The Trump Administration drew criticism after saying it would allow African elephants shot for sport to be imported to the U.S.
In addition to outrage from animal rights advocates and environmental groups, that criticism came from both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans took issue with President Donald Trump and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after Thursday’s announcement.
California Rep. Ed Royce, the co-chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (Florida), who co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, were among the prominent Republicans to speak out against the decision.
That dissent might have had an impact on Trump. On Friday, he tweeted that he was delaying a decision on the issue.
“Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with (Interior Secretary Ryan) Zinke. Thank you!” the President wrote on Twitter.
That message has been well received. While many are asking for even more from Trump on the issue of big game hunting, one very prominent South Carolina politician cheered the President.
“Proud of @POTUS,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster tweeted about his fellow Republican.
McMaster, a known dog lover whose bulldog Mac roams the State House, wrote about his high regard for elephants, the symbol for the Republican Party.
“Elephants are majestic and intelligent animals. Their preservation speaks to the character of humanity,” McMaster posted on Twitter.
In October, Trump visited South Carolina to attend and speak at a fundraiser for McMaster in his campaign for the 2018 S.C. gubernatorial election.
Trump’s visit was seen as a thank you or reward to McMaster, who was one of his first supporters during the presidential campaign. At that time, McMaster was S.C.’s lieutenant governor, and ascended to the governor’s chair when Trump asked Nikki Haley to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
McMaster loves his pets, including a bulldog he has fostered, and was named National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the Humane Society of the United States in 2005.
In May, McMaster signed a bill that waived South Carolina hunting and fishing license fees for anyone under the age of 21 who has been diagnosed with terminal of life-threatening illnesses or injuries.
But many were confused by the logic that hunting the animals is the best way to save them.
In its original announcement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reasoned that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened species would help raise money for conservation programs.
The world’s largest land mammal, the African elephant has been classified as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1979.
After Trump’s tweet on the delay, Zinke issued a statement later Friday.
“President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical,” Zinke said. “As a result, in a manner compliant with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed.”
Illicit demand for elephant ivory has led to devastating losses from illegal poaching as the natural habitat available for the animals to roam has also dwindled by more than half. As a result, the number of African elephants has shrunk from about 5 million a century ago to about 400,000 remaining. And that number continues to decline each year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.