate a variety of federal rights, including access to Veterans Affairs and Social Security disability benefits, as well as to secure statutory environmental protections: it promotes public involvement in laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Emphasis added.)

“The biggest family joke that we all had over the holidays was that the only job in government that I would actually want would be in the Department of the Interior.”

But it’s no joke – E&E reports that Trump Jr. is wooing hunters, and the campaign has pledged to “aggressively fight lawsuits by anti-hunting groups, make wildlife habitat more productive, and control predators like wolves that prey on game species like elk”.

Regarding Trump Jr.’s claim that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is “anti-hunting”, one has to wonder – would an “anti-hunting” USFWS have allowed infamous trophy hunter Corey Knowlton to import the severed head of a critically endangered black rhinoceros? Go ahead, you can learn more about our “anti-hunting” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at “Your Guide to Hunting on National Wildlife Refuges” located here.

Perhaps the crux of Trump Jr.’s complaints about USFWS lies in the current moratorium on the import of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe. This is in place not because the USFWS is “anti-hunting” but because “given the situation in Tanzania in 2014 and 2015, and given the information available to the Service regarding elephants in Zimbabwe, the agency is not assured that the benefits of sport hunting will be realized in those countries”. Read the Questions and Answers document for detailed information on the elephant trophy decisions.

Or maybe the Trumps’ notorious coziness with the National Rifle Association has pitted Junior against elephants in general. In 2014, the NRA reacted to the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking by urging its members to “oppose the ban on commercial sale and trade of legally owned firearms with ivory components”. A year later, the powerful gun-toting fraternity rallied around H.R. 697, a bill that would “prevent the Obama Administration from banning the U.S. sale and trade of legally owned ivory, as well as ensure that sport-hunted elephant trophies can be imported from countries with sustainable elephant populations”.

And regarding endangered species here in the United States, it’s no surprise that Trump Jr. identifies with that peculiar American subculture that hates wolves, claiming that “USFWS biologists made a terrible error, perhaps deliberate, on wolf impacts to our herds of game.”

“We need to reduce wolves and rebuild those herds.”

Yikes. Would there be any hope at all for endangered species, under a Trump administration?

Help fight against wildlife trafficking: Support our work to advocate for the protection of endangered species at the upcoming CITES CoP17 in South Africa.



Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.