Congress is again considering a ban on importing hunting trophies from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Republicans and Democrats alike have championed such import bans in the past. Supporters claim a ban will conserve wildlife by discouraging Americans from traveling to Africa and killing wildebeests, zebras, elephants and other charismatic megafauna. But banning trophy hunting could do more harm than good for these species and their habitats.
When properly regulated, trophy hunting—especially by Americans—is a substantial source of conservation funding in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. While the management of trophy hunting can be improved in some instances, an outright ban on trophy imports could have the opposite of its intended effect, potentially placing African wildlife at increased risk of extinction from its primary threats of habitat loss and poaching. Until viable alternatives to trophy hunting are developed, Congress should abandon plans to restrict hunting-trophy imports.