Last week, Donald Trump unveiled plans to reverse an Obama-era ban on ivory, which made it illegal for hunters to import body parts from African elephants shot and killed for sport. In the short hours since the announcement, however, more than 10,000 people have already come out in opposition, signing an online petition which calls the President's decision "morally wrong."
The Government petition – listed on the White House website – claims that abolishing the law will push this vulnerable species even closer toward extinction and encourage more bloodshed. "[The Trump administration] has announced that the remains of elephants hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia can now be imported to the US as trophies," the appeal states.
"We cannot allow the ivory trade to continue. While killing these animals is legal in some circumstances, it is nevertheless morally wrong."
It says "elephant trophies" are banned in other countries around the world as part of an effort to stop poachers killing elephants, believed to be one of the world's most intelligent and caring animals. The petition further reads:
"Elephants are in a unique category of five species with minds capable of self-reflection. They exhibit a variety of behaviors, including grief, learning, mimicry, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, memory and communications.
To kill one of these magnificent creatures is morally wrong – and extinction would be Earth's greatest tragedy thus far."
Trophy-hunting advocates say the change will result in "sound wildlife management" but a lawyer with the Centre for Biological Diversity has called the timing "bizarre." "Corruption was already a huge concern in Zimbabwe," Tanya Sanerib tells the Press Association, so to lift the trophy ban during political uncertainty in the west African nation is "shocking."
"With tanks in the streets, whoever is actually running the Zimbabwe government just can't be trusted to protect elephants from slaughter by poachers."
African elephants have been classified as "threatened" in America since 1979. According to the United Nations around 100,000 were still killed between 2010 and 2012. The number of elephants alive today is believed to have shrunk from about five million a century ago to around 400,000, figures which continue to decline each year.