On December 26th, SCI and NRA received good and bad news in our efforts to challenge the ongoing importation bans on sport-hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The D.C. federal district court issued a ruling on several motions that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had filed to try to dismiss our claims.
We received very good news about our Zimbabwe elephant claims. The court ruled in SCI and NRA’s favor on our ability to proceed with our challenges to the Zimbabwe importation bans -- both to the ban announced on April 4, 2014 and the decision to continue the ban that the FWS announced on July 23, 2014. The FWS fought particularly hard to have our claims against the April 4, 2014 decision dismissed because they know that they will have the most difficult time defending their conduct in making their abrupt decision to ban importation despite lacking adequate evidence to do so. The Court refused to allow the FWS to sweep this conduct under the rug. The ruling cleared the way for SCI’s Litigation team to move forward to present our case on why the FWS acted illegally in shutting down importation from Zimbabwe without a sufficient basis for doing so.
Unfortunately, the court’s ruling on our Tanzania claims was not favorable. The judge took the position that because importation from Tanzania requires a permit, the only ones who can sue to challenge the ban are those who apply for permits, have their applications denied and unsuccessfully participate in the FWS’s lengthy permit appeal process. The court rejected SCI’s and NRA’s arguments that, instead of disputing the denial of an individual permit, we challenged the underlying decision upon which all importation applications would be measured and that submission to the permit process would be a futile exercise. The court dismissed our Tanzania importation ban challenges. SCI’s Litigation team is currently considering whether we should or can seek an immediate appeal of the Tanzania ruling.
We are moving forward with our challenge to the 2014 Zimbabwe importation ban and are watching for the FWS’s decision on importation from both countries for 2015. If the FWS does not lift the bans, we will consider whether we should amend our current suit or file new litigation to challenge the 2015bans. Please continue to watch out for SCI Litigation Alerts, e-mail communications and Crosshairs for updates on this important case.