President Donald Trump has put on hold a decicion to import trophies of elephants from Zambia and Zimbabwe into the US to "review all conservation facts" after he faced criticism from animal rights activists.
On Thursday, the Trump administration reversed an Obama- era ban to issue permits for elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, which environmental groups say would lead to more poaching.
"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!" Trump said in tweet late last night.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke supported Trump's decision.
"President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical," he said in a statement.
"As a result, in a manner complaint with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, the issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed," Zenke said after the Trump administration was criticised for its decision earlier in the day.
Earlier, the Fish and Wildlife Services said after more than two years of extensive assessments, it has determined that importing limited numbers of hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia into the US will help protect wild elephants for future generations.
The decision is part of a robust US conservation strategy that seeks to eliminate poaching and associated wildlife trafficking while using legal, managed hunting programmes to support wildlife and habitat conservation in range countries.
Well-managed hunting programmes provide huge economic incentives across Africa to conserve some of the planet's most iconic and beloved species, it said.
Noting that the US holds range of countries to high standards that demonstrate hunting and management programmes benefit the conservation of species in the wild, the service said after providing copious data and evidence, Zimbabwe and Zambia have shown that allowing limited numbers of elephants to be legally taken in their countries will provide much- needed conservation dollars to preserve habitat and protect wild herds from criminal poaching gangs.
Center for Biological Diversity had described this as a "horrific news" and said that "it's shocking" that Zinke is lifting the trophy ban during a military coup.
After Trump's reversal of the decision, the center welcomed the move.
"It's great that public outrage has forced Trump to reconsider this despicable decision, but it takes more than a tweet to stop trophy hunters from slaughtering elephants and lions," Tanya Sanerib, senior attorney with the Cente.
"We need immediate federal action to reverse these policies and protect these amazing animals," he said.
The number of elephants in the wild plummeted 30 per cent overall between 2007 and 2014, despite large scale conservation efforts. In some places it has dropped more than 75 per cent due to ivory poaching.
In 2016, there were just over 350,000 elephants still alive in the wild, down from millions in the early 20th Century.