Big-game documentary Trophy hunts for answers but comes back empty-handed

Photo: The Orchard

Which sounds more painful to watch, for those sensitive to animal suffering: a deer being shot for sport, or a rhinoceros being forcibly held down and having its horn sawed off? Trophy, a documentary about the uneasy, seemingly oxymoronic junction of big-game hunting and conservation efforts, kicks off by showing both of these events, and speedily reveals that neither situation is as clear-cut as it might initially seem. The group of folks who mutilate the rhino do so in an effort to save its life—the amputation is painless (no different, really, than clipping one’s fingernail; both are made of keratin), and the animal, until its horn grows back, is theoretically of no value to the poachers who would otherwise kill it. Such measures are financed, in large part, by hunters like Philip Glass (not the minimalist composer), who pay enormous sums in order to travel to Africa and bag “the big five”: elephant, lion, leopard, cape buffalo, and rhino. Is it acceptable to let rich people kill a few animals for “fun” if their cash might potentially save many others?

Trophy ostensibly maintains a neutral point of view, allowing people on both sides of various issues to make their best case. Some of their arguments will fall on deaf ears. John Hume, the man leading the team that de-horns rhinos, argues strenuously throughout the film that bans on the sale of ivory should be lifted, because they ultimately hurt rhinos more than they help them; he spends a lot of time being yelled at by angry protestors. Glass, meanwhile, justifies his love of hunting by quoting scripture (specifically a passage in Genesis about God giving human beings dominion over the animals) and brags that no bureaucrat can take his pleasure in a kill away from him. (He also insists that only a fool would believe in evolution, just to burn one last bridge with a certain cross-section of viewers.) Various other interview subjects come and go, without any individual ever really attaining a position of authority. This approach is at once admirable and frustrating, acknowledging complexity to a degree that amounts to a big shrug.

Indeed, Trophy’s tendency to wander is its greatest liability. There’s some digressive outrage directed at what are called “canned hunts,” in which the animal to be shot has essentially been pre-captured and remains confined in a small area, with no real chance of escape. There are legitimate reasons to decry this practice (though the notion that it’s “not sporting” seems a tad silly—the human having a rifle that can kill at a great distance isn’t exactly sporting either), but the issue is tangential at best to Trophy’s larger concerns, and feels like a cul-de-sac from which the film emerges with great clumsiness. It’s also slightly unfortunate—though admittedly no fault of director Shaul Schwarz (assisted by Christina Clusiau)—that Trophy covers a lot of the same ground as did recent Netflix documentary The Ivory Game. This film is more rhinocentric, with elephants and their tusks addressed fleetingly by comparison, but the battle against poachers and the free market is similar enough to make one doc fairly redundant if you’ve seen the other. What’s abundantly clear is that every other species on Earth is at our mercy, and that there are no easy answers when it comes to determining the most compassionate form of our so-called dominion.


Activists Target Eric Trump During Worldwide Rally Against Trophy Hunting

FEBRUARY 7, 2018   BY 

The News

During the Worldwide Rally Against Trophy Hunting (WRATH), dozens of animal rights activists in New York City protested at the home and office of one of the planet’s most notorious trophy hunters — Eric Trump.  Several broadcast and print media outlets reported on the event.

During the rally, Edita Birnkrant, the Executive Director of the animal rights group NYCLASS, entered Eric Trump’s apartment building to deliver a letter to his wife, animal advocate Lara Trump, encouraging her to dissuade her husband from trophy hunting. Two reporters followed her into the building with their cameras rolling.

WRATH was created in 2016 by the animal rights organizationCompassionWorks International in response to the killing of Cecil, a beloved lion in Zimbabwe who was shot and beheaded by Walter Palmer, a trophy hunter from Minnesota. The death of Cecil sparked global outrage and triggered several weeks of public discourse around trophy hunting.

IN 2018, WRATH events took place in 32 cities in several countries around the world, including Australia, Ireland, Canada and Brazil.  

WRATH is held to coincide with the annual convention of Safari Club International, a 50,000 member Texas-based pro-hunting organization that spends millions of dollars each year lobbying elected officials to support their mission. During the convention, organizers auction off hunts with endangered & threatened species. In 2018, a polar bear hunt was featured in the in promotional materials for the convention. 

Trophy hunters justify the killing on the grounds that the money they spend helps to conserve the species and supports local community. Activists dispute that claim, arguing that most of the money spent by trophy hunters goes to the trophy hunting companies and to local government officials.

During the WRATH event in NYC, Nicole Rivard, a campaigner with Friends of Animals, told rally participants about pending trophy hunting legislation in the state of New York:  “We cannot rely on fluid federal law to ensure that Africa’s big five do not go extinct. When it comes to trophy hunting, federal law is not protective at all.  We have legislation – Save Africa’s Big Five bill – to stop trophies from entering New York. The state bill would ban the importation, possession, sale or transportation of the trophies of elephants, lions, leopards and black and white rhinos. New York is the busiest port of entry for African wildlife in the US. Let’s shut it down.”

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Please follow CompassionWorks International on Facebook to stay apprised of the organization’s life-saving work.


Here’s The ‘Urgent Wish List’ Trophy Hunters Sent To Ryan Zinke

The administration seemed to be moving forward with the requests — until Donald Trump surprised everyone by stepping in.


WASHINGTON — Most trophy hunters consider displaying the head, hide or tusks of a kill just as important as bagging the big one. And advocates of this controversial sport wasted little time asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to change some policies that would ensure hunters could bring exotic wildlife killed in other countries into the United States.

In a July letter, which HuffPost obtained last week as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, eight trophy hunting organizations urged Zinke ― who talks often about the hunting community’s contributions to conservation and was quick to outfit his office with taxidermied creatures ― to take swift action to right the perceived wrongs of the previous administration.

Conservation Force, a trophy hunting advocacy group based in Louisiana, spearheaded the July letter. In it, the nonprofit’s president, John J. Jackson III, and executives at several safari clubs and sport hunting advocacy groups called on Zinke to walk back several Obama-era regulations.

First, they asked the interior secretary to roll back a pair regulations that prevented U.S. hunters from importing the trophies of lions and elephants killed for sport in certain African countries. The organizations also petitioned the new administration to reform how the Endangered Species Act is applied to species outside the U.S., and to reject a petition calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list all African leopards as endangered under the ESA and restrict hunters from importing their parts. They also called for Zinke to revise seizure and forfeiture practices that they say “discourage lawful tourist hunting.”

The letter writers noted the groups’ members annually “contribute tens of millions of dollars to the conservation of wildlife and protection of habitat across the globe.” They warn that failing to implement the recommendations could hurt African economies, incentivize poaching and threaten the survival of iconic species.

“This is not an ideological issue to us,” Jackson told HuffPost. “It’s traditional conservation practices.”

He called the letter to Zinke an “emergency request” and “an urgent wish list.”

A little more than three months after the letter landed on Zinke’s desk, FWS started fulfilling that wish list — be it strategic or by coincidence.

FWS quietly began issuing trophy import permits for lions hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia. And a few weeks after that, in mid-November, the administration lifted a 2014 ban on importing elephant trophies from those African countries. It determined that sport hunting of elephants there would “enhance the survival of the species in the wild,” a spokesperson for the FWS said at the time.

The decision sparked widespread public outrage, including from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

But then President Donald Trump tweeted that he was putting elephant trophy imports on hold ― reversing his own administration’s decision less than 15 minutes after FWS released an official announcement. He called trophy hunting a “horror show” and said he was unlikely to allow for such imports.

More than two months later, neither the administration nor the Interior Department has made an official announcement. But in an interview with Piers Morgan that aired Sunday, Trump indicated that the ban on importing elephant trophies will remain in place.

Jackson is among those who argues that expensive safari hunting is crucial to the conservation of big game species. He says the Obama administration failed to protect African species, interrupting the flow of money that groups in Africa use to fight poaching and protect habitat.

“If these elephants’ survival is dependent upon that revenue — those incentives to the government, to the local people — then any delay is detrimental,” he said. “We’re talking about hurting the species.”

Jackson said the Trump administration has not lived up to his expectations.

“We’re disappointed in the progress that’s been made so far,” he said. “Part of it is because of the president’s hold on the progress that had been made [by Fish and Wildlife].”

That Trump would side with the conservation community over gun rights and hunting advocacy groups is surprising. His sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid big game hunters. In a photo that surfaced in 2012, Trump Jr. can be seen holding the tail of an elephant he shot and killed in Africa.

Bull African elephants sparring at South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
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Jackson isn’t alone in his frustration. A day after Trump suspended his administration’s decision to allow elephant imports, the Safari Club sent out a “call to arms,” in which the group encouraged hunters to complain to Trump and Zinke and blasted “hysterical anti-hunters and news media outlets.”

Conservationists and animal rights advocates applauded Trump for stepping in.

“This is the kind of trade we don’t need,” Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, tweeted in November.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the administration Nov. 20, seeking to clear up any confusion about where things stood and to block the Trump team’s effort to roll back the bans on importing elephants and lions. The government’s actions are “arbitrary and capricious,” the conservation groups wrote in their complaint.

It would seem that Zinke is letting Safari Club set Interior’s agenda on wildlife just like other industry representatives are setting the rest of Interior’s work, which is a travesty for wildlife and wild places. Tanya Sanerib, international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity

African elephants have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978. African lions were listed in 2015. A provision of the law, which is intended to safeguard threatened species and the habitats critical to their survival, allows for sport-hunted trophies to be imported if the government determines that hunting will help safeguard the population. The FWS concluded that Zimbabwe, for example, had made strides to improve elephant management and anti-poaching efforts, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The decision on elephant trophies has raised questions about Zinke’s close relationship with the sport hunting community, in particular the Safari Club. The organization’s political action committees donated a collective $24,500 to Trump’s presidential campaign and Zinke’s 2014 and 2016 congressional bids, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Greg Sheehan, principal deputy director of the FWS — who broke the news about the elephant decision to the Safari Club during the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzania — is a member of the hunting organization.

“It would seem that Zinke is letting Safari Club set Interior’s agenda on wildlife just like other industry representatives are setting the rest of Interior’s work, which is a travesty for wildlife and wild places,” Tanya Sanerib, the international program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told HuffPost via email.

The Trump administration has not yet moved to fulfill any other demands from the sport hunting groups.

But in his time at Interior, Zinke has worked to promote and increase opportunities for hunting and fishing. He installed a “Big Buck Hunter” arcade game in the cafeteria of Interior Department headquarters, which he said would highlight the contributions that hunting and fishing communities make to conservation. And in November he announced the creation of a so-called International Wildlife Conservation Council to advise him on “the benefits that international recreational hunting has on foreign wildlife and habitat conservation, anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking programs.” Jackson told HuffPost he is among department’s nominees to serve on the council.

During his interview with Morgan, Trump said “a very high-level government person” was responsible for the “terrible” decision to lift the Obama-era ban, but he didn’t specify who that was. “I totally turned it around,” he boasted.

Neither the White House nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded to HuffPost’s request for comment on which high-ranking official made the decision and on whether Trump is planning to keep the trophy import bans in place.

Read the full July 4 letter below. Along with Conservation Force, it was signed by representatives of the Dallas Safari Club, Dallas Safari Club Foundation, Houston Safari Club, African Safari Club, Wild Sheep Foundation, Grand Slam Club/Ovis and Chancellor International Wildlife Fund, Inc.

Exclusive: Trump Slams Elephant Hunting For Trophies, Skeptical Fees Go For Conservation

In an interview with Piers Morgan set to air Sunday, Trump calls the initial U.S. decision to lift a ban on trophy imports “terrible.”

In an interview with Piers Morgan set to air Sunday night in the U.K., President Donald Trump used the word “terrible” to describe the initial decision last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to overturn an Obama era ban on the import of elephant trophies.

Trump also says he does not believe the substantial fees that hunters pay to hunt elephants and other species actually go toward conservation efforts, as is often claimed, and instead are pocketed by government officials in other countries.

Trump confirms that the ban on importing elephant trophies from the African nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia will remain in place. That was not clear after he initially put the ban reversal on hold, pending further study.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, overseen by Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke, announced on Nov. 15 that it was rescinding an Obama administration ban on the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, saying money generated by the hunting goes toward conservation efforts.

“Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” the service said.

But the announcement on reversing the ban was met with scathing criticism from both the left and right. Powerful conservative media figures like Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham criticized Trump for the decision and called on him to keep the ban in place. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres announced a campaign to persuade Trump to maintain the ban that quickly went viral through the hashtag #BeKindToElephants.

On Nov. 17 Trump 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!”

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!

The announcement that he was putting the reversal on hold shocked many, primarily because his two eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are both avid hunters and have been criticized for hunting wildlife in Africa.

Trump also is closely aligned with the National Rifle Association, which strongly lobbies for trophy hunting rights. Two days after he made that announcement, he tweeted, “Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”

Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.

That tweet led some to believe the ban would remain in place but no further announcement was made as promised.

In his comments to Morgan, Trump said, “Well, I changed it,” referring to reversing the move to end the ban.

He continued: “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country] and people can talk all they want about preservation and all of the things that they’re saying where money goes towards ― well, money WAS going ― in that case, going to a government which was probably taking the money, OK? I turned that order around. You know, that was an order. I totally turned it around. Were you shocked that I did it?”

Morgan: “I was surprised.”

Trump: “I thought it was terrible. That was done by a very high level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around. That same day ― not even a day went by. No, I was not believing in [the conservation argument].”

The interview with Morgan is Trump’s first major sit-down interview with a non-U.S. television network and airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on ITV.

Ass-backwards Defined: Make good shot with your weapon, then with your camera  

Spend some quality time behind the camera and make the buck of a lifetime into a lifetime memory with a top-drawer photo.

Hunters in the Carolinas who take trophy bucks rarely turn down a trip to the taxidermist, even though a quality mount may cost hundreds of dollars. But few spend time taking capture quality photos of their kills. A shoulder mount over the fireplace will showcase a quality animal, but photographs from the day and place of the kill will better capture the event.

To make a great photographic memory, hunters need to be prepared and have a good digital camera ready in case a lifetime buck ventures into range. While a professional-level camera will take photos of the best quality, the technology available in most consumer-grade digital cameras is more than adequate.

Today’s cell phones do much more than just make and receive calls, and if their cameras shoot more than 5 megapixels, they are a valid option after a trophy buck hits the dirt. The key is to keep the phone/camera perfectly still to take the best shot.

Settings are important, and while hunters can fine-tun the white balance, focus, aperture and shutter speed, the auto functions on cameras and smart phones in most conditions.

If you have a digital camera, a small tripod can be helpful and can be purchased for as little as $20. Also, almost all cameras have a timer feature that can be used in concert with a tripod to take photos of the hunter with his trophy when no help is available.

 The only manual setting that should be adjusted is the flash. Even when sunlight is plentiful and the auto flash indicator didn’t turn on, adding flash can make a good shot fabulous. Adding flash is especially good when the sun is high because shadows can ruin a great shot, and hunters are likely to be wearing a hat or cap ­that will cover his or her face with shadows. A flash eliminates shadows, and during low-light conditions, it provide the light necessary to bring out colors and the fine detail in a crisp, quality photo. 

Beyond equipment, the biggest part of taking a good photo is the setup. The best photos are taken from the woods or in a natural setting where the deer was killed. Too many times, cameras aren’t pulled out until the deer is on the driveway, in the skinning shed or at the gas station where the background is ruined by an assortment of unwanted objects. Don’t let anything in the background take away from the photo.

The person holding the camera should set up several shots of the deer and hunter from different angles while always keeping the sun at the camera’s back. Any time the sun is off to one side or the other, it will cast shadows and can create glare that will ruin a photo. On extremely bright, sunny days, a few shots should be taken in a shaded area with the flash activated. While good sunlight is a positive, too much sun can cause the hunter to squint, and unwanted glare is a risk.

The best photos include the entire hunter and deer with just a little extra space all around. Fill up the frame with the subject; you need to be relatively close to the subject for the camera’s flash and focusing capacities to take effect. You can always crop the photo later.

A lifetime buck doesn’t come into range every day. Hunters should take precautions to take the best possible photos to preserve these special events for a lifetime of memories.

Boycott the film “Trophy”

Resharing our message below regarding the film Trophy, which we urge you not to watch.

Image may contain: 4 people, text
CompassionWorks International

Tomorrow, CNN broadcasts the film “Trophy”, a pro-trophy hunting film.

The film was initially presented to CWI as a balanced look at trophy hunting. For that reason, we gave an interview for the film. Executive Director Carrie LeBlanc appears in Trophy, as one of only two primary dissenting voices against trophy hunting.

When we saw the completed film last fall, we were horrified. As it turns out, the films director manipulated and used an anti-trophy hunting protest we held in Las Vegas to their own ends and put a trophy hunter amongst our protesters to provoke response.

Trophy attempts, poorly, to make trophy hunters seem like sympathetic figures, instead of the killers they are.

While we are unhappy to be featured in a pro-trophy hunting film, we are glad to be a voice for the animals.

We encourage you to contact CNN and express your disgust that they would show a pro-trophy hunting film.

We also encourage you, particularly if you are a sensitive viewer, to opt NOT to watch Trophy. There are numerous instances of the brutal killing of animals, including an elephant, by trophy hunters.

Thank you for speaking out against evil trophy hunting.

20000 trophy hunters descend on Las Vegas to join pay-to-slay auction

The hunts, which will eventually kill about 600 animals in 32 countries, have outraged activists

More than 20,000 trophy hunters are descending on Las Vegas this week to take part in a series of “pay to slay” auctions that have outraged animal rights activists.

The hunting jamboree, at which delegates will bid for the right to take part in 301 hunts that will eventually kill about 600 animals in 32 countries, is organised by Safari Club International (SCI), whose members include the notorious killer of Cecil the lion.

The four-day extravaganza at the Mandalay Bay hotel and convention centre on the Las Vegas Strip includes live music from country veteran Merle Haggard and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

The auction features an array of items including a white gold leopard broach – starting price $39,000 (£27,500) – and bullet gift certificates.

But the centrepiece of the event is unquestionably the auction of packages to hunt – and in some cases stuff – big game. Lots range from Iberian red deer and Pyrenean chamois to Australian water buffalo and African elephants.

The description of the 10-day Alaska Brown Bear and Black Bear hunt, which has a starting price of $75,150, reads: “This all-inclusive hunt is an outstanding option for hunters who want an all-in-one luxury hunting experience…in amazing areas boasting the highest density of bears in the world.”

US dentist Walter Palmer, who shot Cecil the lion, with another of his trophies

It adds: “Method of take is hunters’ choice.”

The Ultimate Hunters’ Market has been condemned by animal rights activists, amid a renewed focus on the ethics of big game hunting after SCI member and US dentist Walter Palmer killed Cecil in Zimbabwe last year.

Wendy Higgins, of Humane Society International said: “The auction site reads like a grotesque killing-for-kicks catalogue, in which the lives of the precious wildlife are sold to the highest bidder so that they can be slaughtered for fun.

“It is a tragic indictment on our society that, despite the global outrage over Cecil the Lion’s pointless killing, this scale of trophy hunting is still going on,” said Wendy Higgins, of Humane Society International.

League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Eduardo Goncalves added: “It beggars belief that there are still people who are excited by the prospect of slaughtering an animal for target practice and turning it into a trophy.”

The Safari Club International (SCI) is expected to raise more than $2.5 million from auctioning the mammal hunts alone, which have been provided from various hunt organisers.

The club runs the convention annually and it provides the majority of its income – most of which is used to lobby Washington.

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

“Killing to Conserve” is a LIE! Killing at risk African wildlife just kills animals! Depleting wildlife populations and natural resources does not “help” the local African populations.


JANUARY 5 & 6 from 1 – 4 pm in DALLAS, TEXAS, USA.

Safari Club International is having a convention. People who oppose the rapacious “taking” of iconic African animals and other wildlife, their self-serving definition of “conservation,” and their smug self-identification as “outdoors” men and women will be PROTESTING SCI’s CONVENTION.

* S * H * A * R * E * this brilliant action against American trophy hunting culture!

Not only are SCI members meeting up to celebrate their loathsome activities against Earth and all creation, there is an AUCTION which includes items such as SAFARIS TO AFRICA TO KILL AN ELEPHANT AND RHINO! Or you can bid on a variety of things made of ELEPHANT SKIN, like CUPHOLDERS! So many price points representing the taking of so many lives… or just to show your basic lack of regard for elephant life.


Anyone within striking distance is URGED TO JOIN IN THE PROTEST!

Not in Dallas and want to protest trophy hunting and Safari Club International?

Visit for more information on how you can get involved in our international anti-trophy hunting rally taking place February 4, 2018


We will protest on January 5 & 6, 2018 from 1-4pm at the corner of Kay Bailey Hutchison convention center.

1st protest will be
Friday January 5th from 1 to 4pm
This protest will be in response to the woman’s hunters event.

2nd protest will be
Saturday January 6th
from 1pm to 4pm

For Saturday, January 6th protest click here:

Posters and leaflets will be provided, but feel free to make your own.

Lot parking is available within two blocks of the protest area and usually costs between $5 and $10.

Please remember to prepare for the weather and to be mindful of your personal safety.

This protest is being organized locally by CompassionWorks International and

#rhinos #elephants #lions


‘Idiot Hunter Deserved What he got’: Big Game Hunter Crushed to Death

  • Botha often took wealthy foreigners on hunts for leopards and other animals.

    Botha often took wealthy foreigners on hunts for leopards and other animals. | Photo: Theunis Botha/Youtube

Published 21 May 2017
The hunter had his own big game safari company that toted wealthy foreigners on tours since the 80s.

A professional big game hunter was killed on Friday, crushed by an elephant in Gwai, Zimbwawe, while out for a hunt with his hunter friends.


Trump Puts Hold on Elephant Trophy Imports

Theunis Botha, a settler from Tzaneen, South Africa, was on a hunt in the neighboring country when four elephants charged at them.

One female elephant picked up Botha with her trunk after he had fired at the others, collapsing on top him when she was shot by another hunter. Botha was then killed, crushed to death.

While sympathies poured out for the hunter, those critical of big game hunting responded otherwise.

“You should be crying for the innocent elephant that was senselessly murdered not this idiot hunter who deserved what he got,” one person wrote on an online forum about his death.

Botha had his own big game safari company that toted wealthy foreigners on tours since the 80s. From a family of white settlers who arrived in South Africa in 1878, the hunter served in the South African infantry during the Angolan War but left shortly after.

Permits for elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe are still being issued

 December 16 at 12:17 PM

A sample of the six tons of ivory confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on display during the U.S. Ivory Crush event at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 14, 2013, in Commerce City, Colo. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The U.S. government continues to grant permits to hunters seeking to import the remains of elephants shot in Zimbabwe as trophies, federal documents show.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded permits to 16 people in 11 states who requested them between January 2016 and as recently as October, according to Friends of Animals, a nonprofit environmental group that obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request. The organization released the documents Friday.

The permits were for elephants shot before 2014, the year the Obama administration decided to ban the import of trophies from Zimbabwe after Fish and Wildlife determined that the country’s management of its elephant population was not sound in accordance with the Endangered Species Act.

The ban went into effect the following year. Last month Fish and Wildlife announced a decision to lift it but President Trump postponed the action the next day following a public outcry over the slaughter of elephants.

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!

Friends of Animals said in a statement saying the information it uncovered proved that the administration was issuing permits in violation of the ban. Fish and Wildlife declined to provide a statement about the permits when the group released the documents, but denied the group’s account Saturday.

“We did not issue new permits for elephant trophies from Zimbabwe in violation of our import,” the agency’s statement said. “They were only for animals legally hunted during the Obama administration and prior to the 2014 suspension.”

The first permit awarded this year came four days after President Trump’s inauguration, and the last came shortly before a controversial proposal in November to lift the ban against trophy imports from Zimbabwe.

public uproar over Fish and Wildlife’s lifting of the ban prompted Trump to put the decision on hold pending a review. Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Interior Department, which oversees Fish and Wildlife, subsequently announced that he agreed with his boss. Neither Trump or Zinke have spoken about the issue or the review in the month since the controversy erupted.

Under the Obama administration, elephant-hunting trophies were allowed in from South Africa and Namibia, which worked diligently to account for elephants under its care and protect the population. Zimbabwe failed to meet Fish and Wildlife’s conservation standard for an animal that’s considered threatened in the wild under the Endangered Species Act. For starters, it lacked knowledge of the size and whereabouts of much of its herd.

Zimbabwe and Safari Club International, which worked to improve the management of Zimbabwe’s elephants, celebrated last month’s initial announcement of a lifting of the ban against imports. Safari Club was so zealous that it made the announcement a day before Fish and Wildlife. The club bemoaned Trump’s and Zinke’s subsequent decision to review the plan by issuing a “call to arms,” blaming conservation groups and news outlets.

Zimbabwe and other hunting clubs voiced similar outrage. But opponents of lifting the trophy import ban included some of Trump’s staunchest supporters, including radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.

Friends of Animals sued to reinstate the ban less than a week later. To support its legal challenge, the group requested and received a spreadsheet from Fish and Wildlife documenting the issuance of permits to import the remains of African elephants and lions, which are also listed as threatened, as trophies.

Michael Harris, the wildlife law program director for the group, said the permits support his group’s case against the Trump administration’s initial attempt to overturn the ban.

“This really helps us show this is an unsubstantiated change in position” on the ban by Fish and Wildlife, Harris said. The group has a second Freedom of Information Act request for the applications submitted by the permit recipients and material supporting their requests.

“They were granted when the ban was in place, so we’re questioning that,” Harris said. He disputed the explanation that they were granted because the animals were shot at a time when the United States approved of Zimbabwe’s management and trophy imports were legal. “I don’t buy it,” Harris said.

Read more:

This is why the government crushed a ton of ivory in Times Square

Antique dealers say the federal ivory ban will cost them dearly

Why Hawaii joined New York and California’s ban of ivory sales

A pound of rhino horn is worth far more than gold and cocaine