According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration's newly-formed International Wildlife Conservation Council tasked with updating U.S. rules for importing big game hunting trophies -- such as the heads and hides of African elephants, lions, and rhinos -- is stacked with big game hunters, some of whom have close ties to the president and his family.
A review by The Associated Press of the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke indicates they will agree with his position that the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them.
But environmentalists and animal welfare advocates say tourists taking photos generate more economic benefit, and hunters typically target the biggest and strongest animals, weakening already vulnerable populations.
The AP reports that most of those sitting on the board are members of Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association, both of which have pursued an expansion of countries from which big game trophies may be imported by taking the Fish and Wildlife Service to court.
They include the Safari Club’s president, Paul Babaz, a Morgan Stanley investment adviser from Atlanta, and Erica Rhoad, a lobbyist and former GOP congressional staffer who is the NRA’s director of hunting policy.
Bill Brewster is a retired Oklahoma congressman and lobbyist who served on the boards of the Safari Club and the NRA. An NRA profile lauded Brewster and his wife’s five decades of participation and support for hunting, and his purchase of a lifetime NRA membership for his grandson when the boy was 3 days old.
Also on the board is Gary Kania, vice president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, a group that lobbies Congress and state governments on issues affecting hunters and fishermen.
As far as connections to the Trump family, Steven Chancellor -- a longtime Republican fundraiser and chairman of American Patriot Group who had trouble importing parts of a male lion under the Obama administration in 2016 -- raised money for the Trump campaign.
Later that same year, Chancellor hosted a private fundraiser for then-candidate Trump and Mike Pence at his Evansville, Indiana, mansion, where the large security gates leading up the driveway feature a pair of gilded lions.
And Peter Horn, an ex-vice president of the Safari Club International Conservation Fund and a vice president for gun-maker Beretta, co-owns a hunting property in New York with Donald Trump, Jr. that was designed by Eric Trump.
The AP reported last month that the Trump sons were behind a limited-liability company that purchased a 171-acre private hunting range in the bucolic Hudson Valley in 2013, complete with a wooden tower from which owners and their guests shoot at exploding targets.
Another member of the board who has ties to Trump, Jr. is Keith Mark, a hunting guide who helped organize Sportsmen for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
[Mark] recently posted photos on his Twitter page of himself with Trump Jr. and Zinke, standing before an array of mounted big-horn sheep and a bear.
“I see the world from a hunting lifestyle,” Mark told the AP, adding that he has no preconceived agenda for his service on the conservation council. “It’s the most pure form of hands on conservation that there is. I will approach all decision-making with my background.”
Only two members of the advisory board are non-hunters, one of whom is connected to the exotic animal trade.
Jenifer Chatfield is part owner of her family's exotic animal facility in Florida.
The book “Animal Underworld: Inside America’s Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species” accused her father, John Chatfield, of diverting zoo animals to the private market, where they would become pets or stock private hunting ranches.
In one 1997 instance — reported by the AP — the elder Chatfield ended up in possession of endangered lemurs and pronghorn antelopes that were to have gone to a zoo in Indiana. Simultaneously, Chatfield listed lemurs and pronghorn antelope for sale in a publication called “Animal Finders.”